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Tag:Astros
Posted on: November 19, 2011 2:47 pm
 

Report: Pirates 'close' to signing Clint Barmes

Clint BarmesBy C. Trent Rosecrans

The Pirates are "close" to signing shortstop Clint Barmes, Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com tweets.

Earlier in the day Rosenthal tweeted the Pirates were the leader for the former Rockies and Astros shortstop, saying a two-year deal was likely.

The Pirates declined a $3-million option on Ronny Cedeno. Cedeno, 28, hit .249/.297/.339 last season and was a finalist for the Gold Glove. 

Barmes will be 33 in March and hit just .244/.312/.386 last season and is a career .252 hitter, but a very good defensive shortstop. Barmes made $3.93 million in 2011.

The Giants and Brewers were also interested in Barmes, who was tread to the Astros last November.

Follow all the free agent moves with the CBSSports.com Free Agent Tracker. 

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: November 19, 2011 1:46 pm
Edited on: November 20, 2011 11:56 am
 

Astros' Brett Wallace released by Dominican team

Brett WallaceBy C. Trent Rosecrans

The Astros' struggles on the field didn't end when the 2011 season was over, as first baseman Brett Wallace was released by Dominican Winer League team Leones del Escogido this week, the Houston Chronicle reports.

Wallace played in 20 games for Escogido, hitting just .173/.366/.327 with two home runs, going 9 for 52 overall with 16 walks and 16 strikeouts. He hasn't played since recording a sacrifice fly for Leones on Nov. 13. The team also has the Giants' Brandon Belt as a first baseman. Belt is hitting .312/.405/.495 with three home runs in 26 games.

Former big-leaguer Moises Alou is Escogido's general manager. 

Wallace hit .259/.334/.369 with five home runs in 115 games for the Astros in 2011. The former first-round pick of the Cardinals was sent to A's in 2009 as part of the trade that brought St. Louis Matt Holliday. He was later sent to Toronto and finally to Houston in return for another prospect, Anthony Gose, in 2010.

The Astros sent Wallace to the minor leagues in August, where he hit well at Triple-A Oklahoma City, after losing the first base job to Carlos Lee.

His winter league performance won't hurt his standing with the team, general manager Ed Wade told the Chronicle, but it can't help his confidence going into 2012.

"He has to come in and win a job," Wade told the newspaper. "Same as if he had hit .400."

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: November 17, 2011 2:44 pm
 

Stop complaining about changes in baseball



By Matt Snyder


The Astros are going to move to the American League West, likely in time for the 2013 season. And judging from the reactions on Twitter, message boards and comments sections, the entire sport of baseball has apparently been ruined. We might as well just give up, right?

Dear Lord, people, dial it down. This is sports. They are supposed to be fun.

It never ceases to amaze me how utterly furious the masses get whenever baseball dares to makes a change. Is it the nation-wide, fan stigma attached to commissioner Bud Selig? That's possible. It's also possible it's the romantic infatuation die-hard baseball fans have with tradition. Whatever the reason, it's astounding. The NFL could radically realign and it would be universally accepted (oh wait, that already happened).

What if we treated our everyday life the way we treat baseball -- in that we aren't allowed to change anything, lest you upset the so-called tradition.

Go ahead and use your rotary phone, refuse to upgrade to high-definition TV, make sure your Internet connection is still a dial-up and definitely don't use the microwave for anything. If you like video games, you're only allowed to play Frogger or Donkey Kong on that old-school Atari. I mean, it's just madness all these changes people are making with technology, right? And that's just with technology. We could do this little exercise with any aspect of life. But in baseball, any change is tantamount to sacrilege, cry the masses.

Astros to AL West
The Astros move to the American League at at time when the franchise is facing a massive rebuilding project. They'll now be able to do so as an American League team. The Brewers, meanwhile, are firmly entrenched as an important National League team, having also developed good rivalries with the Cubs and Cardinals. It doesn't matter if the Brewers were in the American League a few decades ago, no matter how much people want to cry about Bud Selig's move of the Brewers to the NL. The past is the past. Leave it there. Look to the future. This move makes sense right now.

