DALLAS — The game of musical chairs for closers is just about over.
Still standing, and rapidly losing leverage: Free agents Ryan Madson, Francisco Cordero and the Oakland Athletics, who are trying to trade Andrew Bailey.
The Boston Red Sox and Cincinnati Reds, the only contenders still looking for closers, seemingly are in good position to strike bargains.
We’ve already seen four closers sign free-agent contracts — Jonathan Papelbon, Heath Bell, Frank Francisco and Matt Capps.
We’ve seen two closers get traded — Sergio Santos, from the White Sox to the Blue Jays, and Huston Street, from the Rockies to the Padres.
And we’ve seen one casualty in the market: Free agent Francisco Rodriguez, who accepted salary arbitration from the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday night.
Rodriguez’s agent, Scott Boras, when asked about the game of musical chairs earlier in the evening, joked, “I only need one chair.”
Boras found one for Rodriguez in terms of dollars — K-Rod, coming off a $13.5 million salary in 2011, will receive big money on a one-year, non-guaranteed deal in arbitration.
However, K-Rod will not get the closer role he covets, continuing as a setup man for John Axford. It’s doubtful that is what Rodriguez envisioned when he changed agents last summer, going from Paul Kinzer to Boras.
Rodriguez had a chance to sign with the San Diego Padres but lost that opportunity when the team traded for Street on Wednesday, sources said. The Brewers still could seek to move K-Rod. The Braves employed that strategy when Rafael Soriano accepted arbitration two years ago; they sendt him to the Rays.
Madson, another Boras client, declined arbitration from the Phillies. Had Madson accepted, he would have been in the awkward position of setting up for Papelbon, whom the Phillies had signed as his replacement.
The Red Sox now figure to be the only club willing to meet Madson’s price. The Phillies had discussions with him about a four-year, $44 million deal. But the Sox could trade for Bailey, who is a much less expensive option as he enters his first year of arbitration.
The Athletics have far fewer teams competing for Bailey than they did at the outset of the offseason, but they’re not necessarily down to only the Red Sox and Reds.
The Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels are among the teams that have shown interest in Bailey. Those teams, however, would not necessarily use Bailey as a full-time closer, perhaps reducing the quality of their trade offers.
— Ken Rosenthal