The Rays Refuse to Pick Up a Closer Despite Glut of Candidates on the Market

Josh LevittSenior Analyst IOctober 7, 2009

NEW YORK - APRIL 29:  J.J. Putz #22 of the New York Mets delivers a pitch against the Florida Marlins on April 29, 2009 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Marlins defeated the Mets 4-3.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Rays fans, get ready for a closer by committee in 2010!

"Rays vice president of baseball Andrew Friedman said he expects the Rays to break camp next spring with the old closer by committee.

"His reasoning? The Rays simply can’t afford someone like Billy Wagner, the former Astros, Phillies, and Mets closer now serving as the Red Sox setup man.

"'I think there’s kind of a misnomer out there that we don’t believe in having someone that can lock down a game,' Friedman said Tuesday at Tropicana Field. 'It’s just that when we get into our roster construction and allocating of resources, it’s very difficult for us to allocate a huge amount of money for someone who pitches 70 innings a year.'

"Friedman added, 'We can’t make any moves in a vacuum.'"

I understand Friedman's logic here. The Rays have a limited payroll, and ultimately, some area of the team is going to suffer. Closers are a very overpriced commodity (outside of Joe Nathan, Mariano Rivera, etc.), and the save is the most overrated baseball statistic. It seems logical to think that an effective closer can be found on the cheap in 2010 if the Rays have some luck.

However, if there was ever an offseason where the Rays could find a closer on the cheap, it would be this offseason. The reason? There are so many guys on the market who have closing experience. Take a look:

* Billy Wagner
* Rafael Soriano
* Mike Gonzalez
* Fernando Rodney
* Jose Valverde
* J.J. Putz (*option)
* Brandon Lyon
* LaTroy Hawkins
* Kevin Gregg
* Danys Baez

By my count, there are 10 free agents this offseason who have closing experience. There are not 10 teams in baseball that are in need of a closer.

The price tag on some of these guys is bound to fall as the market for closers becomes colder. To me, that would be the ample opportunity for Friedman and the Rays to jump in and acquire a closer at a price that fits within their budget.

No one expects the Rays to sign a closer to a big money contract. That'd be foolish. But how about signing Putz (if he becomes a free agent) to a one-year pact with a low base salary and some nice incentives? A move like that could catapult the Rays to the top of the AL East if Putz is healthy and productive. That seems like a good risk to me.


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