Last time, we started looking ahead to some of the probable big-money free agents that may be changing teams this winter. Specifically, we looked at starting pitchers like A.J. Burnett and Matt Morris. Go here to read the article. This week, we'll continue the series and discuss the high-profile closers you might see on the move.
Billy Wagner thinks he'll be back with the Phillies next season, but we're skeptical. Phillies GM Ed Wade has been burned before in the closer market, getting criticized heavily for signing Jose Mesa to an expensive two-year deal a few years ago. Wade should know by now that good bullpens are not built with free agents. Wagner wants three years, $24 million, and a no-trade clause. Wagner is getting up there in years, but you can expect a season or two more of his top-tier production - ERA below 2.50, at least 25 saves. Just don't rely on him, because the next injury may be around the corner.
At 37 years old, Trevor Hoffman is clearly slipping. His strikeouts are decent, but nowhere near the level of his late 90s dominance. Wherever he goes, he'll close. Don't pay overpay for the name, though - Hoffman may struggle to keep his ERA under 4 next year. Remember, he'll likely be leaving pitcher-friendly Petco in San Diego.
You can depend on B.J. Ryan for an ERA under 3 and more strikeouts than some of your starting pitchers. He's easily the most valuable closer on the market, and he's only 29. The Cubs and the Mets may be possible suitors for the fireballer. You can expect the same dominance for the next four years, which will probably be the length of Ryan's deal.
Next week, we'll look into some second-tier closer options like Ryan Dempster and Bob Wickman. We'll also take a look at next year's free agent catcher crop.
Tim Dierkes posts daily updates to his fantasy baseball blog as The Roto Authority. Check out the site at:
for many more 2006 MLB free agents and analysis. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions, comments, or anything else.