MLB Free Agency: Rafael Soriano and the Top 15 Specialty Relievers Available

Matt RudnitskyCorrespondent IDecember 12, 2010

MLB Free Agency: Rafael Soriano and the Top 15 Specialty Relievers Available

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    ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 10:  Pitcher Rafael Soriano #29 of the Tampa Bay Rays throws against the Texas Rangers during game 4 of the ALDS at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 10, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    After Carl Crawford's surprise signing by the Boston Red Sox, MLB's free agent pool is slowly starting to dwindle down.

    Cliff Lee is still out there for the New York Yankees' or Texas Rangers' taking, but there aren't a whole lot of other marquee names left.

    As for free agent relievers, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim—not to be confused with all of the other Los Angeles residing in MLB—scooped up Scott Downs, the Philadelphia Phillies re-signed Jose Contreras, Joaquin Benoit went to the Detriot Tigers, and the Bronx Bombers kept Mariano Rivera.

    Still there's a solid group of relievers left for any teams trying to shore up their bullpens this offseason.

    Here's a list of the top 15 specialty relievers still available.

15. Hideki Okajima

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    SEATTLE - SEPTEMBER 14:  Relief pitcher Hideki Okajima #37 of the Boston Red Sox pitches against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on September 14, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Okajima was a huge disappointment last year with a 4.50 ERA and 1.72 WHIP.

    But because of his stellar 2007 and 2008, as well as a pretty good 2009, he's worth an investment as a bounce-back candidate.

    He's 34 and American hitters may have him figured out, but at the worst, he can be capable against lefties.

14. Pedro Feliciano

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    NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 17:  Pedro Feliciano #25 of the New York Mets pitches against the Atlanta Braves on September 17, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Braves beat the Mets 6 - 4.  (Photo by Andre
    Andrew Burton/Getty Images

    Feliciano is a pure lefty-specialist, but is pretty good at it.

    He allowed just a .211 batting average and .574 OPS to lefties, but a .336 BA and .831 OPS to righties.

13. Bobby Jenks

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    CHICAGO - AUGUST 10: Bobby Jenks #45 of the Chicago White Sox pitches against the Minnesota Twins at U.S. Cellular Field on August 10, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Twins defeated the White Sox 12-6. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Jenks hasn't had good peripherals since 2008, but he did save 27 games last year and 173 for his career.

    He won't fetch his $7.5 million salary from last year, but someone will pick him up, but not likely as a closer.

12. Kyle Farnsworth

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    PITTSBURGH - SEPTEMBER 06:  Kyle Farnsworth #43 of the Atlanta Braves pitches against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the game on September 6, 2010 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Pirates beat the Braves 3-1.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Im
    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    The 34-year-old fireballer still brings the heat with an average fastball of 94.9 mph, according to FanGraphs, but he also never fails to disappoint.

    He actually had one of his better years in 2010 with 64.2 IP, a 3.34 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 61 strikeouts.

    Farnsworth certainly still has some value, but anyone expecting him to put it all together at 34 certainly wouldn't be making a smart bet.

11. Dan Wheeler

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    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Dan Wheeler #35 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a photo during Spring Training Media Photo Day at Charlotte County Sports Park on February 26, 2010 in Port Charlotte, Florida.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    With a 3.35 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 48.1 innings for the Rays last year, Wheeler had his third consecutive solid year as a reliever.

    He isn't spectacular, but at 33 he still has enough in the tank to be a solid middle-reliever who could fill in as a setup man if needed.

10. 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 is great against lefties, allowing just a .128 BA to southpaws.

    But he isn't too shabby against righties either, allowing a .202 BA.

    He wasn't terrific with the Angels despite managing 23 saves, but was lights-out with the Twins in not giving up a single run in 9.2 innings.

    Fuentes at his best is someone who to lean on as a setup man or fill-in closer.

9. 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

    Gregg isn't a top closer, despite what his 37 saves might suggest.

    A 3.51 ERA certainly isn't bad, but he doesn't have the dominant stuff of most closers, which showed in his 1.39 WHIP.

    He can be a cheap option to pick up saves or a solid, reliable seventh or eighth-inning guy.

8. Jesse Crain

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    CLEVELAND, OH- APRIL 30: Jesse Crain #28 of the Minnesota Twins pitches against the Cleveland Indians during the game on April 30, 2010 at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    After a few subpar years, Crain stepped up his game in his contract year last season, posting a 3.04 ERA and 1.18 WHIP.

    He struck out 62 batters in his 68 innings pitched and should earn himself a decent paycheck this offseason.

7. Matt Guerrier

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    NEW YORK - OCTOBER 09:  Matt Guerrier #54 of the Minnesota Twins throws a pitch against the New York Yankees during Game Three of the ALDS part of the 2010 MLB Playoffs at Yankee Stadium on October 9, 2010 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by
    Chris McGrath/Getty Images

    Guerrier was a workhorse for the twins, logging 71 IP and managing a 3.17 ERA and 1.10 WHIP.

    Solid but unspectacular, Guerrier would be a solid addition to any team.

6. 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

    Rauch was huge for the Twins last year, filling in for the injured Joe Nathan with 21 saves, 3.12 ERA, 1.30 WHIP and 46 strikeouts.

    Any team would be smart to pick him up.

5. Arthur Rhodes

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    PHOENIX - AUGUST 18:  Relief pitcher Arthur Rhodes #53 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches during the Major League Baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 18, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Reds defeated the Diamondbacks 11-7.
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    It wouldn't be smart to throw too much money at the 41-year-old Rhodes, but he quietly held a 2.29 ERA and 1.02 WHIP last season.

    He's great against lefties, and actually was even better against righties last year.

    Rhodes could be due for a decline due to his age, but if I were a GM, I'd bank on another solid year.

4. Kerry Wood

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    ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 22:  Kerry Wood #39 of the New York Yankees gets set to throw 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 Rang
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Wood was awful with the Indians last year, but experienced a renaissance after being acquired by the Yankees.

    He was nearly unhittable, with a 1.23 ERA, 0.69 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 26 IP.

    Wood will try and turn his newfound brilliance into a closing job, but it remains to be seen if anyone will bite.

3. Takashi Saito

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    HOUSTON - AUGUST 11:  Pitcher Takashi Saito #40 of Japan pitches in the tenth inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on August 11, 2010 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Saito doesn't get the respect he deserves with a 2.19 ERA and 1.02 WHIP and 84 saves for his five-year career.

    He hasn't closed since 2008, but teams would be wise to give him another shot at it since he was pretty good.

2. Grant Balfour

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    NEW YORK - JULY 17:  Grant Balfour #50 of the Tampa Bay Rays delivers a pitch against the New York Yankees on July 17, 2010 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Rays defeated the Yankees 10-5.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Balfour is a Type A free agent and will cost a team a first-round pick if it wants to sign him, but he could be worth the price.

    With a 2.28 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 55.1 IP, Balfour is a top-tier setup man who could earn a closer job if he lands in the right spot.

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

    Soriano is the clear-cut No. 1 here, and he'll command big-time money from whomever is willing to pay the price of an elite closer.

    With 45 saves, a 1.73 ERA and 0.80 WHIP, Soriano is just about as good as it gets.


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    NEW YORK - APRIL 05: Mr. Met interacts with the crowd in the game between the Florida Marlins and the New York Mets during their Opening Day game at Citi Field on April 5, 2010 in the Flushing neighbourhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo
    Chris McGrath/Getty Images

    What do you think of the list?

    Where will these guys end up?

    Voice your opinion in the comments.

    Matt Rudnitsky is a student at the University of Michigan and a Featured Columnist/writing intern at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter at


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