Every offseason emerges a new set of free agent closers and setup men who will be signed and—more likely than not—overpaid by teams looking to improve their pitching and solve their bullpen woes.
Although it isn't as interesting as talking about the big names this offseason like Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and C.J Wilson, there are a number of well-known veteran closers out there for teams to choose from. A lot of teams will need to go shopping to add some quality arms to their bullpen.
These are the top 15 relievers available this offseason.
2011 Stats: 74.1 IP, 6-8, 3.51 ERA
Chad Qualls had a nice season for San Diego in 2011. He made a big comeback after going 3-4 with a 7.32 ERA in 2010.
San Diego declined his $6 million team option for next year, but they would probably be interested in bringing him back, and he would probably be best off staying with them. He had a 2.09 ERA at home and a 5.05 ERA on the road. But he will still have the option to go elsewhere.
I'm sure he will spark interest in at least a few other teams.
2011 Stats: 50.2 IP, 1-4, 3.55 ERA, 17 saves
Francisco put up solid numbers this season and kept his ERA under 4.00 for the fourth straight year. He is a type B free agent and will likely be offered arbitration by the Blue Jays.
He played in Toronto for his first year, coming in on the Mike Napoli trade. He also had a strikeout rate of 9.4 with 53 strikeouts in his 50.2 innings. He is becoming a consistent player, and although he isn't the biggest name out there, plenty of teams could use his services and he could find himself as the everyday closer of a team.
2011 Stats: 19.1 IP, 0-2, 1.40 ERA, 1 saves
Lidge spent most of the season out with a shoulder sprain, but he made the most of his playing time during the time that he was healthy. His production—even in the few innings he pitched—shows that he is still able to produce well and be a great everyday closer for the team that signs him.
Other than his 2009 season in which he was 0-8 with a 7.21 ERA, Lidge has enjoyed great success over the past few seasons. He had a 2.96 ERA along with 27 saves in 2010, and I see no reason as to why he can't put up similar numbers—if not better—this upcoming season.
But if he does, it most likely won't be with the Phillies. Ryan Madson is also a free agent and there is a strong likelihood that he re-signs in Philadelphia. The Phillies may attempt to re-sign Lidge cheap as a setup man, but he may be more willing to bite on an offer that gives him a role as a closer.
2011 Stats: 51 IP, 5-5, 2.29 ERA, 2 saves
Oliver only started pitching well in 2006, when he was already 35 years old. He finally transitioned to a bullpen role that year, and has gone 26-11 with a 2.97 ERA in those 6 seasons.
Oliver wants to pitch one more season before retiring, and his production for the Rangers last year seems to support the case that he can do it. He had a WHIP of 1.137, allowed just .5 HR per 9 innings, and struck out 44 batters in 51 innings. He has spent 10 of his 18 seasons with Texas, so I don't see why he won't spend his last there as well.
2011 Stats: 65.2 IP, 4-7, 4.25 ERA, 15 saves
Possible Destinations: Diamondbacks, Milwaukee Brewers, Cardinals, Rangers
Matt Capps is just 28, and one of the youngest players on this list which should generate interest from multiple teams.
However, the right handed pitcher did see his production drop from his 2010 season in which he made an All-Star appearance. He had just 15 saves and saw his strikeout rate drop to only 4.7 per nine innings.
He made $7.15 million in 2011, but because of his worse production he'll likely sign pretty cheap and with a one or two year deal in order to attempt to re-establish his value.
2011 Stats: 52 IP, 5-4, 4.85 ERA, 11 saves
Jon Rauch struggled this past season a bit too much. His ERA went from 3.12 to 4.85. He gave up 11 home runs as opposed to three last year, and he only saved 11 games. He has been given chances to be a closer, but he will probably find himself as a setup man going forward.
Toronto declined his $3.75 million option, so he may end up signing cheap over the offseason. He's played for four teams over the past four seasons, so I don't see a reason why he would be compelled to stay in Toronto if someone offers him a closer role or bigger pay.
2011 Stats: 33 IP, 3-4, 4.64 ERA, 1 save
The 42-year-old Rhodes said that he wants to play one last year before he retires. If he does, he most likely will have to settle for low pay in his last year.
As if his age of 42 isn't convincing enough that he won't produce, his 2011 season proved that he was capable of less. He had a 4.64 ERA and didn't start having solid outings until August when he was signed by the Cardinals after Texas dropped him.
He also had a much smaller workload. In 51 outings, he logged just 33 innings and his strikeout rate dropped from 8.2 to 5.7. He also gave up a career high 2.2 HR/9 innings. He was pretty solid when he came to St. Louis, so I wouldn't be surprised if he stays.
2011 Stats: 12.2 IP, 1-2, 5.68 ERA, 7 saves
Possible Destinations: Anywhere
Jonathan Broxton threw only 12.2 innings this season after sitting out with injuries and having surgery on his right elbow in September. And in the few innings that he did pitch, he was awful.
Coming off two consecutive all-star appearances, he gave up 6.4 walks per 9 innings, had less than 10 strikeouts per nine innings for the first time in his career, and had a WHIP that was almost 1.900. It will be interesting to see how much of a risk teams are willing to take on Broxton.
He has a good history, but coming off a season where he was a wreck and then trying to play after recovering from an elbow injury will worry most teams. If he doesn't have that 99 miles per hour fastball on his side he may have a lot of trouble this year.
On the bright side, he's only 27 and is one of the youngest players available and has great potential if he recovers well. I think he'll have to take work wherever he can find it.
