brian-wilson-blackbeard-the-doucheThe Chicago Cubs are in the market for a closer, in the sense that they have an open closer position, and are willing to offer a free agent the opportunity to come in and compete for the closer’s job. Because the Cubs aren’t likely to be competitive in 2014, they aren’t in a position to be demanding a “proven closer,” even if pay top dollar for such a thing were advisable in the first place. Instead, the Cubs will troll the depths of the non-closer relief market to try and find some surplus value. (Candidly: even if the Cubs were going to be competitive in 2014, this is pretty much the strategy I’d want them to employ. Paying for top setup guys can make sense at setup prices, but paying big bucks for a “proven closer” feels like a mistake.)

This entire discussion is apropos of three teams picking up “proven closers” in the last 24 hours:

  • So that’s why the Tigers just had to dump Doug Fister as quickly as possible: multiple reports have them agreeing to terms on a two-year deal with 39-year-old Joe Nathan. Although Nathan is fantastic, and has been consistently so for a long time (save for his Tommy John sojourn in 2010, and recovery in 2011), is he so head-and-shoulders better than any other option, internal or external, that the Tigers had to make sure to clear salary right now to make a signing happen? I guess we’ll see what the dollars involved are (my bet? something like two years and $15 million), but this feels like the worst kind of “paying for saves” after a season full of closer woes for the Tigers.
  • The Dodgers are reportedly close to a one-year deal with Brian Wilson to come back after a successful stretch last year with the team (post-Tommy John). Although he’s not likely a closer in the Dodgers’ pen, he obviously comes with the “proven closer” track record, and I wonder if he’ll be paid accordingly. The Dodgers have an expensive bullpen as it is, but, hey, they’ve got an expensive everything.
  • Even smart organizations are getting in on the big dollars for big save totals thing. Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s traded for former Orioles’ closer Jim Johnson, and the $10-ish million price tag that will accompany him in arbitration. The A’s gave up Jemile Weeks for that privilege, but it’s the idea that they’re willing to pay $10 million for one year of Jim Johnson that’s really perplexing to me. Johnson comes with great save totals and a solid ERA, but he’s not a huge strikeout guy, and saw his homer rate tick up quite a bit last year. The deal feels fairly un-Beane-like (of course, when Beane does something un-Beane-like, it usually tends to lead the market), but maybe paying big bucks for “proven closers” is going to become in vogue again.
  • Maybe this is going to be one of the areas in which we’ll see those extra TV dollars spent. Instead of pushing smaller market clubs to spend big on big-time free agents, maybe all teams will increase their spending on role players and niche requirements.
  • Norm

    For the A’s, the bullpen was pretty much the only hole left and they had some money left over, and Johnson is probably the best guy available for only 1 year. I think this is simply a case where everything aligned perfectly to get the best closer available for a 1 yr contract.

    • Noah_I

      Agreed. The issue with getting a great closer isn’t signing him for big money for one year in a year when you are likely to contend. The issue is giving any closer not named Mariano Rivera big many over many years because relievers tend to have such quick declines.

  • Big Earl’s Truck Driving School and Storm Door Repair Company

    …and the Cubs are going to war in the pen with an over abused Russell, a marginal Villenueva and a bunch of kids, hoping beyond hope that Strop, Parker and Rondon will be okay. I’ve seen this movie before…it ends badly. But I guess TheJedi doesn’t really care about 2014.

  • ssckelley

    I can’t help but wonder if the A’s are entertaining offers for Cespedes.

    • Brett

      Kind of felt like that was always the plan when they signed him. Pretty down year in 2013, though.

      • ssckelley

        But there appears to be a shortage in power right now. His salary is up to 10.5 million for the next 2 years and then he hits arbitration for 2 additional years.

        He would look good in a Cubs uniform.

        • Brett

          He’s a free agent after his contract is up (special deal).

          • ssckelley

            All the more reason to be shopping him then. If I was Beane I would be dangling Cespedes in front of the Yankees noses.

    • YourResidentJag

      Nope. Steve Berthiaume ‏@BertDbacks 9s
      #Rangers have acquired OF Michael Choice and INF Chris Bostick from #Athletics for OF Craig Gentry and RHP Josh Lindblom.

      • Brett

        I think he means in light of the Gentry acquisition.

