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12/31/08 3:32 PM EST

Closers market drying up for Brewers

With Fuentes gone, Milwaukee has few free-agent options remaining

MILWAUKEE -- It came as little surprise to Brewers general manager Doug Melvin on Wednesday when free-agent closer Brian Fuentes chose his home-state Angels.

Fuentes, born and raised in Northern California, had been hinting for weeks that his destination of choice was Los Angeles, where the Angels needed a closer after Francisco Rodriguez bolted via free agency for the Mets. The Cardinals also made a play for Fuentes and the Brewers showed interest, but never to the point of submitting a contract offer, Melvin said.

"We never got to that point," Melvin said via telephone, interrupting a cruise in the Virgin Islands. "He always expressed interest in going to Anaheim."

The Brewers are looking at outside candidates to replace closer Salomon Torres, who retired. Melvin had several conversations with Fuentes' agent, Rick Thurman, one as recently as last week, but it was always the Brewers reaching out. Thurman "never brought [Fuentes] up to me," according to Melvin.

"That's what free agency is about," Melvin said. "Free agency is about players going to a place where they want to play."

Hot Stove

With Fuentes off the market, the top three free-agent closers have all signed. First, Rodriguez went to the Mets, and then former Cub Kerry Wood, a player who could have been a fit for Milwaukee had he remained on the market a bit longer, went to the Indians for a two-year deal.

That leaves veteran righty Trevor Hoffman, baseball's all-time saves leader, as the only one of what Melvin called "A-type" closers available. Hoffman is also represented by Thurman, and while the Brewers are interested in at least exploring whether a deal can be struck, it is unclear whether the feeling is mutual.

"They haven't given us that indication," Melvin said.

If the Brewers strike out in their search for a closer, the top internal candidates appear to be Seth McClung, Carlos Villanueva or recently signed Jorge Julio. But McClung might be needed in the starting rotation, Villanueva has never filled that role and Julio hasn't been a closer since 2006 in Arizona. He was Baltimore's closer from 2002-2004.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.