If you do insist on looking at the past, let's realize that the World Series used to pit the teams with the best record in each league against each other. There wasn't even an LCS. Remember how great that was, old people? Under that format, this year the World Series would have pitted the Yankees against the Phillies. Man, I can't imagine how much whining there would have been from everyone outside the northeast. For a few decades, there was only an LCS, no LDS. Then the wild card was added. All the changes have done is make postseason baseball more exciting than ever. The last month of this past season was one of the best of all-time.

I've seen people complaining about year-long interleague play with the rhetorical question, "why even have two leagues?" What an absurd complaint. You have the two leagues so you have a proper route to the World Series, just like the NFL has the AFC and NFC while the NHL and NBA have the East and West.

I've seen the lament that interleague play won't be "special" anymore. Special? Would the Marlins vs. Pirates be any less "special" than the Padres vs. A's right now? Please.

I've heard people whine about how the World Series teams will be too familiar with each other now. With trades and free agency, lots of players are familiar with each other anyway. And I don't understand how there's so much extra allure if the teams aren't familiar. It's the World freaking Series. You don't need to have an additional selling point.

Face it, having 16 teams in one league while 14 in the other was pretty ludicrous. Just as it's ludicrous to have different rules in each league (DH in AL, no DH in NL). It's one sport. Things should be uniform. Again, what is it about baseball that makes us lose all sense of perspective? I can't help but think 25 years from now we'll look back and scratch our heads at why the consensus was that it was OK to have 16 teams in the NL, 14 in the AL, but four playoff teams from each league. So, statistically, it was easier to make the playoffs from the AL West than NL Central. And that's fair, Houston fans?

It couldn't possibly be more obvious that the underlying hatred is simply change itself. As Garth Algar once said, "we fear change." All the rationale from those opposing the change is just a convenient justification because your gut is just telling you that you don't want anything to change. That's it.

But let's look at the excitement and intrigue the wild card has brought baseball. That was a big change that was met with venomous opposition at the time. Not all change is bad. Let's accept the fact that the Astros are moving and start looking to the future of baseball. Yeah, yeah, here come the mudslingers to accuse me of not being a true fan. That's fine. Forgive me for actually enjoying the sport instead of being a change-resistent dinosaur.

The whiners can feel free to watch a low-def tube TV. I'll just sit here and enjoy the sport I love on a high-def flatscreen.

So which one of us is being unreasonable?

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: November 17, 2011 11:15 am
 

Astros fans unhappy with move to AL

Minute Maid Park

By C. Trent Rosecrans

The Astros' move to the American League is proving to be none-too-popular in Houston, and one local lawyer says the move violates the team's lease agreement with the Harris County Houston Sports Authority.

Kevin W. Yankowsky told the Houston Chronicle that the move would violate Article 5, Section 5.1 of the least, and I'll let Steve Campbell of the Chronicle do the explaining here:

Article 1, Section 1.1 of the lease states that all capitalized terms in the lease have meanings assigned in a glossary of defined terms. One of the key provisions, Yankowsky said, comes in Article 5, Section 5.1 defining “Permitted Uses” of Minute Maid as including “exhibition, presentation and broadcasting of Baseball Home Games and activities related thereto.”

The Glossary of Defined Terms classifies “Baseball Home Games” as “any major league baseball game in which the Team as the host Team for its opponent (i.e. the Team takes the field in the first half of each inning and bats in the last half of each inning of such baseball game).” Team, as defined by the Glossary, is “the major league baseball team owned by the tenant pursuant to the rights granted to it as a National League franchise under the Franchise, currently named the Houston Astros Baseball Club.” Franchise, as defined in the lease, is “the Team issued by the National League.”

“In the simplest form, what this means, in my judgment, is come opening day of 2013, the Sports Authority can refuse to let them play because it’s not a permitted use of the stadium,” Yankowsky said. “They can quite simply lock the doors and say, ‘No, it’s not a permitted use.’ The play of Major League Baseball games, by definition, are limited to games in which a National League team is the home team.”

