Matthew Pouliot

Strike Zone

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Free Agent Pitchers (Page 2)

Monday, November 05, 2007

Relief Pitchers

Mariano Rivera (Yankees) - Aug. Prediction: Yankees - two years, $25 million

With Alex Rodriguez apparently gone, it's especially hard to imagine the Yankees letting either Rivera or Jorge Posada get away. It will take an extra year in both cases, but even if the deals go sour, they would hardly cripple the Yankees in 2010.

Prediction: Yankees - three years, $40 million

Francisco Cordero (Brewers) - Aug. Prediction: Giants - four years, $36 million

Cordero ended up blowing seven saves last season after opening the year 21-for-21. Still, he's been a pretty terrific pitcher since joining the Brewers in a trade with the Rangers in 2006, amassing a 2.60 ERA and 116 strikeouts in 90 innings. With no hint of arm troubles lately, he should be in line for a four-year deal worth at least $9 million-$10 million per year. The Brewers will make a bid to keep him, and the Giants, Orioles, Tigers, Phillies, Cubs and Reds could also be in the mix. Since they have no real need in the rotation and seemingly little desire to upgrade in center field, the Brewers' chances of keeping him appear better than ever.

Prediction: Brewers - four years, $40 million

Scott Linebrink (Brewers) - Aug. Prediction: Yankees - four years, $20 million

As far as landing a closing gig, Linebrink appeared to be in better position entering the season. Still, even with his performance tailing off last season after 3 ½ years of outstanding setup work, he's due for one of the best contracts among free agent relievers. The four-year, $18 million contract Justin Speier received a year ago figures to be the starting point in negotiations. Possible suitors include the Yankees, Tigers, Red Sox, Cubs, Mariners and Mets. If Linebrink wants to close, he could probably do so with the Orioles, Reds or maybe the Braves. The Brewers figure to let him go and capitalize on the two draft picks he'll bring.

Prediction: Yankees - four years, $24 million

Todd Jones (Tigers) - Aug. Prediction: Braves - one year, $6 million

Jones appeared likely to depart Detroit at season's end, but the team will certainly have renewed interest now that Joel Zumaya (shoulder) is likely to miss at least two or three months to start 2008. If Jones still exits, it will probably be to pitch somewhere closer to home in Alabama. Atlanta would be ideal for him, and if he's not looking to break the bank, the Braves could sign him to close and keep Rafael Soriano in a setup role.

Prediction: Tigers - one year, $6 million

Jeremy Affeldt (Rockies) - Aug. Prediction: Cubs - three years, $12 million

Affeldt finally found his niche in his first full year in Colorado. Kind of. The Rockies often used him as a specialist, but he actually held righties to a .211 average, while lefties were at .250. Affeldt wasn't quite as effective in the second half, but he did bounce back nicely in the postseason, allowing one run and three hits in 5 1/3 innings. Just 28, he's obviously in line for a multiyear deal, and it's hard to imagine the Rockies keeping him unless they reverse course and trade Brian Fuentes. A four-year deal is possible.

Prediction: Yankees - three years, $17 million

Octavio Dotel (Braves) - Aug. Prediction: Indians - three years, $18 million

Dotel's $5.5 million option still hasn't been declined, but the Braves don't want to pick it up and it looks like he'd opt out of it and go after a multiyear deal elsewhere anyway. Dotel was out until late May with a strained oblique and he missed six weeks after the trade from the Royals with a strained right shoulder, but he managed to fan 41 batters in 30 2/3 innings when healthy. Many large-market teams will be interested in him as a setup man, while some lesser clubs may want him to close. A three-year deal would be appropriate.

