Jim Johnson $12
I read a report earlier today that Johnson and Kevin Gregg are competing to close. That's news to me, though Gregg's shiny proven closer sheen would get me a little nervous if I bought Johnson. But Johnson is a fairly safe - if unexciting option - who should be OK in the role. He's a low strikeout guy, which does limit his ceiling.
Andrew Bailey $17, Alfredo Aceves $2, Mark Melancon $2
I wrote this up before I saw the news that Daniel Bard is probably headed to the pen and Aceves is going to start in the rotation. Bailey should be fine as long as his elbow is fine, but I suspect that Bailey's elbow issues are the reason the club wanted someone like Melancon. Melancon is the correct closer-in-waiting play here. I don't see anyone else in this bullpen that warrants more than a $1 bid.
Mariano Rivera $21, David Robertson $5
The sun rises. The sun sets. Mariano Rivera is the best closer in baseball. Yup, at some point the wheels are either going to fall off or Rivera's going to retire but - until then - there's nothing wrong with paying in the low $20s in a 5x5 for Mr. Reliability. Robertson is a little pricey given who is in front of him, but the K/9 just made a little drool dribble out of the corners of my mouth. He'll probably earn this and more.
Kyle Farnsworth $15, Joel Peralta $1
Like Bailey, Farnsworth is fine if the elbow holds up. Joe Maddon gets credit for going with the guy with the best stuff and ignoring all of the nonsense about what a "failure" Farnsworth was. Peralta is the logical next-in-line, though I suppose Jacob McGee or J.P. Howell could move up in the pecking order at some point.
Sergio Santos $19, Francisco Cordero $4
Both of these prices were high due to timing issues. Santos was the first reliever to get called out, while Cordero was targeted by Scott Pianowski of Yahoo! with his last $4. Both relievers should see their ERA/WHIP slip this year, but Santos should probably be fine. I think Cordero is a shaky set-up, but there isn't an obvious back-up candidate to slip past him.
Matt Thornton $13, Addison Reed $7, Jesse Crain $2
People love Reed, but I think Thornton should be fine, and could be a steal at this post-hype price. Since 2009, three Major League relievers have a 6.0 WAR or higher: Thornton, Rivera, and Jon Papelbon. Two lousy weeks in April masked the fact that - once again - Thornton was strong. If I'm going for a closer-in-waiting in a one-and-done, I might go with Crain. The BB/9 isn't great, but his K rates have slowly increased every year and he could prove to be a solid closer. I have nothing against Reed long term, but paying more than $3 for CIWs is a middle-of-the-pack philosophy. Leave Reed at this price to those always playing for the future.
Chris Perez $14, Vinnie Pestano $1
This auction was before Perez's injury; there's a good chance he wouldn't have gone for more than $8 otherwise. The declining whiff rate over the last two years gets me nervous, and the 3.32 ERA hides an ugly 5.01 xFIP. Pestano was a nice buy by Ryan Carey of Mastersball; he (Pestano, not Carey) could very well be closing by mid-June.
Jose Valverde $19, Joaquin Benoit $2, Octavio Dotel $1
Valverde is not going to duplicate his ERA/WHIP again but due to that giant contract the Tigers bestowed upon him will close barring a catastrophe. Benoit is the logical next-in-line and Dotel is a ROOGY who is not all that likely to put up saves.
Joakim Soria $18, Aaron Crow $3, Jonathan Broxton $1, Greg Holland $1
Obviously, this auction was before the Soria injury. Surgery is looking extremely likely at the moment, so this looks like $18 down the drain. Crow was purchased back when he might be starting, but has been moved to the pen. If I had to guess, I'd say that Broxton will get the first crack to close, but Holland should eventually sneak in and get the most saves in this pen. But you can't count Crow out and Kelvin Herrera and Jeremy Jeffress have been mentioned as sleeper candidates down the line as well. If you can get one of these relievers relatively cheap then great but I hate spending more than $8-9 for guys like this; if I get the wrong one, that's money down the drain.
Matt Capps $13, Brian Duensing $1, Glen Perkins $1
I have little faith in Capps. He's put up a negative fWAR two of the last three years, and while he gets the job done, he doesn't inspire confidence. Perkins is one of my favorite CIW plays out there this year, and should be owned in all A.L. leagues for at least $2. Duensing looks like middle relief fodder and nothing more.
Jordan Walden $19, Scott Downs $1, Hisanori Takahashi $1
Walden has scuffled a little this spring but despite the 10 blown saves in '11 was solid from a Roto perspective. Downs is probably the logical CIW, but I wouldn't count out greybeards Jason Isringhausen or LaTroy Hawkins either. Takahashi is more of a utility pitcher whose value rests in the 90-100 quality innings he'll provide and not the saves he may or may not get.
Brian Fuentes $6, Grant Balfour $5, Fautino De Los Santos $3, Joey Devine $2
This bullpen has now been resolved in Balfour's favor, though many think that de los Santos will have the job by July. If you can get Balfour at $10 or so, that's OK, but I wouldn't go too far past that. Fuentes is worth half this now at best and won't see any saves unless Balfour struggles early. Devine is still the favorite of some, but he never stays healthy.
Brandon League $16
League should be solid, and is helped fantasy-wise by the fact that his set-up options aren't very good. I like Chance Ruffin as a deep sleeper here; he has been forgotten by everyone but the Mariners and their diehards, but it wasn't that long ago that people were talking about him as a future CIW. Not much as changed, and if League went down he's a more inspiring choice than Tom Wilhelmsen or Shawn Kelley.
Joe Nathan $17, Alexi Ogando $4, Mike Adams $2
Some are high on Nathan, but I'm still wary...and some of the reports this spring haven't been encouraging. Maybe he'll be great after surgery, but I have this bad feeling that he'll never be quite the same. The big contract gives the Rangers plenty of incentive to give Nathan a lot of rope, but they're in contending mode and won't be afraid to yank him big contract or no. Ogando could close, but if the Rangers did make a change my money's on Adams getting the ball in the 9th.