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Brandon Lyon Nears Deal With Astros, Bullpen Options Dwindling

There goes another semi-attractive free agent pitcher, as Brandon Lyon is apparently close to signing a three-year deal with the Astros worth $15 million. It's way too much money for Lyon, a competent reliever who is effective against both lefties and righties. Lyon's upside is probably about a win above replacement, and while he'll nicely fill the hole left by the departing LaTroy Hawkins, $5 million a year is just crazy. Then again, Hawkins just signed a two-year deal with the similarly-daft Brewers worth $7.5 million, so I guess madness can only be measured relatively.

This is all good news for Mike Gonzalez, who is a much better pitcher than either Lyon or Hawkins -- and is a lefty to boot -- though his injury history is more troubling than the other two. Gonzalez's agent -- a Mr. Scott Boras -- will doubtless be using Lyon's deal with Houston as a jumping-off point in negotiations with other clubs. I don't know that the Mets are in the market for a big-ticket reliever, though I certainly don't care to see them spend $18 million over three years for Gonzalez plus forfeit a high draft pick to Atlanta in the process. Payback for Tom Glavine's defection two years ago, to be sure.

The two best free agent relievers -- Rafaels Soriano and Betancourt -- both accepted their former clubs' offers of salary arbitration, so consider them off the market for now. The Braves are fielding offers on Soriano, who has given the team permission to trade him, but don't expect him to end up on the Mets. Soriano made $6.1 million and could see a bump to $9 million or more in 2010. That's a lot of money, though the cost is mitigated somewhat by the fact that it would only be a one-year deal and that Soriano, if healthy, is a safe bet to be a Type-A free agent again next year. I'm not sure Atlanta would even consider trading him to New York, though it may be a moot point anyway as it looks like he's on his way to Tampa Bay.

Kiko Calero is the most attractive free agent reliever still available, and his price tag comes without the added encumbrance of draft pick compensation, which is not something you can say about Jose Valverde. Beyond those two you've got the likes of Russ Springer, J.J. Putz, and Chan Ho Park, the latter of which might actually be the most appealing of the three. At all events, the list of available -- and moderately attractive -- free agent relievers is now rail-thin, so anyone in the market for one should act fast or risk winding up with Luis Ayala et al.