Prediction: Mets - three years, $16.5 million

Eric Gagne (Red Sox) - Aug. Prediction: Orioles - one year, $10 million

No one's value plummeted like Gagne's over the last two months of the season. He allowed 14 runs and 26 hits in 18 2/3 innings after arriving in Boston, and the one time the Red Sox let him appear in a close game during the postseason, he took the loss. The bizarre thing is that Gagne was throwing in the low-90s the whole time. He just couldn't spot his fastball or get his changeup down, suggesting that he might have been injured regardless of how hard he was throwing. That the velocity was there means several teams will consider gambling on him this winter. However, it'd be difficult for a contender to sign him as a closer. A return to Texas is one possibility. Baltimore, Detroit and Cincinnati also could pursue him. The only way he returns to Boston is if he's offered arbitration and accepts it.

Prediction: Rangers - one year, $5 million plus incentives

Hitoki Iwase (Japan) - Aug. Prediction: Red Sox - four years, $20 million

Iwase, a 33-year-old left-hander, had 129 saves, a 1.89 ERA and a 146/25 K/BB ratio in 171 2/3 innings for the Chunichi Dragons over the last three seasons. He capped his 2007 season by throwing the ninth inning in the Dragons' perfect game to conclude the Japan Series against the Nippon Ham Fighters. Iwase throws in the high-80s and shows a plus slider. His deceptive motion should help him succeed in the majors as a quality setup man.

Prediction: Red Sox - four years, $20 million

Luis Vizcaino (Yankees) - Aug. Prediction: Tigers - three years, $16.5 million

Vizcaino had a rocky first season in pinstripes. He had a 7.27 ERA through two months, but he went on to post a 1.31 mark in 41 1/3 innings from June through the end of August. A poor September followed, and after he took the loss in Game 2 against the Indians in the ALDS, Joe Torre showed no desire to use him again. That poor ending will probably cause the Yankees to look elsewhere this winter. However, Vizcaino should have plenty of suitors after averaging 70 innings with sub-4.00 ERA over the last four years. Like Cordero and Linebrink, he's a candidate for a four-year deal.

Prediction: White Sox - three years, $15 million

Masahide Kobayashi (Japan) - No Prediction

The top right-handed Japanese reliever available, Kobayashi, 33, has saved 227 games in his homeland and posted a 2.95 ERA and a 116/29 K/BB ratio in 146 1/3 innings over the last three seasons. His low-90s fastball and low-80s forkball/splitter should make him an eighth-inning guy or possibly a closer in the U.S., though it may be tough for him to hold up if put on 70-inning pace (in seven years as a reliever, he's never topped 60 innings). The same teams after Linebrink should be interested in bringing him in.

Prediction: Mariners - three years, $15 million

David Riske (Royals) - $2.85 million club option, $250,000 buyout

Riske, one of the game's most underrated relievers the last few years, will finally get some recognition this winter after declining to exercise his player option to stick around in Kansas City. With a 2.45 ERA in 69 2/3 innings last season and little history of arm troubles, he should be in line for a three-year deal. Perhaps no club will look at him as a closer, but that shouldn't have much of an impact on his market.

Prediction: Phillies - three years, $13.5 million

Kerry Wood (Cubs) - Aug. Prediction: Cubs - one year, $2 million plus incentives

Wood was contemplating another shoulder surgery when his arm finally came around in July. After making it back in early August, he allowed runs in just four of 22 appearances. In his last eight outings, he allowed three hits and fanned 13 in 9 2/3 scoreless innings. He even pitched in both games of a doubleheader on Sept. 15. If Wood has given up on the idea of moving back into the rotation next season, there are a lot of teams that would love to gamble on him. He'll probably stick with the Cubs if the team makes a fair offer, but don't be surprised to see the Yankees and Red Sox involved.

Prediction: Cubs - one year, $4 million plus incentives

J.C. Romero (Phillies) - No Predicion

Being a bust for Boston didn't prevent Joel Pineiro from getting $13 million for two years. Romero is also in line for a multiyear deal after allowing just five runs and 15 hits in 36 1/3 innings for the Phillies. He's no worse of a bet than Scott Schoeneweis, who got $10.8 million for three years from the Mets last winter.

