With free agency open, the decision by the San Diego Padres to let long-time closer Trevor Hoffman walk will have reprecussions for that young bullpen arm who was looking towards the glory that comes with being a closer. What makes Hoffman's status as a free agent closer more attractive is clubs would only need to offer him a one- or two-year deal and could plausibly justify his singing as a bridge to the younger, more physically dynamic reliever a la Todd Jones and Joel Zumaya in Detroit. The question then becomes which young relievers are at risk of seeing their elevation to the closer's role in 2009 jeopardized by the Padres' decision to conduct a fire sale in all but name.
Unfortunately for these closers-in-wating, Trevor Hoffman can entice the entire gamut of teams looking for a closer from the out-of-contention one looking for a mentor for an inexperienced bullpen to a World Series contender. Who is to say the Los Angeles Angels don't decide to go $8MM for Hofmann rather than trust closing duties to second-year reliever Jose Arredondo? Or the A's elect to keep Brad Ziegler in a set-up role in their apparent short-term push for play-off contention?
The team to watch is the Cleveland Indians. It struggled for most of 2008 at closer after Joe Borowski turned back into a pumpkin following his 45-save 2007 campaign. Then in mid-August David Price's Vanderbilt teammate, Jensen Lewis, was given the ball and successfully converted all 13 of his save opportunities.
Despite Lewis' success, Indians' GM Mark Shapiro has publicly stated the team is in the market for late inning help, and the interest in Hoffman goes back three years when he spurned an Indians offer to re-up with the Padres. Because of these behaviors, Lewis is the "proven" young closer who appears most at risk of seeing his closer duties delayed by the presences of the free-agent signing of Trevor Hoffman.
Here are other teams without a closer who could use Trevor Hoffman and the current bullpen member whose closing future would be delayed and my quick and dirty assesment of whether Hoffman will be persued.
|Los Angeles Angels||Jose Arredondo||A sleeper team yet to be mentioned|
|Oakland A's||Brad Ziegler||Trading for Matt Holliday was improbable too|
|Clevend Indians||Jensen Lewis||A top contender|
|Milwaukee Brewers||???||Makes more sense than any other team|
|St. Louis Cardinals||Ryan Franklin||Who wants to gamble on Franklins' perpherals again?|
|Arizona Diamonbacks||Chad Qualls||Too much financial turmoil|
|Baltimore Orioles||Chris Ray||Not a play-off contender|
|Texas Rangers||Craig Wilson||From Petco to The Ballpark in Arlington?|
|New York Mets||???||Likely to make bigger splash|
|Detroit Tigers||Joel Zumaya/Fernando Rodney||Possible. Todd Jones led them to WS|
|Washington Nationals||Joel Hannrahan||Wants in on Manny & Teixeira. Consolation F-Rod?|