Most everyone knows the top reliever available in MLB free agency this offseason, but who is the best available outside of Craig Kimbrel?
Every year, the MLB free agency reliever market is extremely busy. Teams want to get the shutdown closer or the dominant set-up man. With 2019 being one of, if not the most hyped free agent class we have ever seen, you will want to keep an eye on a very interesting market.
Recently, we have seen relievers get paid more than they usually do. In the 2016-2017 offseason, we saw the three biggest reliever contracts of all time handed out. Mark Melancon, Aroldis Chapman, and Kenley Jansen all got paid, with Chapman and Jansen both getting over $80 million.
Craig Kimbrel is going to be no different than those three when it comes to his contract. Although he did struggle some in the playoffs, he is still a force. In 2018, he posted a 13.9 K/9, along with 2.74 ERA and 42 saves.
It’s possible that teams would be spooked out of giving Kimbrel a big contract with what happened with Melancon, and to a lesser extent, Chapman.
Melancon was below league average in his first year with the Giants, posting a 96 ERA+ and a 4.50 ERA in 32 games. His season ended early after getting hurt, and when he returned in 2018, he was much better, though he still wasn’t what the Giants had paid for, putting up a 121 ERA+ and 3.32 ERA.
Chapman, who currently owns the highest contract for a relief pitcher, didn’t live up to the billing in 2017. He posted his second-worst ERA in his career, 3.22, and his worst K/9 at 12.3. Although he bounced back in 2018, he wasn’t quite what the Yankees had paid for.
Of course, none of the relievers aside from Kimbrel are quite the caliber that Melancon, Jansen or Chapman are, but recent history might hold teams back from giving out those big contracts.
That’s why the lower level relievers on the market will likely be signed faster. Although they aren’t as good as Kimbrel, they might be the best bang for every teams buck with such a loaded free agent class everywhere else.