Prediction: Phillies - three years, $12 million

Jorge Julio (Rockies) - Aug. Prediction: Rockies - two years, $8 million

Julio pitched quite well for Colorado after self destructing as a closer in Florida, amassing a 3.93 ERA and a 50/20 K/BB ratio in 52 2/3 innings. However, he was very nearly the goat after allowing two runs without getting an out in the 13th inning of game No. 163 against the Padres. He ended up being left off the postseason roster because of a sore neck. It appears less likely now that the Rockies will ante up to re-sign him. He still might get a two-year deal to pitch in middle relief elsewhere, though that he's viewed as being better in low-pressure situations could keep large-market teams away.

Prediction: Giants - two years, $8 million

LaTroy Hawkins (Rockies) - No Prediction

After coming back from a sore elbow in late May, Hawkins had a 2.63 ERA in his last 48 innings. He was also effective in the postseason, allowing one run and two hits in five innings. Still, the Rockies passed on a chance to keep him when they declined their half of a $3.75 million mutual option. Hawkins says he'd still like to pitch in Colorado, but he might land a two-year contract elsewhere.

Prediction: Athletics - two years, $7.5 million

Yasuhiko Yabuta (Japan) - No Prediction

Kobayashi's setup man on the Chibe Lotte Mariners is believed to be of particular interest to the White Sox. Yabuta, 34, has a 2.80 ERA and a 147/49 K/BB ratio in 174 1/3 innings the last three years. The hardest thrower of the free-agent relievers, Yabuta should be the second or third man in a major league pen, if his command holds up. However, it's no sure thing that he'll cross the Pacific. The Marines could entice him to stay by making him their closer if Kobayashi leaves.

Prediction: White Sox - three years, $9 million

Bob Wickman (Diamondbacks) - Aug. Prediction: Retirement

Wickman was effective in a complementary role for the Diamondbacks after the Braves cut him, allowing two runs -- one earned -- in 6 2/3 innings. A closing gig still could be a possibility for the soon-to-be 39-year-old if he wants to continue his career. However, he's spoken of retirement before and might be ready to call it quits.

Prediction: Brewers - one year, $3 million

Armando Benitez (Marlins) - Aug. Prediction: Nationals - one year, $3 million

Benitez ended up pitching far worse in Florida than he ever did in San Francisco, giving up 28 runs -- 21 earned -- in 33 innings. He still managed 57 strikeouts in 50 1/3 innings for the season, so it's not like his arm is completely shot. However, there isn't much reason to think he'll bounce back and reemerge as a quality late-game reliever.

Prediction: Reds - one year, $2.5 million

Eddie Guardado (Reds) - No prediction

Guardado got off to an abysmal start after returning from Tommy John surgery, but by pitching seven scoreless innings and allowing just two hits during September, he gave some reason for optimism that he could be effective next year. He's still probably through as a closer.

Prediction: Cardinals - one year, $2 million

Kazuo Fukumori (Japan) - No Prediction

While I've heard nothing definitive, I think Fukumori is less likely to jump to MLB than the three other Japanese relievers on this list. The 31-year-old closer is coming off a poor season (4.75 ERA) and he had some elbow issues that figure to take an additional toll on his value. The Rays are reportedly interested in him, but even if he wants to switch leagues, he may figure he's better off doing so in a year or two.

