With all the hubbub about the Rays losing nearly their entire bullpen and the doomsday approach by the local media, I thought a positive spin could be placed, reminding everyone of the area where Friedman may have done his best work since being with the Rays.
Of all the closers available in 2010, Friedman was only willing to go to Stu asking for money for Rafael Soriano. Joaquin Benoit was a minor league contract pickup after 2009, Randy Choate was a minor league contract pickup after 2008, Grant Balfour was picked up for next to nothing(Seth McClung) after 2007, Wheeler was acquired in 2007 trade deadline, and JP Howell was one of Friedmans' first moves in 2006.
What's more, most of these moves were very cost effective for the Rays. While the Rays may sign someone more established to replace some of what they lost, the real value will come in January as Friedman gets his annual bullpen bargain. And maybe he's already added one in Corey Wade. Maybe he can resign one in Chad Qualls.
Qualls had back-to-back WARs with Arizona of 2.1 and 1.1 in 2008-09. He's had solid FIPs throughout his career, but last year's was a full 1 over his previous year (3.14 to 4.13). This was aided by having a spike in his BABIP (.321 to .399). James is projecting a back to norm year for Qualls. And I hope Friedman does as well.
Honestly, if the Rays can resign Balfour, Qualls, and Wheeler, while only spending a little money on a closer (Jenks if non-tendered?, Kevin Gregg? Kerry Wood?), along with a minor league bargain, along with McGee and maybe Sonny, the Rays could have a solid bullpen. Maybe not as dominant as last year, but at least an average-to-above-average 'pen, with the possibility of being very good if Howell can return from injury.
Personally, a pen of Wood, Balfour, Qualls, Wheeler, McGee, Howell, Sonny looks pretty good to me. But if Jenks becomes available at a potential cheaper rate, that would be even better. And hopefully another move we can look back on and go 'Friedman'd.'