LaTroy Hawkins for $2.5 million. Jose Veras for $4 million. John Axford for $4.5 million. If there's been one clear trend this winter, it's been a move away from expensive multiyear contracts for ninth-inning specialists.
After years of getting burned with long contracts for inconsistent relievers, MLB teams are now going after multiple cheaper options, perhaps having noted that Koji Uehara (signed for $4 million last winter) was the third choice at closer for the Boston Red Sox last year, and having him around as insurance ended up being a critical reason the team won the World Series.
More and more, baseball is learning that closers are made, not born, and that you don't necessarily need experience in the ninth inning before you can be trusted to get the final three outs.
So, with teams hunting for bargains in the closer role, let's look at a few low-profile relievers who could make excellent closers if given the chance.
The Twins have an excellent closer in Glen Perkins, a hometown kid who isn't going anywhere anytime soon, so Fien might be the Twins reliever to target in trade talks. At 30 years old with an average fastball and a nondescript track record, he doesn't look like a closer-in-training, but he certainly pitched like one last year.