Of course, without the Astros, what would the city do with Minute Maid Park? It's an interesting protest for sure, but don't look for it to come to anything. Astros fans will just have to appreciate every Bud Norris at-bat while they still can.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: November 16, 2011 7:21 pm
Edited on: November 16, 2011 7:26 pm
 

Astros ownership saga to close with move to AL

By Matt Snyder

The Houston Astros are soon to be owned by Jim Crane and will be moving to the American League West prior to the 2013 season. As we've previously reported, expect everything to be finalized Thursday, ending six months' worth of waiting.

Jim Crane agreed to purchase the ballclub (along with Minute Maid Park) for $680 million all the way back on May 16. Since then, everything's been on hold as Bud Selig and the baseball owners mulled over whether or not to approve Crane. The latest -- via the Associated Press -- is that Crane had to agree to switch the Astros to the American League in order to gain approval. In return, evidently to grease the wheel a bit, Crane reportedly received a discount on the sale from the original dollar figure.

The two 15-team leagues has been requested by the MLB Players Association to better balance the schedule. Of course, having an odd number of teams in each league means there will be interleague play throughout the entire season, more resembling an NBA schedule than what baseball fans have been used to for years. But it definitely evens out the chances at the playoffs and makes the schedules far less intra-division heavy.

The Astros will join intrastate "rival" Texas Rangers in the AL West, along with three west-coast teams -- the Los Angeles Angels, Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics. This means lots of very late road games for Astros fans living in the Central time zone.

Drayton McLane bought the team in November 1992 for about $117 million and put the franchise up for sale in November. He turned down an offer from Crane to buy the team in 2008. McLane said he was "sad" to be selling the team, but "I hated getting out of college, but I knew I needed to get to work."

Crane, who founded a Houston-based logistics company in 2008, is also the chairman and chief executive of Crane Capital, a private equity fund company. In 2009, he was in the running to buy the Cubs and last summer teamed with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban in an unsuccessful bid to buy the Texas Rangers.

On his way out, McLane's advice to Crane? "Learn from the sportswriters."

I guess that's a fitting head-scratcher to what has been a very weird transition in ownership.

All quotes via Danny Knobler's Twitter feed.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: November 15, 2011 8:31 pm
Edited on: November 15, 2011 8:39 pm
 

Tuesday rumor roundup from GM Meetings

By Matt Snyder

With baseball's annual general manager meetings taking place in Milwaukee, there are many rumors floating around. Here's what CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler -- who is there -- heard Tuesday.

• The Yankees have met with Bob Garber, who is the agent for free agent starting pitchers C.J. Wilson and Roy Oswalt. The two sides are in preliminary discussions about both players, but several other teams are obviously still in play.

• The Red Sox are going to interview an unnamed candidate for a second time. Dale Sveum is also getting a second interview and several have speculated he's the front-runner.

• The Nationals need a center fielder and some other pieces, but are primarily focusing on one veteran starting pitcher. They're in on Wilson, Oswalt and Mark Buehrle. And we know they aren't shy when it comes to spending money (Exhibit A: Jayson Werth). Adding one of these guys to a rotation with young guns Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann would give the Nats a very strong rotation. The Nationals also wouldn't rule out any of the big-name offensive free agents (Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Jose Reyes), but it's much more likely they go pitching.

• The Orioles don't have near as much money to spend as some people thought they'd have. "We have to be smarter and work harder," new general manager Dan Duquette said. It looks like a payroll in the range of $90 million, which is an increase, but not a gigantic one. They opened last season with just over $85 million in player salaries.

• The Brewers have big reservations on signing Rafael Furcal and probably can't make a serious run at Jose Reyes, so don't be surprised if they bring back Yuniesky Betancourt to play shortstop. Also, Knobler told me it sounds like "the longest of longshots" Prince Fielder is back next season.