2011 Stats: 51 IP, 3-5, 3.35 ERA, 1 save
Possible Destinations: Cubs, Retirement
Kerry Wood has already said that he would like to stay with the Cubs, and that he also will give retirement a thought. Although he is technically available, it would take a hefty price to lure him away from Chicago and no team will overpay him unless they are desperate.
He proved to be a reliable setup man, striking out more than 10 per 9 innings and had an above average ERA of 3.35.
He was only paid $1.5 million by the Cubs last year, and he probably would accept a small offer from them again. He likes Chicago and the Cubs like him, so I wouldn't bet on him leaving.
2011 Stats: 44.2 IP, 2-1, 4.84 ERA, 14 saves
Possible Destinations: Twins, Cardinals, Nationals, Brewers
From the time Joe Nathan first became a closer for Minnesota in 2004 until he underwent Tommy John surgery and sat out all of 2010, he was 34-16 with a 2.04 ERA, 260 saves and four All-Star appearances.
In his return to baseball for the 2011 season, he wasn't anything near that good. He threw just 44.2 innings, and he put up the worst stat line of his seven years with Minnesota.
The Twins declined his $12.5 million option, but I do think that they will still push to re-sign him. He is showing signs of improvement, and his fastball velocity is almost back to where it was in 2009. Whether he will ever be as good as he was again I'm not sure, but he could still be a solid closer for any team.
2011 Stats: 71.2 IP, 6-2, 2.64 ERA, 23 saves
Possible Destinations: Brewers, Cardinals, Phillies, Nationals, Marlins, Orioles
Rodriguez was phenomenal this year, specially once he was traded to Milwaukee. He was 4-0 with a 1.86 ERA after the trade. However, he was not the Brewer's closer, and for that reason it may take a lot of money for them to bring him back.
There is going to be a lot of competition for K-Rod, and unless Milwaukee provides a deal that is significantly more money than the other offers, I expect him to go to another team like the Cardinals or Phillies.
He is still in his prime years, so I expect him to be looking for a big four- or five-year deal that will guarantee him a lot of money. But he should be worth it. He can easily still a team a sub 2.50 ERA and 40 saves.
2011 Stats: 69.2 IP, 5-3, 2.45 ERA, 37 saves
Possible Destinations: Reds, Nationals, Mets, Orioles, Blue Jays
The Reds declined the $12 million option on Francisco Cordero, but because of his good performance during the season the Reds are still interested in having him remain a part of the team. The Reds have said that they would like to keep him, especially because there will be no internal replacement when they move Aroldis Chapman to the rotation.
Cordero had a great season, giving up just 49 hits in over 69 innings and had a WHIP of 1.019, his best since 2002. He may be 36, but he still has a lot left in the tank and may be looking for the last big money multi-year contract of his career.
2011 Stats: 60.2 IP, 4-2, 2.37 ERA, 32 saves
Possible Destinations: Phillies, Nationals, Boston Red Sox
Madson put up solid numbers in 2011, striking out 62 and walking just 16 while logging 60.2 innings. He has been having solid seasons for the past several years, but this was the first time he stepped up as the full time closer for the Phillies.
He proved that he could be an efficient closer, converting on 32 of his 34 save opportunities. He should expect to gain a big contract this offseason. He isn't exactly young, but at 31 years old he will find teams offering big deals for 3 or more seasons. But he has a playoff team already, and the Phillies can always provide the money. I can see him leaving, but I wouldn't expect him to.
2011 Stats: 64.1 IP, 4-1, 2.94 ERA, 31 SV
Possible Destinations: Red Sox, Cubs, Angels, Phillies
2010 was a disappointing season for Jonathan Papelbon, as he wasn't able to make his fifth straight all-star appearance and his ERA rose to 3.90.
Although he still wasn't named an All-Star in 2011, it was a big comeback year for him despite having a career low 31 saves. In 64.1 innings, he struck out 87 batters and walked only 10. His ERA went down to 2.94 and he gave up just 3 homers on the whole year. His WHIP was also a fantastic 0.933, his lowest since 2007.
Papelbon is now 31, so he has probably already achieved his best seasons in the league. But he is still an elite closer and one of the best in the league, and that being said, the Red Sox will most likely use some of their cap space to re-sign him. Just remember, that doesn't mean he'll sign cheap for them. He'll most likely take the highest money, so there's no discount included for Boston.
2011 Stats: 62.2 IP, 3-4, 2.44 ERA, 43 saves
Possible Destinations: Padres, Cardinals, Phillies, Mets, Marlins, Orioles
Bell has stated that he wants to stay in San Diego, but you can't be very sure that the Padres are willing to spend their money on re-signing him. Josh Byrnes in the new general manager, so they may have a whole new view on Bell and decide to let him sign elsewhere.
Bell is coming off his 3rd straight season with an all-star appearance and with 40 saves. Many teams will be interested in signing him, but it may be a risky move, especially if Bell insists on making $10-15 million a year when he is already 34.
Something teams should pay attention to while evaluating Bell is his decreasing strikeout rate. His strikeout rate decreased from 11.1 to 7.3 in 2011, which is a career low.
His velocity stays at about 94 MPH, but he has seen a drop in vertical movement on his fastball and a drop in horizontal movement on most of his other pitches, something that should be closely monitored.
Bell is an elite closer, and the best on this list, but he should be frequently checked on in the next few years. A loss in movement could be a sign that he is starting his decline, so teams ready to overpay should be cautious.