Since the start of the offseason, closers have been a hot commodity, with big names flying all over the country and signing contracts ranging from nonsensical to ridiculous. The Phillies were praised by some pundits for getting their man in Jonathan Papelbon, but at four years and $50 million, they would have been better served waiting for the market to develop instead of setting it.
The Marlins kicked off their shopping spree with Heath Bell for three years and $27 million, even though the aging, declining Bell was barely better than Juan Carlos Oviedo (aka Leo Nunez) last season. The Mets handed two years and $12 million to Frank Francisco, then added Jon Rauch for one year, $3.5 million, effectively swiping the Blue Jays’ ninth-inning tandem from last season, and overpaying in the process. The Rangers took a chance on Joe Nathan with a two-year, $14 million contract that could backfire if he’s not fully recovered from Tommy John surgery. The Twins invested $4.75 million for one season of Matt Capps, banking on his strikeout rate—which plummeted to a lowly 12.4 percent K/PA last year—climbing back to the 20 percent range.
Finally, on Wednesday morning, the Padres restored sanity by acquiring Huston Street from the Rockies to fill Bell’s shoes. The deal was a salary dump for Colorado, so it will only cost San Diego a PTBNL and $7 million. For a reliever coming off a season during which he posted a 55/9 K/BB ratio, and whose only weakness—the home-run ball—is mitigated by Petco Park, that’s a considerably more reasonable price than the early birds paid.
The Padres’ motive for adding Street may simply be to flip him around the trade deadline for prospects that will eventually recoup his 2012 salary. Yet he’s likely to outperform many of the aforementioned closers next season, and would have been a far more prudent pickup for many of the teams that jumped the gun on what proved to be a team-friendly market for those who waited.
When it comes to markets where scarcity is not an issue and demand is relatively limited, patience is a virtue. In his first winter at the helm of the Padres, Josh Byrnes read the closer market correctly, and has gotten the rebuilding process off to a fine start.