• Expect the owners to approve the sale of the Astros Thursday, and the move will also result in the Astros moving to the American League, starting in 2013. This will result in two 15-team leagues and interleague play all season.

• The Collective Bargaining Agreement will not be announced during the meetings. It will come Friday at the earliest, but don't worry, it's going to get done.

Here are some other notes from the meetings, compiled from other reporters:

• The Mets won't likely offer a six-year contract to Jose Reyes, Andy Martino of the Daily News reports. This isn't all too surprising but it's worth noting because the Marlins have reportedly offered Reyes six years and $90 million.

• The Reds are one of many teams that have contacted the Braves about All-Star pitcher Jair Jurrjens, but it's going to take "a ton" to land him, reports Jon Heyman of SI.com.

David Ortiz really wants to stay in Boston and will let the Red Sox match any offer he gets on the open market (Boston Herald).

Jon Paul Morosi of FoxSports.com reports that the Red Sox, Reds, Blue Jays, Marlins, Dodgers, Angels, and Mets are all suitors for free agent closer Francisco Cordero. He's been a bit overshadowed in this free agency class by the likes of Jonathan Papelbon, Heath Bell and Ryan Madson, but Cordero has some serious pedigree as a closer. Only Mariano Rivera has more career saves among active players than Cordero.

• The Twins are interested in Josh Willingham and Ryan Doumit, and that interest would heighten if Michael Cuddyer signs elsewhere (Star Tribune).

Hat-tips: MLB Trade Rumors

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: November 13, 2011 3:56 pm
Edited on: November 13, 2011 6:17 pm
 

Baseball's worst contracts, zombie-style

Werth, zombie

By Evan Brunell

What are the worst contracts in baseball?

Some of them are pretty easy. The names of Vernon Wells and Barry Zito, for example, have been synonymous with horrible contracts. Others aren't as easy to ferret out, but here's one man's look at the 10 worst contracts currently in baseball. To help us figure out which contracts are awful, I turned to a TV show that knows all about things awful: The Walking Dead. Because obviously, trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic, zombie-infested world is completely comparable to the onerous contracts some teams are saddled with.

There are three categories below, inspired by scenes from The Walking Dead that are linked for your viewing enjoyment and quotes, which aren't necessarily tied to the scene in the video. (Don't worry, no spoilers, but if you haven't seen the most recent episode, skip the scene in the last category anyways.) Be warned: If you are squeamish, it's best if you don't click through. Unless you're interested in giving your wastebasket the remnants of your most recent meal.

STILL KICKING

Walking Dead scene
"It's a waste of time, all this hoping and praying." -- Daryl (season 2, episode 2)

These players are nearing the end of their awful deals, like a zombie with no legs. Just like a zombie with no legs would keep crawling along trying to eat humans alive, so do these players keep on kicking. While their contracts don't look too bad given they're of the short-term variety at this point, there's no denying that these players are still of the undead. The years remaining on the contract to qualify for this list is two or less seasons. Also, this list does not include players who were released and are still owed money, such as Aaron Rowand, due $13.6 million by the Giants in 2012.

BayJason Bay, Mets
Contract: 4 years, $66 million, $16.5 million AAV. Remaining: 2 years, $39.25 million (includes 2014's $3 million buyout)

The Red Sox thought they had Bay locked up to a deal to stay in town, but Bay balked at medical contingencies in the contract, designed to protect Boston in case Bay's knees went. That allowed the Mets to swoop in on a deal they quickly regretted, as Bay's bat vanished in Citi Field, then struggled with concussions as his batting line in 2011 sank all the way to .245/.329/.374 with 12 homers in 509 plate appearances. Even though the club is set to move in its fences, it's tough to see Bay bouncing back and earning the rest of his deal which could potentially stretch through 2014. If Bay can reach 500 PA in 2012 and '13 -- a cinch as long as he stays relatively healthy, or 600 PAs in 2013, a $17 million club option vests. That would make this deal look even worse.

