- Tristan H. Cockcroft, Fantasy
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Heading into 2008, baseball has no shortage of wide-open closer pictures, in cities like Arizona, Baltimore, Chicago (Cubs), San Francisco and Texas. So where did Octavio Dotel, a closer himself on Opening Day 2007, pick to pitch the upcoming season?
That would be Chicago, but not with the Cubs. Instead he inked a two-year, $11 million contract with the crosstown White Sox. Hey, let's give Dotel credit, at least he got the city right -- he just picked the team that already has a dominant ninth-inning option.
Dotel's arrival shouldn't be any threat to Bobby Jenks' job security. After all, Jenks is coming off the best year of his career, a 40-save, 2.77-ERA, 0.89-WHIP masterpiece in an otherwise lost season for the White Sox. In fact, he finished the year on a 17-save, 2.15-ERA, 0.58-WHIP run in his final 29 appearances, walking one batter during that span. So much for the control issues that worried Jenks' owners in the past. He is locked in as the White Sox closer, so at best, Dotel is an eighth-inning option for his new team. In other words, if you've got any doubt regarding Jenks' durability, here's your handcuff to the right-hander, but the chances are pretty good he'll never need one.
Scott Linebrink, though, is the White Sox reliever most hurt by Dotel's arrival. Once seemingly the next-in-line to close behind Jenks, Linebrink, who inked a four-year, $19-million deal of his own in November, now becomes perhaps a seventh-inning option, and a step further away from any slight chance at saves he might have had. Dotel's checkered injury history makes it fairly likely Linebrink will see a good chunk of time as the No. 2 man in the 'pen, but make no mistake, this signing hurts his value.
Another thing Dotel has over Linebrink, incidentally, is a little better chance at success in ERA and WHIP in Chicago. For his career, Dotel has the higher strikeout-per-nine ratio (10.85 to Linebrink's 7.69) and better WHIP (1.24 to 1.27), though Linebrink has a slight edge in walks-per-nine (3.23 to 3.96) and homers-per-nine (0.98 to 1.12). Both fly-ball pitchers, Dotel and Linebrink should frustrate AL-only owners on occasion in ERA/WHIP, so be cautious. There's value, and a little more in Dotel, but it's not elite value.
Tomko signs with Royals
As with the Mark Hendrickson signing with the Marlins last week, at this stage of the winter, teams with mediocre pitching staffs are constantly in the hunt for innings-eaters. Mark down Brett Tomko's deal with the Royals -- a one-year, $3-million deal -- as the latest such example of an innings-filler type transaction.
Such deals so rarely matter for fantasy, with the exception of AL-/NL-only spot-start/matchups consideration, and Tomko's is no different. He'll be in the mix for a rotation spot in Kansas City, battling a host of other has-beens or never-will-bes -- Hideo Nomo, to name one -- for two spots behind Gil Meche, Zack Greinke and Brian Bannister, but could easily return to the bullpen if need be. This will mark Tomko's third career season in the American League; in his past two he made 12 starts, 31 relief appearances and managed a 4.82 ERA and 1.49 WHIP for the Mariners from 2000-01.
Tomko, who turns 35 on April 7, probably won't be much better than the pitcher who managed a 5.55 ERA and 1.50 WHIP in 2007. It was a disturbing season for the right-hander; after a 2006 in which he was a fairly respectable reliever, he wasn't useful as either a starter or reliever in 2007. The league switch likely won't help, meaning AL-only owners should consider spot-starting him only against terribly weak offenses. In other words, think Athletics, Orioles and Twins, but little else.
Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
13hMarc Stein and Calvin Watkins