The 2012 crop of free agent relievers isn't overly impressive. There's a few big names like Papelbon and Rodriguez, but mostly it's infested with the arms of the mediocre. I picked out a few names that interest me as a Rays fan, some more realistic than others.
Shawn Camp: 3.91 FIP in 2011
Camp wasn't exactly adored when he donned the Devil Rays uniform in 2006 and 2007. He's an extreme ground ball pitcher that relies on good glove-work behind him to turn those balls into outs. The Rays didn't have that during his tenure, employing such luminaries as Ty Wigginton, Jorge Cantu, Brendan Harris and Josh Wilson in the infield. His .418 BABIP in 2007 is the highest single season mark in baseball over the past five years with a minimum of 30 innings pitched. That isn't all attributed to the awful Devil Rays defense -- his FIP was 5.29 afterall -- but it sure didn't help. He improved considerably in moving to Toronto, averaging a 3.82 FIP in his four seasons.
The Rays defense has improved greatly since he left and could use an effective ground ball pitcher. He made $2.25 million in 2011 which is a bit higher than his WAR value of $1.8 million. He's said he'd like to return to Toronto, and the team may very well offer him arbitration. He likely wouldn't receive a bump in salary, but might choose to return to a situation he's comfortable with regardless. If he rejects an arbitration offer Toronto would receive a sandwich pick as compensation. It would be beneficial to the Rays were he allowed to walk.
This selection may be wishful thinking on my part, seeing as how Hawkins made $4 million last season and was worth nearly every penny. Some team will likely offer the soon to be 39-year-old a lucrative offer, or at least more lucrative than the Rays can afford. He's been one of the better, and most durable, middle relievers in baseball over the past decade. Signing with the Rays would reunite him with his 2004 Cubs and 2008 Yankees teammate Kyle Farnsworth. Maybe Farnsy can sweet-talk his old teammate a bit?
Chad Durbin: 4.85 FIP
Moving on to players more in the Rays price range, we come to Chad Durbin. 2011 wasn't especially kind to Mr. Durbin. He managed to put up a 4.85 FIP and -0.3 WAR in 68 innings with Cleveland. Contrary to the opinions of many Clevelanders, he doesn't totally suck. He put up good seasons in 2010 (3.97 FIP) and 2008 (3.77) with Philadelphia. He made just $800k last season and can't expect to get more than that in free agency.
Jon Rauch: 5.26 FIP
Another Toronto reliever, many Rays fans wanted to see Rauch in a Tampa Bay uniform in 2011. Had that happened, it's doubtful Kyle Farnsworth signs, so perhaps things worked out for the best. He was hampered by injuries last season, missing time due to back and knee issues as well as having his appendix removed in August. It was the first time he had missed any significant time in his nine year career. His numbers suffered along with his body as he posted a 5.26 FIP in 52 innings pitched. A healthy Rauch has been a solid late-inning reliever over his career. Hopefully his sub-par 2011 performance and fear over his torn knee cartilage will set the bar low enough for the Rays to snag him.