Available as free agents: Francisco Rodriguez, Brian Fuentes, Trevor Hoffman, Kerry Wood and, depending on how you look at them in your bullpen neighborhood, Jason Isringhausen, Brandon Lyon, Eric Gagne and Juan Cruz. There's also Chad Cordero, who is coming off shoulder surgery and is iffy for Opening Day.
Also, potentially available on the trade market: J.J. Putz, Bobby Jenks, George Sherrill, Huston Street, Jose Valverde and Matt Capps.
That's 15 names, and 12 of those players (all but Street, Gagne and Cruz) have saved more than 20 games in at least one of the past two seasons.
But how many teams are actively looking for a closer? You might be shocked by how short that list is.
You have the Mets, Indians, Brewers, Rangers, Tigers and maybe the Cardinals, if it's the right short-term fit. So that's six teams.
And if any of those closers on the trade-auction stand gets dealt, it's possible that club could look elsewhere to replace the arm it just traded away. But we're still talking about only another team or two.
In other words, if you're adding along at home, that's probably a max of eight teams -- and maybe as few as five -- shopping in a market with, conceivably, about twice as many closer names to choose from.
I have been a huge fan of Stark since the 80's, but I think he is way off base with this assessment of the market. He says that there are 15 closers on the market. I count three via free agency, K-Rod, Fuentes, and Wood. None of the others are reliable enough to be considered closers for a contending team next year. Gagne???? Izzy???? Are you kidding me????
And as for the ones available via trade, these guys are available for the right price, but are not on the market. Their teams are willing to trade them only because closers have such a high value and they think that they can get a good return. They see teams like the Mets, Indians and Brewers desperate for a closer, and see them overpaying for one. If they find out that the price for any of them is too low, they will just keep them. That will drive the market right back up, once acquiring teams realize that. I can promise you that of the six names he mentioned, less than three will be traded before the season starts, maybe even none of them.
And I would add the Angels, Rays and D-backs to the list of teams looking for a closer. Percival broke down at the end of the year, so I doubt the Rays want to bet everything on him next year, the D-Back say they are going with Qualls and Pena, but they would love to have a true closer if they could, and the Angels will be in the bidding for K-Rod, so that lets you know the faith that they have in Arredondo.
So even if you don't count the last three, that is 6 teams desperate for a closer. They all will overpay to get one. And you have three dependable ones via free agency. That is six teams bidding on three closers. No team will trade much for a closer if they can still sign one, so the free agents will sign first. Once three of them sign, the remaining three teams will be even more desperate to acquire one through a trade, and the bidding will begin.
I predict that K-Rod, Fuentes and Woods, will get at least what they are asking for, and that some teams will be able to trade their closers for more than they are worth. I think Jayson Stark is dead wrong on this one.