I wasn't planning on writing anything since I'm still so damn tired from that damn Chicago trip, but I happened to be in the car and flipped on the radio and listened to a little Twins Spring Training game. Even though we're in the heart of the NCAA Tournament, and the two rounds where the best basketball is usually played, it still made my heart skip a beat for summer and some hardball. Of course, I also had to hear Gordy and Gladden talk about how Jesse Crain would be a great closer if he could just throw strike one, and I don't exactly miss that, but you take the good with the bad.
And even though I know the Twins aren't going to make a move, and even though I know they are going try to go with a closer-by-committee, and even though I know it's not going to work and they're going to wait too long to try and fix it, I'm going to look at the outside possibilities anyway. Mainly to educate myself on how many options are out there that are going to be ignored.
So here are 10 possible closers we might find wearing a Twins' jersey and working as a closer at some point this year, in the order I found information on them:
1. John Smoltz. I bring him up because a reader mentioned him in the comments, but the only thing I find attractive about him is that he's a free agent and wouldn't cost anything outside of the contract to acquire. At 43 with rapidly dropping velocity and a rapidly rising flyball rate, it's tough to figure out what would be attractive here. He just took a job with TBS, but his contract has provisions in it where he can leave to play ball if he gets a contract offer. How badly would that move reek of desperation? And how much does it sound like something that is going to happen around July?
2. Kerry Wood. In the last year of his contract (unless he finishes 55 games this year), Wood is a natural to come up in every closer-related trade rumor. Of course, Wood is hurt again, this time with a strained back muscle, and with $10.5 million coming his way this year there's no way the Twins would make a move for him now, and nor should they. If he comes back strong and nobody has stepped up by mid-summer, I can see this one happening, division foe or not.
3. Mike MacDougal. I'm not sure about this one, especially because he just got released by the freaking Marlins, but MacDougal did have 20 saves last season for the Nationals and has notched 20+ in two other seasons in his career. He throws hard and gets a lot of groundballs, so he's an intriguing possibility, but he walks as many as he strikes out these days. I'd be much more interested in him if he had become available prior to Spring Training, but if he's willing to sign for cheap I'd endorse this move.
4. Heath Bell. I've mentioned him here before, and he's probably the best possible option, but the Padres are apparently asking for Glen Perkins and two "good" prospects. I've said it before, if by "good" they mean guys like Ben Revere, they can screw off, but if they mean guys more like Trevor Plouffe, I'd consider myself intrigued. This team is in position to win this year, and a move like this takes that up another notch, not to mention showing a nice shift in team philosophy.
5. Derrick Turnbow. Remember this guy? He notched 39 saves for the Brewers in 2005 with a sub-2.00 ERA and looked poised to be a star, but fell off a cliff since then. In the next three seasons he's posted a total ERA north of six and has started walking nearly as many batters as he strikes out, and hasn't pitched in the majors since 2008. He was just released by the Marlins, who apparently stockpiled crappy relievers this Spring, and it actually sounds like he's retiring due to a shoulder injury, but I'm including him here mostly because I already typed all that stuff above before I read the part about the injury.
6. Jason Frasor. The other hot name behind Bell, and I'm not entirely certain why he's such a hot commodity. He saved just 11 out of 14 opportunities, and last year was the first time he posted an ERA under 4 in the last four seasons and the first time he ever put up a WHIP under 1.2. He's cheaper than Bell, would cost less in prospects, so I see the interest, but I'm not sure he's necessarily any better than Rauch, Neshek, or any of the other clowns the Twins have. That said, if they can get him in a straight swap for Glen Perkins I would enthusiastically endorse it.
7. Matt Capps. I know the Twins had their shot to sign him this off-season if they really wanted him, and they wisely laid off, but time's have changed with Nathan's elbow issues. I can't imagine the Nationals really need a $4.5 million closer this year when they're going to struggle to win 65-games, and with just a one-year deal it's hard to imagine them not looking to deal him around mid-season. I fear he's really more of a middle reliever type who's been forced into a closer role, and he regressed big-time last year, so I can't imagine the Twins making this move unless he either provs himself to be back to being good or they get really desperate.
8. Francisco Cordero. He's a pretty big long shot, considering he will make $12 million each of the next two years, but I'm starting to have to stretch to get to 10 and what do the Reds need with a $12 million closer? Actually they have a pretty good young roster, but if it seems they aren't quite ready I can see the Reds moving guys like Cordero, Aaron Harang, and Bronson Arroyo - they could always try to convert Jose Arredondo into a closer. I doubt the Twins get involved here, but it's always possible, particularly if anything further goes wrong with Nathan.
9. Octavio Dotel. He seems to be about 100 years old, but he keeps plugging along, putting up decent numbers. He's now on the Pirates, making $3.5 million this year, and they have a club option for next year for $4.5 (although the option becomes team/player mutual if he's traded). The Pirates have started to show that their front office gets it, and there's really no need for them to bother keeping him - not to mention having that trade clause in there shows they've had that in mind since they signed him. Actually, other than Bell, Frasor, or (god help me) Smotlz, he's probably the most likely to end up a Twin.
10. Eddie Guardado. He's almost certainly going to retire, and there is really no point in bothering to bring him in since him getting people out is basically little more than a rumor at this point, but tell me this, as a Twins' fan, that this doesn't sound like something they'd do.
Of course, I could be wrong about all this too. ESPN's Eric Karabell believes Jon Rauch could be the next closing star - or at least the next David Aardsma, and really if you look at the ten guys I listed above it's mostly garbage.
I don't know. I'd still feel a lot better if they got Bell, or are at least prepared to pull the trigger on Wood if he shows he's recovered. All I really know is that this sucks, because the Twins did basically everything I wanted them to do, and now we have to worry about this. Arg. At the very least, tell me they're going to pick somebody, hopefully Rauch, and just go with him. I have less than zero interest in dealing with watching some kind of closer-by-committee garbage all year. I prefer to focus my rage on one player at a time.
Sweet 16 predictions coming Wednesday night, so if you are still waiting on my picks to make your wagers, just sit tight.