Prediction: Remains in Japan

Other free agents: Mike Timlin (Red Sox), Keith Foulke (FA), Trever Miller (Astros), Matt Herges (Rockies), Antonio Alfonseca (Phillies), Troy Percival (Cardinals), Ron Mahay (Braves), Ron Villone (Yankees), Rudy Seanez (Dodgers), Doug Brocail (Padres), Jose Mesa (Phillies), Elmer Dessens (Rockies), Mike Myers (White Sox), Ray King (Brewers), Hector Carrasco (Nationals), Roberto Hernandez (Dodgers), Scott Williamson (FA), Chris Reitsma (Mariners), Arthur Rhodes (Mariners), Chad Paronto (Braves), Cliff Politte (Indians), Tanyon Sturtze (Braves), Tom Martin (FA), Jay Witasick (Devil Rays), Dan Kolb (Pirates), Mike Wood (Rangers), Paul Shuey (Orioles), Rheal Cormier (Braves), Kirk Saarloos (Reds), Ricardo Rincon (Giants), Aaron Sele (Mets), Mike DeJean (Rockies), Shawn Camp (Devil Rays), Rick White (Mariners), Jim Brower (Yankees), Scott Sauerbeck (Blue Jays), Ryan Bukvich (Minor FA - White Sox), Todd Williams (Minor FA - Rockies), Brian Moehler (Astros), Travis Hughes (Minor FA - Red Sox), Rob Bell (Orioles), John Wasdin (Pirates), Scott Patterson (Minor FA - Yankees), Ron Flores (Minor FA - Athletics), Erasmo Ramirez (Minor FA - Marlins), Nate Field (Minor FA - Marlins), Jon Adkins (Minor FA - Mets), Aaron Rakers (Minor FA - Padres), Sendy Rleal (Minor FA - Orioles), Eude Brito (Minor FA - Phillies), Steve Andrade (Minor FA - Devil Rays), Mike Koplove (Minor FA - Indians), Buddy Hernandez (Minor FA - Braves), Wes Obermueller (Minor FA - Marlins), Jim Ed Warden (Minor FA - Indians), Steven Shell (Minor FA - Angels)

Timlin figures to be invited back to Boston for his age-42 season after an excellent second half and a strong postseason. A one-year deal worth $3.5 million should be sufficient. … Foulke wants to attempt a comeback following elbow surgery and should get an incentive-laden one-year deal. He might be a candidate to close for the Reds. … Miller and Mahay are probably in line for multiyear deals. Miller had a 4.86 ERA last season, but lefties hit just .209 off the 34-year-old. … It will be interesting to see what happens with Herges after his remarkable second half and October for the Rockies. A two-year deal is likely, and if it's not with the Rockies, it may be that he'll rejoin the Giants for a second tour.

Joe Borowski (Indians) - $4 million club option, $250,000 buyout
Scott Eyre (Cubs) - $3.8 million player option
Al Reyes (Devil Rays) - $2 million club option
Aaron Fultz (Indians) - $1.5 million club option, $150,000 buyout

Borowski and Reyes still figure to have their options picked up, even if official decisions haven't come down yet. I'm also guessing Fultz remains with the Indians, though Eric Wedge was oddly afraid to go to him in the postseason. … Eyre's player option is the bigger question mark. A few months ago, it appeared obvious that he'd have to exercise it. However, after seeing his ERA go from 6.60 before the break to 0.81 afterwards, he might be in line for another two- or three-year deal.

Trade candidates: Chad Cordero (Nationals), Brad Lidge (Astros), Brian Fuentes (Rockies), Akinori Otsuka (Rangers), Ryan Dempster (Cubs), Al Reyes (Devil Rays), Tony Pena (Diamondbacks), Jon Rauch (Nationals), Aaron Heilman (Mets), Zack Greinke (Royals), David Weathers (Reds), Dan Wheeler (Devil Rays), Chad Qualls (Astros), Mike MacDougal (White Sox), Derrick Turnbow (Brewers), Damaso Marte (Pirates), Juan Rincon (Twins), Kyle Farnsworth (Yankees), Jason Frasor (Blue Jays), Craig Hansen (Red Sox), Taylor Tankersley (Marlins), Brandon Lyon (Diamondbacks), Angel Guzman (Cubs), Salomon Torres (Pirates), Juan Cruz (Diamondbacks), Matt Wise (Brewers), Jimmy Gobble (Royals), Brian Bruney (Yankees), Andrew Sisco (White Sox), David Aardsma (White Sox), Nick Masset (White Sox), Todd Coffey (Reds), Kiko Calero (Athletics), Neal Cotts (Cubs), Will Ohman (Cubs), Kyle Snyder (Red Sox), Steve Kline (Giants), Sean Henn (Yankees), Lance Cormier (Braves), Brian Stokes (Devil Rays)

