2010 MLB Free Agency: Top 10 Closers on the Market

Eric Ball@@BigLeagueEballFeatured ColumnistNovember 16, 2010

2010 MLB Free Agency: Top 10 Closers on the Market

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    ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 09:  Pitcher Rafael Soriano #29 of the Tampa Bay Rays throws against the Texas Rangers during game 3 of the ALDS at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 9, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    The 2010 season reached its conclusion and that can only mean one thing: The hot stove season is underway!

    How will your team upgrade this offseason?

    An integral part of any team is its closer. Look no further than the World Series champion Giants, a team that had a lights out postseason from closer Brian Wilson. It was an essential key to their success.

    Having a reliable closer makes it so much easier on fans and coaches alike. A shaky closer can raise any manager's blood pressure.

    If you're a fan of the Mets, Angels, Blue Jays, Rays, White Sox, Nationals, Marlins, Braves or Red Sox, pay attention.

    Here are the power rankings for the top 10 free-agent pitchers that have the ability to be solid closers in 2011.

10. Frank Francisco

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    ARLINGTON, TX - MAY 11:  Pitcher Frank Francisco #50 on May 11, 2010 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Francisco was a solid piece of the 2010 Rangers puzzle.

    While his numbers aren't eye-popping (3.76 ERA, 15 holds, 1.27 WHIP, four blown saves), he has a solid track record.

    He has been a solid commodity for the past six seasons and the price will be very reasonable for any potential suitor. Francisco has 315 strikeouts in 283.1 innings pitched in his career.

    Spending around $3 million for a middle-of-the-road potential closer is not the worst thing in the world.

9. J. J. Putz

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    CHICAGO - JULY 07: J.J. Putz #40 of the Chicago White Sox looks for the catchers' signs before pitching against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at U.S. Cellular Field on July 7, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The White Sox defeated the Angels 5-2.  (Photo b
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Putz saved 40 games for the Mariners back in 2007.

    This year he had 14 holds as the set-up man for the White Sox. He posted a 2.83 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP. Putz finished with a record of 7-5 and he also collected three saves.

    Putz still has the ability to be a decent closer for a team not looking to drop a ton of cash on the position.

    I can envision Putz being the Marlins closer in 2011 for a cool $4 million.

8. Joaquin Benoit

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    ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 09:  Pitcher Joaquin Benoit #53 of the Tampa Bay Rays throws against the Texas Rangers during game 3 of the ALDS at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 9, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Benoit was lights out as the set-up man for the Rays this season. He had an outstanding 1.34 ERA with 25 holds and a 0.78 WHIP.

    He had 75 strikeouts compared to just 11 walks. Lefties could only muster a .144 average against him.

    In other words, Benoit is ready to be a closer.

    After making $3.75 million for the Rays in 2010, expect a hefty pay raise from a team like the Nationals or Braves.

    Buyer beware: he missed all of 2009 and he has a 4.47 career ERA in nine MLB seasons.

7. Octavio Dotel

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    CHICAGO - JUNE 30: Octavio Dotel #29 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches in the 9th inning on his way to a save against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on June 30, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Pirates defeated the Cubs 2-0. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Get
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Dotel went on a merry-go-round of sorts in 2010. He started the season with the Pirates.

    After allowing 11 runs in the month of April, he gave up a mere eight for the rest of his tenure with the Pirates before being traded to the Dodgers at the end of July.

    He gave up seven runs in a month-and-a-half with L.A. They had seen enough of him and his $3.25 million contract, so he was shipped to the Rockies. He allowed three runs in eight forgettable appearances for Colorado.

    For the season, he had 22 saves and blew six more. His ERA was 4.08 and his WHIP was 1.31.

    The Colorado Rockies have declined a $4.5-million option.

    In 12 major-league seasons, he's 49-43 with a 3.75 ERA and 105 career saves.

    Those certainly are not gaudy numbers—but he will get an offer from a team that misses out on one of the big names.

6. Kerry Wood

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    ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 22:  Kerry Wood #39 of the New York Yankees throws a pitch against the Texas Rangers in Game Six of the ALCS during the 2010 MLB Playoffs at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 22, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald M
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Wood has been in every role a pitcher could have. He was a flame-throwing ace back in his Cubs day. He then was converted into a solid closer for Cleveland.

