DANA POINT, Calif. -- The Mets, Rangers, Indians and Cardinals are expected to be among the biggest players for star free-agent closer Brian Fuentes, according to people familiar with his situation.

The Mets, who lost their closer Billy Wagner for the season and are badly in need of relief help, are expected to make a play for the left-handed Fuentes, who will benefit from a small supply of available relievers as well as great demand. Francisco Rodriguez is the top closer available, but the Mets appear to be concerned about K-Rod's asking price of $75 million over five years.

Fuentes, 33, may be an excellent fallback candidate for several teams. It has been speculated that he should receive a three-year deal in the range of $36 million to $39 million, but in this environment, that may be the baseline. Fuentes went 1-5 with 30 saves and a 2.73 ERA and he struck out 82 batters while walking only 22 and allowing 47 hits in 62 2/3 innings with the Rockies.

The Rockies love Fuentes but have determined he's out of their price range.

"He'll be loved wherever he goes,'' said Jeff Borris, one of Fuentes' agents. "He's as stable a guy as there is in the big leagues, and he's a leader.''

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