Hot Stove: Closer price rises

Closer price rises after manic Monday

B.J. Ryan signs with the Blue Jays for five years and $47 million, then Billy Wagner turns around and nabs a reported four-year, $43 million deal for the Mets.

With apologies to the Bangles, it was just another manic Monday in the Hot Stove season. And if it doesn't tell you that this winter is the right time to be a closer, it's hard to figure out what will.

Especially if you're Trevor Hoffman, Kyle Farnsworth, Todd Jones or Tom Gordon, the top back-of-the-bullpen names still available.

Now that the Jays and Mets don't have to worry about who to hand the ball to with a one-run lead in the ninth inning, the list of teams that need closers has been shortened, but there are still plenty of buyers.

The Phillies, for example, are on Plan C, after Plan A (keeping Wagner) and Plan B (signing Ryan) went out the window Monday.

Hoffman could be a good fit there, especially considering the fact that the Padres probably can't afford him now that the closer market has shot to the stratosphere. San Diego offered Hoffman two years and $10 million, and the two are one year and $15 million apart.

Meanwhile, the Braves and Marlins need closers and you never know what the Red Sox might do, particularly if banged-up Keith Foulke hasn't recovered from knee surgery the way Boston expected him to.

Elsewhere around the Hot Stove:

Braves: In Thursday's edition of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, it was reported the Dodgers have shown some interest in Rafael Furcal. The report also said the Royals have shown interest, but have been told that Furcal won't consider Kansas City as an option.

Chipper Jones underwent a physical on Wednesday, and within the next few days, the Braves are expected to officially announce he has reworked his contract. The reconstruction of Jones' deal is expected to save them $15 million over the next three seasons. With the extra money, the Braves have a better shot at retaining Furcal or landing one of the remaining free agent closers.

Phillies: The Aaron Rowand acquisition might result in a trade of Jason Michaels, with the Yankees and Red Sox among the interested parties. Published reports out of New York continue to mention Carl Pavano, while it is unclear what might arrive in a deal with Boston. The Phillies likely want starting pitching.

Blue Jays: The Jays are most likely not close to being done, with the Toronto Globe & Mail reporting that the team is "making significant inroads" in pursuit of free agent outfielder Brian Giles. Also, with the signing of Ryan, pitcher Miguel Batista, who saved 31 games for Toronto in 2005, his debut season as a closer, could be on the trading block. Or not.

"The nice thing about Miguel is that we've got options with him," said Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi, denying rumors that Batista was headed to Texas in a deal for outfielder Kevin Mench. "He's been a starter here in the past, he's been a closer for us. I think we've got a lot of ways to go. Right now he'll probably go back into the rotation for us."

Red Sox: There have been recent rumblings that the Red Sox and Brewers have discussed a possible Matt Clement-Lyle Overbay exchange. The Red Sox are overloaded in their starting rotation and are looking for help at first base. The Brewers might ask instead for Bronson Arroyo, who would be more affordable than Clement.

Just because the Mets landed star slugger Carlos Delgado doesn't necessarily mean they won't pursue Sox masher Manny Ramirez. Newsday wrote that Mets GM Omar Minaya remains interested in Ramirez and will pick up discussions with the Red Sox at the upcoming Winter Meetings.

Marlins: Now that the Marlins have been able to unload the contracts of Delgado, Mike Lowell, Josh Beckett and Guillermo Mota, the club is assessing how much more payroll streamlining is needed. Paul Lo Duca, Luis Castillo and Juan Pierre remain trade options for the right price.

Devil Rays: According to the St. Petersburg Times, outfielder Joey Gathright remains the Rays' player in the greatest demand, including interest from the Dodgers, Marlins, White Sox, Cubs, Angels and Giants. Catcher Toby Hall has drawn inquires from the Dodgers, Mets, Marlins, Rockies and Diamondbacks.

Names mentioned as to whom the Rays might get in return are Mets pitcher Aaron Heilman, Dodgers catching prospect Russ Martin and Marlins Minor League pitchers Josh Johnson, Yusmeiro Petit and Anibal Sanchez.

Dodgers: Media reports in other cities say the Dodgers are focused on Giles, but reports from Tampa say they are one of the teams interested in Gathright.

Padres: If free agent catcher Bengie Molina accepts an offer from the Mets and the Diamondbacks land Lo Duca in a trade from the Marlins, free agent catcher Ramon Hernandez, who played for the Padres last year, could be on his way to the Orioles.

Brewers: Of the Overbay-Prince Fielder logjam at first base, Brewers GM Doug Melvin told The New York Times, "I'd say there's about an 80 percent chance that Overbay will be here. There is interest in him, but it's not at the level I feel I could do something to help the club."

If the Brewers don't trade Overbay, Melvin told the paper: "He'll be with us and Prince will go to Triple-A for half a season. Then we'll see where we are in July."

The Red Sox and Blue Jays are among the teams reportedly interested in Overbay, but the Mets' deal for Delgado takes them out of the running.

A's: Monday's signing of free agent pitcher Esteban Loaiza will increase the rumors that Oakland is going to trade lefty Barry Zito, whose contract expires after the 2006 season. The A's now have seven starting pitchers -- Loaiza, Zito, Rich Harden, Dan Haren, Joe Blanton, Kirk Saarloos and Joe Kennedy -- on their roster.

Doug Miller is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.