There isn't a team in baseball that couldn't use help in the bullpen. Fortunately for teams in need of relief help, this year's free-agent class is particularly deep in that area with record-setting closers Francisco Rodriguez and Trevor Hoffman on the market in addition to proven names like Brian Fuentes and Brandon Lyon and quality sleepers like Juan Cruz.
Despite that depth, it may take several weeks for the market to sort itself out. There are two dominoes central to the relief market -- the Mets, the richest club in need of a bullpen upgrade, and Rodriguez, the top closer available -- and neither seems to be in a rush.
K-Rod's agent has already come out and said that his client will not sign until after the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, which wrap up two weeks from today. That's a move likely designed to heat up the market for Rodriguez, which has cooled considerably because of the surprising depth mentioned above. The record-holder for saves in a season is eyeing a record contract for a closer. He may get that, but with names like Hoffman and Fuentes also out there, it seems unlikely that he'll get the $75 million-plus deal he was looking for at the start of the offseason.
The Mets are being cautious in their own right. New York has shown how much it needs relief help after consecutive September collapses where the bullpen has acted as kerosene on the fire.
GM Omar Minaya may very well sign two relief pitchers, but it's not clear exactly who those pitchers will be at this point. The Mets have been connected to just about every big name out there. There's a natural link to Rodriguez, particularly with incumbent closer Billy Wagner out for all of 2009.
But Minaya has also shown interest in Fuentes, according to Adam Rubin of the New York Daily News, balking at his $30 million asking price. If you believe Joel Sherman, he even had a chance to land Huston Street after he was traded from Oakland to Colorado earlier this month.
The point is this: The Mets, as the richest team in on the big-money relief market, will have their pick of bullpen arms. K-Rod, as the top closer available, will also have a number of suitors to choose from in the coming weeks. With neither party in a rush to settle their situation for next season, it might take some time for the Fuentes and Hoffmans of the world to find a home.