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Predicting where top 7 FA relievers will end up

January 3, 2019

Craig Kimbrel had a really good day on Thursday. So did Adam Ottavino and Zach Britton and others. As for those teams still shopping for bullpen help, not so much.In free agency, every signing is connected to every other, and the market for relievers got way more interesting with the

Craig Kimbrel had a really good day on Thursday. So did Adam Ottavino and Zach Britton and others. As for those teams still shopping for bullpen help, not so much.
In free agency, every signing is connected to every other, and the market for relievers got way more interesting with the news that Player Page for David Robertson had agreed to a two-year deal with the Phillies worth at least $23 million.
Inventory is thinning out: Andrew Miller (Cardinals), Joe Kelly (Dodgers), Jeurys Familia (Mets) and Robertson are now off the market, and they probably represent four of the top available relievers this offseason.
Free-agent rumors
Now there's likely to be some urgency to close deals with the other top guys. That the Yankees and Red Sox are among the shoppers makes the market even more competitive, which means that Tony Sipp, Shawn Kelley, Bud Norris and Ryan Madson could benefit as well.
Here's a rundown of the top seven remaining relievers and their potential landing spots:
1. Craig Kimbrel
He might not get the six-year deal the Red Sox have resisted giving the 30-year-old right-hander. But he could still match the largest contract ever given a closer, that being the five-year, $86 million deal Albertin Chapman got from the Yankees two offseasons ago. With the loss of Kelly and the lack of a proven closer being the only real question for the defending champions, Kimbrel's destination seems a foregone conclusion.
Likely landing spot: Red Sox

2. Adam Ottavino
His eighth season was his best and established him as one of the game's top setup men with a new cutter that made his fastball/slider repertoire even better. He averaged 13 strikeouts per nine innings, with a WHIP under 1.00. He's 33 years old, so length of contract will be interesting.
Likely landing spot: Yankees, White Sox

3. Zach Britton
He has a 1.82 ERA the last five seasons and finished last season so strong that his health does not appear to be an issue. The Yankees would like to bring him back in some sort of setup role, but closing could be on the table with the Red Sox and perhaps the White Sox, Giants or Angels.
Likely landing spot: White Sox

4. Kelvin Herrera
He's going to have lots of offers because he's 29 years old with an excellent track record (1.142 WHIP and 8.6 strikeouts per nine innings the last five seasons). His fastball touched 97 mph last season. But a foot injury ended his 2018 season early, and he might have to wait out the top of the market to find a deal with which he's comfortable.
Likely landing spot: Yankees, White Sox, Braves

5. Greg Holland
His poor 2018 start could be partly explained by signing late and not getting his usual spring work. He was excellent for the Nationals in 24 appearances at the end of the season, and he makes sense for a team such as the Cubs that apparently won't play at the top of the closer market. He's also the kind of player the A's have capitalized on in recent seasons.
Likely landing spot: A's, Cubs

6. Shawn Kelley
He made 54 appearances in 2018 and allowed less than a baserunner per inning with 9.2 strikeouts per nine innings. He was excellent in 2015 and 2016 while appearing in more than 50 games each season. He was tremendous after joining the A's and seems likely to end up back with them.
Likely landing spot: A's
7. Ryan Madson
He's 38 years old and coming off his worst regular season. He's also two seasons removed a 1.83 ERA in 60 appearances. He has had enough physical problems through the years that a one-year, incentives-loaded deal seems likely. If he's healthy, he's capable of contributing in some sort of late-inning role.
Likely landing spot: White Sox, Yankees, Reds, Phillies

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.