LeeCarlos Lee, Astros
Contract: 6 years, $100 million, $16.67 million AAV. Remaining: 1 year, $19 million

The Astros' impending move to the AL East for the 2013 season is coming one year too late. Lee's contract is finally due to expire next season, and one has to imagine that Lee will be the last man in a long time to receive $100-plus million for being such a one-dimensional slugger that can't even hit bombs anymore unless the Crawford boxes in left help him out. At this point, Lee is taking up space that could be better allocated to young players on a rebuilding club. Lee should have been dumped in a deal by now, but he has no interest in leaving Houston and has no-trade rights.

SantanaJohan Santana, Mets
Contract: 6 years, $137.5 million, $22.9 million AAV. Remaining: 2 years, $55 million (includes 2014's $5.5 million buyout)

Santana's never really bandied about as a person with a lousy contract, but the numbers are simply stunning. After the Mets gave up a bounty (of nothingness, as it turned out) to acquire the best starter in the game from the Twins way back in 2008, Santana has given the Mets one season of transcendence. Since then, it's been a whole bunch of injuries, causing the lefty to sit out all of 2011. That means over the last three seasons, Santana's contributed just 54 starts. And it gets worse, as his deal is backloaded for an incredible $55 million coming the next two years, and no guarantee Santana can even approximate the pitcher he once was after undergoing surgery to repair an anterior capsule tear in his left shoulder. New York holds a $25 million option for 2014 that can become guaranteed based on innings pitched and finish in award voting.

ZitoBarry Zito, Giants
Contract: 7 years, $126 million, $18 million AAV. Remaining: 2 years, $46 million (includes 2014's $7 million buyout)

This contract is so bad, even the buyout of Zito's team option in 2014 is horrible. The Giants might be paying Zito $7 million simply to go away. Being paid like an ace, he's been the team's No. 5 starter the last two season and will hold that role again in 2012. The selling point to Zito, despite the regression back to being a league-average player, is the fact he can chew up innings. One problem: the 2014 option vests automatically if Zito pitches at least 200 innings in 2013 or 400 between 2012-13. That's very feasible if the Giants keep him on his regular turn through the rotation, so he might have $18 million in 2014 headed his way.

NOT SO PRETTY

Walking Dead scene
"You don't know what it's like out there. You may think you do but you don't. It's only a matter of time. There's too many of those things. My boy, my wife, I never told them what I really thought. I never even hinted, just, just kept it in, kept us moving, kept it in, kept us moving." -- Rick (season 1, episode 6)

Little girls are cute... except when they're trying to tear your flesh off. Just as in the Walking Dead, baseball has its share of onerous, undead contracts that once looked pretty but now eat up as much payroll space as they can. Here are the worst deals left with less than five years remaining.

LackeyJohn Lackey, Red Sox
Contract
: 5 years, $82.5 million, $16.5 million average annual value (AAV). Remaining: 3 years, $47.85 million

Even though he has yet to reach the halfway mark of his deal, this contract already ranks as one of the worst in baseball history. The Red Sox thought they were getting a fiery, innings-eating No. 2 starter. Instead, what they've received is one of the worst pitchers in the game who shows up his teammates on the field. And now he'll be missing all of 2012 due to Tommy John surgery. That means, through three years of the deal, Lackey will have given Boston a 5.26 ERA in 61 starts. The only saving value to this deal is the surgery will kick in an additional year at the league minimum Lackey must play at, which will drag down his AAV and give Boston a couple extra million below the luxury tax to play with.

SorianoAlfonso Soriano, Cubs
Contract: 8 years, $136 million, $17 million AAV. Remaining: 3 years, $57 million

Soriano has kept up his home-run production since moving to Chicago, but his bat has slowed to the point where he's lucky if he cracks the .250 barrier in batting average. That wouldn't be such a big deal if the man knew how to take a walk once in a while, but he doesn't, as evidenced by his .289 OBP. New Cubs president Theo Epstein is going to be taking a lot of heart medicine these next three seasons as he watches Soriano clank balls in left field and stifle rallies with his inability to draw a walk. The Cubs appear as if they're going to enter a retooling period, so at least Soriano isn't holding them back from contending. But then again, that's exactly what he's done to Chicago the last couple years.
 
