Sunday, March 10, 2013
By Jason A. Churchill
Now that New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera has made his future plans known this spring -- he'll be retiring at season's end -- what will the Yankees do about finding a replacement to the greatest closer in baseball history?
Once the 43-year-old's career comes to an end, the Yankees will head into next offseason looking for a closer for the first time since after the 1994 campaign when they traded for John Wetteland, Rivera's predecessor. Their search could start as early as this season, as in-house candidates such as David Robertson and Joba Chamberlain audition in setup roles. Chamberlain, however, will be a free agent following the season.
Let's take a look at what other options may be out there for GM Brian Cashman, and remember the club should have more payroll flexibility next winter.
The top free agents on the market, barring contract extensions negotiated and signed between now and the end of the season, include Joel Hanrahan, Ryan Madson, Carlos Marmol, Casey Janssen and Fernando Rodney. Grant Balfour and Frank Francisco are also scheduled for free agency following the 2013 campaign, but whether or not the Yankees will view either as a ninth-inning option is unknown.
Rangers closer Joe Nathan, who will be 39, has a club option for $9 million that Texas may or may not exercise. If Nathan finishes 55 games this coming season, he can void the option year and hit free agency.
Brian Wilson, a free agent this offseason and still looking for a team, could prove he's fully recovered from Tommy John surgery and be a viable closer option for a contender in a year, depending on what kind of deal he gets for 2013.
Potential trade targets -- also covered here in depth -- may include Cleveland's Chris Perez, Padres' right-hander Huston Street, John Axford of the Brewers, Arizona's Heath Bell and Orioles stopper Jim Johnson.
Another who could join the trade market is Sergio Santos of the Toronto Blue Jays, who is signed to very team-friendly salaries through 2017.
Former Yankees closer Rafael Soriano, who filled in for Rivera a year ago, could become available again if things work out right in Washington. The presence of Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard more than cover the Nationals late in games, but it's the development and health of Henry Rodriguez and Ryan Perry that could make Soriano expendable next offseason.
If the Reds' experiment with Aroldis Chapman in the starting rotation does not work out, the left-hander could return to the closer's role, which could make Jonathan Broxton available if Cincy does not wish to spend $16 million guaranteed on a setup man for 2014-15.
Worth noting: Relievers are a volatile group, suggesting more names could become expendable as the 2013 season progresses and as moves are made early next offseason.