Non-tender candidates: Akinori Otsuka (Rangers), Brendan Donnelly (Red Sox), Jorge Sosa (Mets), Neal Cotts (Cubs), Julio Mateo (Phillies), Seth McClung (Brewers), Wilfredo Ledezma (Padres), Tyler Walker (Giants), Matt Miller (Indians), Brandon Duckworth (Royals), John Parrish (Mariners), Greg Aquino (Brewers), Grant Balfour (Devil Rays), Gary Glover (Devil Rays), Micah Bowie (Nationals), Billy Traber (Nationals), Dave Borkowski (Astros), Jason Grilli (Tigers), Ryan Wagner (Nationals), Joe Nelson (Royals), Juan Padilla (Mets), D.J. Houlton (Dodgers), Clay Condrey (Phillies), Kelvin Jimenez (Cardinals), Scott Dohmann (Devil Rays), Jon Switzer (Devil Rays), Chris Seddon (Marlins)

The Rangers would non-tender Otsuka if they believed his elbow troubles would prevent him from contributing in 2008. A decision probably won't come until December. … Donnelly will miss at least the first half of the season following Tommy John surgery. … The Phillies opted to trade for Mateo after the Mariners banished him following his domestic-violence arrest in May, but they never did give him a callup. He could be a real bargain this winter.

Top 2008-09 free agents: Francisco Rodriguez (Angels), Joe Nathan (Twins), Brad Lidge (Astros), Jason Isringhausen (Cardinals), Trevor Hoffman (Padres), Rafael Soriano (Braves), Brian Fuentes (Rockies), Ryan Dempster (Cubs), Hideki Okajima (Red Sox)*, Bobby Howry (Cubs), Dan Wheeler (Devil Rays), Brandon Lyon (Diamondbacks), Kyle Farnsworth (Yankees), Al Reyes (Devil Rays), David Weathers (Reds), Juan Rincon (Twins), Tom Gordon (Phillies)*, Damaso Marte (Pirates)*, Alan Embree (Athletics)*, Juan Cruz (Diamondbacks), Luis Ayala (Nationals), Salomon Torres (Pirates)*, Matt Wise (Brewers), Guillermo Mota (Mets), Scott Downs (Blue Jays), Jorge Sosa (Mets), Villarreal (Braves), Joe Beimel (Dodgers), Brendan Donnelly (Red Sox), Will Ohman (Cubs), Dennys Reyes (Twins), Brian Shouse (Brewers), Darren Oliver (Angels), Steve Kline (Giants), John Parrish (Mariners), Mike Stanton (Reds)*

2009 options: Okajima - $1.75 million vesting option, Gordon - $4.5 million ($1 million buyout), Marte - $6 million ($250,000 buyout), Embree - $3 million, Torres - $3.75 million ($300,000 buyout), Stanton - $2.5 million ($500,000 buyout)

Top 2009-10 free agents: J.J. Putz (Mariners)*, Billy Wagner (Mets)*, Chad Cordero (Nationals), Jose Valverde (Diamondbacks), Brett Myers (Phillies), Rafael Betancourt (Indians), Mike Gonzalez (Braves), Akinori Otsuka (Rangers), Fernando Rodney (Tigers), Derrick Turnbow (Brewers), Danys Baez (Orioles), Mike MacDougal (White Sox)*, Justin Duchscherer (Athletics), Ryan Madson (Phillies), Kevin Gregg (Marlins), Duaner Sanchez (Mets), Joaquin Benoit (Rangers), Jamie Walker (Orioles), Chad Bradford (Orioles), Ryan Franklin (Cardinals)*, John Grabow (Pirates), Kiko Calero (Athletics), Jesus Colome (Nationals), Scott Schoeneweis (Mets)

2010 options: Putz - $8.6 million ($1 million buyout), Wagner - $8 million ($1 million buyout), MacDougal - $3.75 million ($350,000 buyout), Franklin - $2.75 million ($250,000 buyout)

Matthew Pouliot is the Executive Editor of and has been doing the site's baseball projections for the last 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @matthewpouliot.
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