Terry Ryan has already come out and said the team will be looking outside the organization for someone who has closing experience. This begs the question, should the Twins be looking to pay for a "proven" closer?
The top tier free agent closers might all be out of the price range of the Twins. Heath Bell, Francisco Cordero, Ryan Madson, and Francisco Rodriguez will all command multi-year contracts for large sums of money. The Twins still have other holes to fill with their remaining salary cap space so signing one of these players could hinder and further signings. The career of most relief pitchers can be short and signing veteran relief pitchers can be a big risk for teams.
In my offseason blueprint for the Twins, I had the team going after a cheaper relief option in the form of Jonathan Broxton. The Royals took Broxton off of the market yesterday by signing him to be the set-up man in an already strong bullpen in Kansas City. Some of the other cheaper relief pitchers with closing experience include Matt Capps, Frank Francisco, Brad Lidge, and Jon Rauch. There are risks involved with each of these free agent options but most free agent signings made this year by the Twins have come with their fair share of risks. If the Twins are trying to stay within their budget, a cheaper option could be the way for the team to go.
Another option for acquiring a closer is to trade for one from another club. This method might also help the Twins to stay within their budget for the coming year. One of the deals that has been discussed hinted at in reports out of Denver is trading Carl Pavano to the Rockies for Huston Street. This deal might be contingent on the Twins signing another starter to replace Pavano in the rotation or the Twins would have to turn to an internal option like Liam Hendriks.
In the past the Twins have seen other great closers leave their team in the same fashion as Nathan. The club has always found someone to replace their ninth inning man. History has shown that the Twins have been able to find players without closing experience and by giving them the opportunity to close; they have found a way to shine. Joe Nathan came to the Twins from the Giants and only had one save to his name. When the Twins acquired Rick Aguilera, he had managed only seven saves with the Mets organization. The two greatest closers in team history had little experience with the role before they joined the organization.
Is there any reason the Twins would not go in a similar direction in their search for a closer this offseason? Why should a team have to overpay for someone who has closer experience?
Matt Capps provides a good example of the clubs willingness to overpay for a closer. The organization gave up one of their best prospects, Wilson Ramos, for a mediocre closer. During last offseason, the Twins wanted insurance incase Joe Nathan was not 100% and the team had to overpay to keep Matt Capps with the organization. Bill Smith was the GM under both of these decisions and the hope for most Twins fans is that Terry Ryan can work his magic again to find a gem from another organization.
It isn't always easy to find the diamond in the rough when it comes to relief options. With the Winter Meetings starting next week, it looks as if the Twins have put finding a closer at the top of their list. There are other holes still left to fill on the roster for next year and it is still a question as to whether this team will be able to contend. There is no point in overpaying for a closer if the team is not getting him save opportunities. Hopefully, the team won't make a long-term commitment to a person that could easily be replaced by a cheaper option.