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Decisions, Decisions

Baseball's free agency has in past years been a hierarchical process, with money frozen up until the premium players sign. Thus we wait for CC Sabathia to choose the Yankees or a West Coast team; that decision will trigger concrete offers for the next tier of top free agents, as the principals in the Sabathia sweepstakes obviously can't spend on Mark Teixeira or Francisco Rodriguez and hope to sign Sabathia at the same time. Well, except for the Yankees.  

As far as the Indians are concerned, their first major action is probably in the closer market, which in a welcome change from offseasons' past seems to have more closers than serious suitors. That's a good thing, for the Indians need to improve several other areas on their club, particularly the infield. The Indians should get a pretty good closer, and they should be able to get one through free agency, not normally an avenue the Indians have used to get their major contributors.

So who's available? There are four free-agent closers that I consider good bets to be effective next season (in no particular order):

 

Player Team WRXL PRC
Brian Fuentes COL 3.619 39
Francisco Rodriguez LAA 5.635 46
Trevor Hoffman SD 1.843 20
Kerry Wood CHC 2.182 39

Rodriguez and Fuentes are probably the best long-term bets, but the Indians have no chance at Rodriguez (asking for a 5/$75M contract), and signing Fuentes at his asking price of 3/$30M would fill a large portion of their offseason budget. That leaves Wood and Hoffman as the two options left that would allow the Indians to also make major improvements elsewhere on their roster. Signing Hoffman to a one-year contract, for instance, wouldn't affect their ability to sign Orlando Hudson.

The trade market is also out there (Street, Valverde, Putz, etc), but again, if you can sign Wood or Hoffman to a decent short-term deal, why bother trading your prospects for at best marginal improvement? In this instance, the trade route should only be a backup plan.