The Yankees might be out on Rafael Soriano, but Brian Fuentes, Jon Rauch and Chad Qualls are also available, all with closing experience and none requiring a draft pick for the Yankees to sign them. At the very least, we know that Fuentes would like to close again in 2011. How many teams could offer him — or any reliever, for that matter — an opportunity to pitch the ninth inning?
Rays — Not sure you heard, but Soriano is a free agent, leaving the ninth inning up for grabs at the Trop. The Rays have a lot of good young arms, but they could certainly offer a closing opportunity to an interested free agent.
Braves — Billy Wagner made good on his promise to retire at the end of the 2010 season, and for now it seems the Braves might turn the ninth inning to rookie Craig Kimbrell who has exactly one big league save.
Nationals — Drew Storen seems to be the closer of the future, but the closer of the present is still unknown. It could be Storen, or it could be someone else for the suddenly free-spending Nats.
Pirates — There are least 16 or 17 save opportunities up for grabs in Pittsburgh.
Angels — Right now the job seems to belong to Fernando Rodney, but it’s hard to imagine the Angels would turn down the chance to upgrade. They could certainly offer the ninth inning to someone like Soriano.
White Sox — With Bobby Jenks in Boston, the White Sox best internal ninth-inning candidate might be lefty Matt Thornton. He’s not a bad option, but the White Sox could easily slide him back into the setup role.
Orioles — Baltimore is full of potential closers, but there’s not a sure thing in the bunch. Koji Uehara had the job at the end of last season, but Mike Gonzalez is healthy again and Kevin Gregg just agreed to a two-year deal. It’s a full house, but no face cards.
Blue Jays — With Kevin Gregg gone, the ninth inning in Toronto could be a fight between Octavio Dotel and Jason Frasor. In theory, the Blue Jays could add a third arm to that competition. Ken Davidoff says the Blue Jays are among the suitors for Fuentes.
Rangers — The ninth inning in Texas is either completely locked down or completely wide open depending on the team’s decision on a role for Neftali Feliz.
Mariners — After offseason hip surgery, David Aardsma is expected to be healthy in time for Opening Day, but you never know.
Brewers — John Axford stepped into the role last season, and he pitched well enough to return to the ninth inning this season. That said, Axford was never particularly highly touted and his grasp on the role could be fairly loose.
Mets — Whether they like it or not, the Mets have Francisco Rodriguez as their closer for 2011. But the situation is crazy enough to list as a possible opening. At this point, would anyone be shocked to find someone else pitching the ninth inning at Citi Field by mid-June?
Yankees — You know this story.
Red Sox — Even if Jonathan Papelbon falls apart, the Red Sox still have Daniel Bard and Bobby Jenks waiting to take over.
Athletics — Andrew Bailey seems to have a pretty firm grasp on the ninth inning in Oakland. Doubt the A’s are in the market for relievers anyway.
Indians — Chris Perez couldn’t hold down the ninth-inning job in St. Louis, but last season suggested Perez might be better prepared this time around.
Royals — This job is very clearly taken unless the Royals actually decide to deal Joakim Soria.
Tigers — Detroit made its move for a closer one year ago. It’s still Jose Valverde’s job.
Twins — The Twins still have Matt Capps after last year’s mid-season addition, plus Joe Nathan is set to come back from the disabled list.
Cardinals — Last season was a step back for Ryan Franklin, but he still converted 27 of 29 save opportunities and the Cardinals are ready to stick with him for one more season.
Cubs — The ninth inning belongs to Carlos Marmol, and the Cubs already have Kerry Wood waiting in the wings should Marmol lose his grip on the job.
Reds — Francisco Cordero blew eight saves last season but still finished with 40 of them. For better or worse, he’s their guy in the ninth. You could bump this one up to a possible opening if you’d like.
Astros — Brandon Lyon didn’t have a bad debut season as the Astros closer, and clearly the job belongs to him heading into spring training. The Astros have bigger concerns than the ninth inning.
Diamondbacks — Arizona just committed $10 million to J.J. Putz. He seems to be their guy in the ninth.
Dodgers — Despite the Yankees comeback against him last season, Jonathan Broxton has a pretty firm hold on the ninth inning at Dodger Stadium.
Giants — Fear the beard!
Rockies — Huston Street took a bit of a step back last season, but the ninth inning is still his in Colorado.
Marlins — He hasn’t been the most dominant closer in baseball, but the Marlins seem committed to Leo Nunez.
Padres — Heath Bell is handling the ninth inning for an impressive group of relatively unknown relievers.
Phillies — Brad Lidge seems perpetually on the verge of losing the job, but he rebounded from a rocky 2009 and seems to once again have the job locked down.