        • YourResidentJag


      • On The Farm

        Man, I kinda like this deal. Ever notice how AL West teams never seem to be nervous trading within division. Of the top of my head I can think of this trade, Cliff Lee SEA to TEX, and didn’t the Angels trade the A’s Callaspo?

        • YourResidentJag

          Yes, and it would be interesting to see Brett Anderson moved to Seattle.

      • ssckelley

        #Rangers have acquired [b]OF Michael Choice and INF Chris Bostick[/b] from #Athletics for OF Craig Gentry and RHP Josh Lindblom.

        Future Cubs? 😀

  • Eric

    A’s picked up Craig Gentry from Texas. I like this move a lot. Solid dude, ripe for a platoon.

  • MightyBear

    Boy a lot of stuff going on in MLB. Nobody wants to wait for the meetings?

  • Luis Salazar

    I also find the Johnson trade perplexing. 1/6th of your budget going to a closer?

  • YourResidentJag

    1:03pm: The Marlins have offered Saltalamacchia a two-year deal with a club option for a third season, according to Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN (Twitter link).

  • YourResidentJag

    Looks like AZ is the third team in the Hannigan deal to the Rays.

    • On The Farm

      David Holmberg to the Reds, awww nuts

      • YourResidentJag

        Yeah, don’t know what the implications are here? Brett?

  • johnny chess Aka 2much2say

    If the New Japan Tanaka deal is max bid goes to lowest win percent. I would think the Marlins would do it and the White Sox may do it which leaves the Cubs on the Outside
    looking in. The Marlins would do what they have done which is spend big then bail.

  • YourResidentJag

    And Blue Jays are interested in Brett Anderson. Yes, Shark to Atlanta…another possibility.

    • C. Steadman

      Atlanta’s upper minor league pitching is milked…the only guy I’d want is Lucas Sims and he’s projected hi-A to begin the year…i still think Arizona is the best trade partners for Shark, tons of upper minor league pitching

  • YourResidentJag

    Will Ferrell will host Sportscenter as Ron Burgundy in two days.

    • MichiganGoat

      This will be the first time I’ve watched SportsCenter for more than 2 min in years.

      • YourResidentJag

        Me too.

      • DarthHater

        And hoots of success can be heard in Bristol, CT, as ESPN recaptures the highly valued goat demographic.

  • jmc

    Brian Wilson? Really? I loved California Girls

  • Ken

    If the Cubs were a .500 team last year and the main problem was their bullpen it would be irresponsible not to spend a reasonable amount of available resources on a “proven closer” and/or other relievers.

    It does not make sense at this time of the rebuild yet people heralded the Fujikawa move last year (proven Japanese closer) and the Cubs are linked to Mujica this year.

    They should be spelunking the bargain bin for good arms to turn into a closer right now, not signing Fujikawa or Mujica.

  • YourResidentJag

    Of note to Cubs, Reds get AZ SP prospect Holmberg in Hannigan deal.

    • C. Steadman

      well thats a bummer, gonna be facing him least we’ll have a lot of RH power hitters coming up soon

  • cubsfan22

    Anybody else think SD would be a good fit for a shark trade. we can throw in russle or nate sh. or both we maybe get max freid and 2 more top 10 prospects and 1or 2 more top 20 prospects

  • Chris

    Looks like Joe Nathan is getting a 2 year contract worth $20 million.

    Yep. Paying for saves.

  • Chris

    oh, and make that a fourth closer moved in last 24 hours-ish: Heath Bell just traded to Tampa Bay

  • mister_rob

    The way this article is worded, it makes it sound like you think Detriot is not a smart franchise
    As far as making sense of the A’s, they had that money to spend and looking at their roster they have enough INFers, OFers, and starting pitchers. Backend of the bullpen was the clearest and least complicated place for an upgrade

  • Die hard

    Shark last seen in Maui looking to take a bite of Theo’s ass

  • cub2014

    i probably missed this but I saw Andrew
    Bailey wasnt tendered any ideas on him
    coming to Chicago?

  • Tony_S

    Oak was VERY soured on Weeks, and Bal really wanted to dump Johnson’s salary. I think it’s pretty meh both ways.

    Also thought this was funny from a Bal blog: The Orioles must have really wanted to clear Johnson’s salary. Weeks is not even arbitration eligible until the 2016 season and not a free agent until after 2018, but who cares? What good is having cheap years of an average-fielding, poor-hitting second baseman?