Free Agent Profile: LaTroy Hawkins

We already covered the basics of the reliever market with Jose Valverde's profile, so I thought the most illuminating thing to do with Hawkins is to see which teams might actually need a closer this winter. That, of course, is going to be the difference in him signing for 5-7 million and 2-3 million.

Hawkins has saved almost exactly the same number of games in the American League (44) as in the National League (43). Heading into his Age 37 season, he's probably not looking at more than a two-year deal and probably only a one-year contract.

Will it be a big deal if the Astros don't sign Valverde or Hawkins this winter? It will, but only because that's likely the only move they will make this winter. With the news that the Braves are shopping both Derek Lowe and Javier Vasquez, why wouldn't the Astros move on one of those guys instead? I'd rather have 200 innings in the starting rotation than 50 in the back of the bullpen. Remember the Cardinals went into last season with no closer at all and found one in Ryan Franklin (after a bumpy start to the season). Why couldn't the Astros do something similar? Throw Fulchino, Gervacio, Chad Paronto and any other cheap, hard thrower you want at the wall and see who sticks.

A quick note: I wrote up a quick scouting report of Jason Castro's AFL Rising Stars performance, for those who didn't get to see him on my minor league blog, Minor Musings. I'll avoid reposting by just directing you that way, if you are so inclined. At any rate, here are the teams who could be in the market for a closer...

Atlanta Braves

2009 saves: Rafael Soriano (27), Mike Gonzalez (10)

Notes: With both Soriano and Gonzalez becoming free agents, the Braves may be in the market for a closer. Of course, they also have a ridiculous amount of pitching depth, so they may end up picking up a closer in a trade for Vasquez or Lowe. Don't rule out converting a guy like Jo-Jo Reyes into the role of closer as well.

Baltimore Orioles

2009 saves: George Sherrill (20), Jim Johnson (10)

Notes: Johnson took over the closer's role once Sherrill was traded to the Dodgers, but it's anyone's guess whether the Orioles will keep him there. McPhail has not been shy about pursuing the top names on the market and could make a play for Valverde. It's more likely that the Orioles fill this gap from in-house guys, though.

Detroit Tigers

2009 saves: Fernando Rodney (37), Brandon Lyon (3)

Notes:  Like the Braves, both Rodney and Lyon are free agents. Also like the Braves, the Tigers have a couple of candidates to fill the void. Remember Joel Zumaya? After three straight years of throwing less than 34 innings, he's probably not a great candidate to land the closer role, but he is still just 24 years old and has potential. I could see the Tigers investing in a mid-tier guy with a one-year deal. Maybe someone like Billy Wagner?

Tampa Bay Rays

2009 saves: J.P. Howell (17), Randy Choate (5), Grant Balfour (4), Troy Percival (6), Joe Nelson (3)

Notes: As you can see, the Rays definitely went with a closer-by-committee approach last season. I'm not sure what payroll flexibility they will have this offseason, but if they do have money to spend, it definitely makes sense for them to find a back-end bullpen guy. Competing in the AL East, they need a solid closer and don't have one right now.

Toronto Blue Jays

2009 saves: Jason Frasor (11), Scott Downs (9), B.J. Ryan (2)

Notes: With the transition at the top of the organization, I doubt the Blue Jays make a splash in free agency again for a closer. This isn't a bad situation due to free agents leaving as much as guys just not performing. Look for one of the Jays young pitchers to be slotted into this role next year. Either that or a trade for a guy like Matt Lindstrom from the Marlins.

Other teams possibly shopping: Arizona (depending how they view Qualls), Cincinnati (Only if they move Cordero), Colorado (Huston Street is arb-eligible), Washington (McDougald had hip surgery).

All in all, there are just not that many spots open for closers. It's a bad offseason for guys like Valverde and Hawkins. I'd expect at least one of them to stick with the Astros, but I'm not sure which one the team values more at this point.

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