WellsVernon Wells, Angels
Contract: 7 years, $126 million, $18 million AAV. Remaining: 3 years, $72.96 million

Patience, Jerry Dipoto. Just keep telling yourself it's just three years. Dipoto, the new Angels GM, will have a challenge to build a winning club that includes Wells and his yoke of a contract that doesn't even tell the full story. For crying out loud, Wells is slated to receive $24.6 million each of the next three seasons. For comparison, only Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Howard will earn more on a AAV basis than Wells will receive through the end of his contract. Back when the deal was signed, Wells was poised to be one of the best players in the game moving forward. Now? He's essentially Alfonso Soriano, but with a much worse deal. How someone can have an OBP under .250 and still collect over 500 plate appearances is baffling. It will be a shock if Wells can finish out the deal without being released.

GUTS EVERYWHERE

Walking Dead scene
"Good thing we didn't do anything stupid like shoot it." -- T-Dog being sarcastic (season 2, episode 4)


These contracts are the worst of the worst. It's almost like being a zombie stuck in a water well for weeks, then finally getting dragged out of the well only to split in half and spew its guts everywhere. In other words, fans of these teams have nothing but good things to look forward to.

HowardRyan Howard, Phillies
Contract: 5 years, $125 million, $25 million AAV. Remaining: This deal kicks in for 2012.

Howard was once a very, very good player that had his career held back due to the presence of Jim Thome in town. When he finally earned the right to play every day, he started mashing and just wouldn't stop. So what did GM Ruben Amaro do? Simple. He gave Ryan Howard one of the richest deals in baseball history... two full seasons before it was set to kick in. And what's happened in those two full years? Well, Howard's essentially become a platoon player who can't field and whose bat has slowed to the point where he can't be considered an elite first baseman anymore. And this is someone who will miss the beginning of 2012 thanks to an Achilles tear that could torpedo his career. His lucrative contract, which will leave him behind just Roger Clemens and Alex Rodriguez for the highest AAV in baseball history, is just beginning. By the way, he has a 2017 team option for $23 million that will hand him a whopping $10 million in a buyout.

RodriguezAlex Rodriguez, Yankees
Contract: 10 years, $275 million $27.5 million AAV. $30 million due if he hits home-run milestones. Remaining: 6 years, $143 million (plus milestones)

There's no question Rodriguez has been a fantastic player, steroids or not, and he'll retire as one of the best players in the game of baseball. But his 10-year deal with the Yankees was silly when it was signed and it's even sillier now. Coming off what A-Rod called the worst season of his career, the Yankees are suddenly staring at $143 million over the next six years being given to a DH who is lucky if he can reach 30 home runs and 100 RBI. Rodriguez is simply not the same player he once was, and instead of being in his own class these days, he's now merely "very good." And you don't want "very good" from a player earning millions through age 42.

WerthJayson Werth, Nationals
Contract: 7 years, $126 million, $18 million AAV. Remaining: 6 years, $115.4 million

Here's one number to avoid in baseball: 126. That's exactly how much money (in millions, of course) Zito and Wells are receiving to be money drains for the club. And now Werth gets to be a money drain, and he still has so much more due to him after playing 2011 at $10.6 million. You can't blame Werth, who also (of course) has a no-trade clause, for accepting such a deal. It was obviously a gross overpayment that no one was going to match, but it's hard to envision what the Nats were thinking. Yes, they wanted to make a statement. But was someone set to play 2011 at age 32  with notable platoon splits really the man to make a splash with? The right fielder will likely bounce back from his .232/.330/.389 line set in his first year with Washington, but he will never justify this contract.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
The Walking Dead photo courtesy the show's download page available to public.
Posted on: November 11, 2011 4:53 pm
Edited on: November 12, 2011 2:01 pm
 

Closer look at all 30 closing situations



By C. Trent Rosecrans
 and Matt Snyder

It appears the first domino in closer market has fallen (at least, we're pretty sure this time), but that leaves Heath Bell and Ryan Madson as the top relievers still available. But who needs a closer? Here's a look at the closing situation for all 30 teams.