    After the Indians traded Wood to the Yankees, he became the eighth-inning set-up man.

    He really excelled in the role, allowing a single run in two months with the Yanks.

    Wood pitched eight innings in the postseason and allowed two runs.

    He's a proven winner with a long track record of success. While he won't make anything close to the $10 million he made this season, expect a salary around half of that in 2011.

    He would be a great pickup for a squad that needs to add a veteran prescience to its bullpen (cough, cough, D-Backs).

5. Brian Fuentes

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    MINNEAPOLIS - OCTOBER 06:  Brian Fuentes #51 of the Minnesota Twins delivers a pitch against the New York Yankees during game one of the ALDS on October 6, 2010 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Yankees defeated the Twins 6-4.  (Photo by Elsa
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Fuentes made a boatload of cash in 2010 ($9 million). He put up a 2.81 ERA, had 24 saves and a 1.06 WHIP as a member of the Angels and the Twins.

    An added bonus is the 2.2 scoreless innings he tossed in the postseason against the Yankees. In fact, in the last month-and-a-half of the season, he didn't allow a single run.

    Fuentes has shown that he can win in the playoffs and still, potentially, save 30-35 games.

    He can be a great closer for a team that's not afraid of writing a decent-size check (cough, cough Mets).

4. Jon Rauch

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    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 6: Jon Rauch #60 of the Minnesota Twins pitches during game one of the ALDS against the New York Yankees on October 6, 2010 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien /Getty Images)
    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    The 6'11" Rauch had a solid season filling in for the injured Joe Nathan. He had 21 saves with a 3.12 ERA. The 1.30 WHIP isn't spectacular, but it's not awful.

    He worked 1.2 innings of scoreless baseball in the playoffs. Rauch really throws a lot of strikes. He has walked 67 total batters in the past four years

    Rauch does need to improve on his .288 average against lefties.

    With a salary of $2.9 million in 2010, he is a bargain buy that a team on a budget needs to scoop up.

3. Kevin Gregg

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    ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 15:  Kevin Gregg #63 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the ninth inning at Angel Stadium on August 15, 2010 in Anaheim, California. The Blue Jays defeated the Angels 4-1.  (Photo by Jeff Gro
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    His 37 saves were good enough for fourth best in the A.L. It was also a career high.

    Buyer beware: He blew six saves and allowed 52 hits in 59 innings. The 3.51 ERA is not exactly brilliant either.

    After making $2 million in 2010, expect the 32-year-old Gregg to receive a nice pay increase from a mid-market team such as the D-Backs or White Sox, clubs that are in need of a reliable closer.

2. Mariano Rivera

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    ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 22:  Mariano Rivera #42 of the New York Yankees throws a pitch against the Texas Rangers in Game Six of the ALCS during the 2010 MLB Playoffs at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 22, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. The Rangers won
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    The immortal Rivera is looking for a new deal. It would be a complete shocker if the Yankees didn't sign him to his last fat contract.

    He had 33 saves on the season, but he also had five blown saves. Considering he sported a 1.80 ERA and a 0.83 WHIP, I wouldn't be too concerned about him.

    The Red Sox and Mets can dream of stealing him away from the Yankees, but that's not gonna happen. It's only a formality until the Yankees re-sign him to keep the core four intact.

1. Rafael Soriano

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    ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 09:  Pitcher Rafael Soriano #29 of the Tampa Bay Rays reacts after a 6-3 win against the Texas Rangers during game 3 of the ALDS at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 9, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Ge
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    He led the American League with 45 saves. He won the American League's Rolaids Relief Man Award. He had a 1.73 ERA with a 0.80 WHIP.

    Righties hit a paltry .132 against him over the course of the season. For his career, Soriano has a 2.73 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP.

    In other words, this guy is a stud. He made $7.25 million in 2010 and, odds are, the Rays won't be able to keep him. Expect a team like the Mets or the Red Sox to make a huge run at the top prize in free agency.

    Soriano is due to land a monster contract with a big-market club.