When Brad Lidge arrived to the Philadelphia Phillies before the 2008 season, fans finally were able to relax when the ninth inning rolled around after years of watching a revolving door coming from the bullpen. Four years later, the roller-coaster ride that has followed Lidge since his perfect campaign in 2008 seems to have come to an end.
By declining a pricey $12.5 million option, the Phillies have allowed their one-time shutdown closer test a populated reliever's market. Though Lidge has struggled over the past three seasons, there are many that still believe he can be an effective bullpen option, evidenced by his 1.40 ERA in 25 appearances after returning from injury.
While his durability certainly warrants concern, there is no denying that, when healthy, Lidge can be a steadying veteran presence that mows down opposing hitters with that biting slider. Philadelphia will try to bring him back at a reduced rate, as his consistency has all but disappeared since the 2008 masterpiece that saw all 48 save opportunities converted.
However, the Phillies will not be the only team that will get in line for Lidge's services this winter. Whether they need a veteran arm at the back end of the relief staff or a more cost-effective option in the closer's role, here is a list of five clubs that could take a look at Lidge.
Typically playing away from the spotlight for much of the season, the Kansas City Royals were once thought to have the best closer in baseball that no one knew about. But after last season, when Joakim Soria was only able to convert 28 of 35 chances and faced a benching, KC would appear to be in need of a veteran to stabilize the back end of the pen.
The Royals exercised the 2012 option on Soria, bringing him back after a tumultuous 2011 season. And while a move to bring in Brad Lidge may overfill the candidates to fill the closer's role, Kansas City will have a proven option to replace Soria should he falter like he did a year ago.
What may matter more for the Royals is what package Soria could bring in return if they were to trade him at the deadline. A young arm in the final year of his current contract would be an easy sell when trying to build up their franchise.
Enter "Lights Out" Lidge, a bona fide solution for the closer's role should the Royals need a change. If the team is able to be competitive deep into the season, he can be the steady arm that he was when he finally returned from injury in 2011.
When a team finished as poorly as the Houston Astros did in 2011, all spots on the team could most likely use an upgrade. Following a 56-106 campaign that began with a blown save against the Phillies, Houston was only able to find success with fill-in closer Mark Melancon, who still blew five saves on his way to recording 20.
Former Astros closer Brad Lidge would appear to be an option for the front office that has a knack for attracting former Phillies to the NL Central. With familiarity already in place between Lidge and Houston management, the fit would seem to be there.
If the Astros are able to lure Lidge back to the Lone Star state, it would give their bullpen a needed shot in the arm as well as remind fans of their prior success. The past has proved that Brandon Lyon or his young replacements are not the long-term answer in the closer role.
After trading him for prospects following the 2007 season, it may be time for a reunion for the two parties, hoping to reignite the fire in both the 'Stros clubhouse and Lidge's career.
With controversy surrounding the Phillies' NL East rivals, a potential landing spot for Brad Lidge has been created in the same division. Amid the fake identity scandal that is currently jeopardizing the playing status of their current closer, the Florida Marlins could enlist the services of a veteran bullpen arm.
After spending four years in Philadelphia, the Marlins can bet that Lidge knows the Phillies' hitters and their tendencies. And though they have seen his diving slider in action, they have rarely been at the receiving end of the closer's strikeout pitch.
The ninth-inning man previously known as Leo Nunez is still under investigation for falsifying his identity to sign a major league contract, leaving a large question mark hanging over the Marlins' bullpen. Lidge could either fill the void should he be unable to play or move into the setup role he accepted in his final season for the Phillies.
Florida is also moving into a new ballpark with a new logo. A veteran face in a vital position would certainly help stabilize the team as it is overcome by a new beginning. Should he not return, the Phillies would be wise in wishing Lidge stays out of the division.
With change also sweeping the Chicago Cubs' organization, fans can continue to count on the fact that they cannot rely on their bullpen. As new general manager Theo Epstein tries to extricate talent from their group of erratic, aging arms, the free-agent market could come to the rescue.
The current situation is far from appetizing for the Cubs' pen, and it all starts with wild closer Carlos Marmol. The 29-year-old right-hander blew 10 saves in 2011 en route to an ERA above 4.00. Chicago has faced the same decision to replace Marmol over the past few seasons, but have never followed through on a permanent basis.
Epstein could end up bringing in Brad Lidge much like he did with Bobby Jenks when with the Red Sox. Plucking the struggling veteran from an exhausted and changing his environment may help to rejuvenate Lidge's career and boost the bullpen.
The Cubs will recognize that Lidge has pitched in the NL Central before and could use his familiarity to try and close the talent gap between their club and the champion St. Louis Cardinals. Epstein is no stranger to bullpen shakeups, making the Cubs a possible destination for Lidge.
Lidge's chances of ending up with the San Diego Padres are completely contingent on whether Heath Bell signs elsewhere during the free-agency period. Bell has been a dominant force in relief for San Diego and will be a hot commodity this winter, much like he was at the trade deadline.
If Bell departs, there is a very real possibility that Lidge would want to throw in pitcher-friendly stadium. The yard at Petco Park is nothing short of cavernous, a quality that plays into Lidge's strengths as a pitcher, as he is used to retiring batters on relatively deep fly balls.
The Padres' bullpen is deep when compared to many around the league, giving Lidge the opportunity to work his way into either a setup or closer's role. The NL West is not known for its thunderous offensive firepower, allowing the former Phillie to hone his command after losing some ability due to injury.
Wherever he goes, Lidge will need to adjust to whatever job he is given in the pen. It's time for the veteran righty to rebuild his legacy after three difficult seasons. San Diego could offer a fresh, gradual start toward returning to the game's elite.