AL East

Baltimore Orioles: Kevin Gregg is still under contract -- much to the chagrin of new general manager Dan Duquette's chagrin. Gregg will make $5.8 million in 2012, not exactly ideal for a guy with a WHIP of 1.642 last season and an ERA of 4.37 while picking up 22 saves. Jim Johnson recorded nine saves and threw just 91 innings, but doesn't exactly miss a ton of bats. The Orioles could move Johnson to the rotation.
Possibilities: Gregg, Johnson, Bell, Francisco Cordero, Francisco Rodriguez, Jonathan Broxton.

Red Sox: Well, obviously Papelbon is gone. Papelbon was the Red Sox closer for the last six years, recording the final out of the 2007 World Series among other memories. Still, As untouchable as he was in his first four years as the closer (1.74 ERA and 0.917 WHIP from 2006-2009), he had a 3.43 ERA and 1.104 WHIP over the last two seasons. Daniel Bard is unhittable at times, but struggled in the last two months of the season (which certainly wasn't uncommon among Red Sox), posting a 6.95 ERA in 21 games in August and September.
Possibilities: Bard, Madson, Bell.

New York Yankees: Mariano Rivera. Enough said.

Tampa Bay Rays: The Rays let the Yankees overpay for Rafael Soriano and then picked up Kyle Farnsworth off the discard pile, signing him to a two-year, $6 million deal. In retrospect, it was genius -- Farnsworth had 25 saves with a 2.18 ERA in 2011 and the Rays will keep him another year and let someone else overpay him for 2013.

Toronto Blue Jays: Frank Francisco was the team's closer for much of 2011, but he's a free agent and the team could be looking to spend some money on a  closer.
Possibilities: Madson, Bell, Cordero, Rodriguez, Casey Janssen.

AL Central

Chicago White Sox: Right-hander Sergio Santos converted 30 of 36 save opportunities, liming batters to just a .181/.282/.314 slash line and he should be in line to keep his job in 2012. If he falters, Addison Reed has a chance to take over.

Cleveland Indians: Chris Perez is on solid ground as the team's closer, picking up 35 saves in 2011.

Detroit Tigers: The Tigers picked up the $9 million option on Jose Valverde.

Kansas City Royals: The Royals picked up the $6 million option on Joakim Soria and have options for 2013 and 2014.

Minnesota Twins: The Twins declined their $12.5 million option on incumbent Joe Nathan, but have expressed interest in bringing him back. Although his overall numbers -- 4.84 ERA, 1.164 WHIP, 14 saves -- weren't too impressive, he did convert all 11 of his saves in the second half of the season. Left-hander Glen Perkins had two saves in 2011 and struck out 65 batters in 61 2/3 innings. If the team doesn't sign a free agent -- or trade for someone -- Perkins would have the best shot.
Possibilities: Nathan, Perkins, Jon Rauch, Broxton.

AL West

Los Angeles Angels: Jordan Walden recorded 32 saves as a rookie and made the All-Star team. He did blow 10 saves last season, so it wouldn't be a complete shock if the team looked for an upgrade, but it's not expected, especially with tight purse strings this winter. The team could bring in a veteran for cheap that could close if Walden falters.
Possibilities: Walden, Scott Downs, Broxton, Rauch.

Oakland Athletics: Andrew Bailey is the team's closer, but a trade is always possible with Oakland.

Seattle Mariners: Brandon League had 37 saves and a 2.79 ERA in 2011.

Texas Rangers: The Rangers could be a wild card in the free agent closer market if they decided to move Neftali Feliz to the rotation. The Rangers tried that last spring but decided to keep Feliz in the bullpen. If they bring in a big-name, that would mean they believe Feliz can make the move. If not, there's still a chance of Mike Adams taking over for Feliz. Or they could bring in a low-cost veteran to have in reserve in case Feliz does work in the rotation.
Possibilities: Mike Adams, Madson, Cordero, Rauch, Broxton.

