By Marc Topkin, Times Staff Writer
Thursday, December 30, 2010
The Tampa Bay Rays may be close to finding a new closer.
They appear to be very interested in free-agent lefthander Brian Fuentes, and are trying to add him to the back end of their rebuilt bullpen.
Fuentes, 35, split last season between the Los Angeles Angels and Minnesota Twins, logging 24 saves and posting a 2.81 ERA. He had a major-league leading 48 saves (and a 3.93 ERA) in 2009 for the Angels.
Fuentes appears to be a popular subject of conversation, with SI.com's Jon Heyman reporting earlier this week that up to 11 teams (including the Rays) had expressed some form of interest. The others include the Blue Jays, Brewers, Mariners, Mets, Phillies, Pirates, Red Sox, Rockies, Twins and Yankees, though several have recently added relievers - the Jays getting Octavio Dotel, the Rockies Matt Lindstrom and the Brewers Takashi Saito.
Fuentes signed a two-year, $17.5-million contract with the Angels, and was traded to the Twins in late August, where he missed about two weeks with a stiff back but returned to pitch in eight games in a set-up role, plus twice in the ALDS against the Yankees. He had a $9-million option for 2011, but fell far short of the 55 games finishes needed for it to vest. Talks with the Rays obviously are expected to be in a lower price range, though they offer him the chance to be a closer.