NL East

Atlanta Braves: Craig Kimbrel. Period. 

Miami Marlins: While the artist formerly known as Leo Nunez gets his name issue sorted out, the Marlins have a gaping hole at closer. The current members of their bullpen combined for four saves last season. Do the Marlins try to go with an internal option like Edward Mujica or make a splash on the free agent market (as they've been connected to several huge names already)? 
Possibilities: Nunez, Mujica, Madson, Cordero, Rodriguez, Bell.

New York Mets: If they stay internally, which is entirely possible, it looks like Bobby Parnell. But he wasn't awesome by any stretch when given save chances last season. The Mets have spent big on a free agent closer before (K-Rod), so would they be gunshy in doing so again? It's possible. But it's also possible they try to land someone like Ryan Madson. 
Possibilities: Parnell, Madson, Bell.

Philadelphia Phillies: Papelbon. 

Washington Nationals: Drew Storen closed 43 of 48 games in 2011, his first full season in the majors. One would think that would be enough to earn him at least another year on the job, but Storen's name keeps popping up in trade rumors and the Nationals have been reportedly interested in Madson. The Nats have plenty of money, so if they wanted to ink a big-name closer and deal Storen as part of a package for a center fielder (Denard Span, perhaps?), they would be able to do so. 
Possibilities: Storen, Madson, Bell, Cordero.

NL Central

Chicago Cubs: It's probably going to be Carlos Marmol again, but he better get himself in gear. Not only did he blow 10 saves, but his once-astronomical strikeout rate lowered a bit in 2011 and control continues to be a serious problem. With new brass at the helm, 2011 will likely be his last chance to get things fixed. 

Cincinnati Reds: Cordero had a great four-year run with the Reds, amassing 150 saves with a 2.96 ERA, but he's a free agent now. Fireballer Aroldis Chapman is ticketed for the starting rotation and Nick Masset seems to be awfully inconsistent. The Reds don't have the money to spend in free agency, so would they make a trade for, say, Huston Street or Andrew Bailey? Seems unlikely. Either Chapman doesn't make it as a starter and sticks as closer or someone internally (23-year-old Brad Boxberger?) gets a shot. This one is totally up in the air. 
Possibilities: Cordero, Chapman, Boxberger, Bailey, Street, Broxton.

Houston Astros: Mark Melancon saved 20 games with a 2.78 ERA last season. There are far bigger problems with this team to believe they'll try hard to make a change here.

Milwaukee Brewers: John Axford and his award-winning 'stache.  

Pittsburgh Pirates: All-Star Joel Hanrahan nailed down the job last season. 

St. Louis Cardinals: Jason Motte was never officially named closer by the stubborn Tony La Russa, but he did more than enough down the stretch and in the playoffs to earn the job for 2012, closing nine of 10 saves during the Cardinals' late run and five more in the postseason. 

NL West

Arizona Diamondbacks: It will again be J.J. Putz with David Hernandez filling in if (when?) Putz falls injured.

Colorado Rockies: Street is reportedly on the trading block. If he's is dealt, look for Rafael Betancourt to take over. He collected eight saves with a 2.89 ERA and more than a strikeout per inning in 2011. 

Los Angeles Dodgers: Rookie Javy Guerra came on to save 21 games in 23 chances with a 2.31 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 46 2/3 innings in 2011. That's enough to have nailed down the job for the 2011 season, one would think. 

San Diego Padres: Bell is a free agent, but the Padres may just offer him arbitration, and he actually might accept it. If he does stay, the choice is obvious. If Bell leaves, there's a decent internal option in Chad Qualls. Qualls, 33, has 51 career saves. As far as free agency, if the Padres want to pay for a closer, they'll be paying for Bell. 
Possibilities: Bell, Qualls.

San Francisco: The Beard. 

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