Throwing a lot of money at relievers hasn’t paid off in recent years. The Phillies gave Jonathan Papelbon $50 million, and while he became the franchise’s all-time saves leader he was a fester in the clubhouse and with the fans.
Last offseason the Phillies gave Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter $34.2 million combined over two years. Neshek was limited to 30 games because of injuries, but he held a respectful 2.59 ERA. Hunter struggled out of the gate with a 4.54 ERA in his first 43 appearances, but he evened out at the end of the year with a 2.94 ERA in his last 22 games.
Two years ago the San Francisco Giants gave Mark Melancon a four-year deal worth $62 million that hasn’t had a strong return on investment. He dealt with a forearm injury last year and suffered two elbow strains the year before. After a four-year stretch of being one of the best closers in baseball Melancon has a 3.86 ERA and just 14 saves in two years with the Giants, and is owed $38 million over the next two years.
Last offseason the Rockies gave Wade Davis and Bryan Shaw three year deals worth a combined $79 million. Earning $18 million this year, Davis is currently set to make the third-most for a relief pitcher next year.
Shaw turned out his worst season in the big leagues with a 5.93 ERA in 61 games, the fewest since his rookie year. Davis led the league in saves and games finished, but had a 4.13 ERA, his worst since 2013.
Coors Field plays a factor into those inflated numbers, but Shaw still had a 5.10 ERA on the road and Davis an ERA of 3.55.
Last year the Twins gave Addison Reed a two-year deal worth $16.75 million and he turned a season with his worst ERA since his sophomore season at 4.50.
The Phillies can certainly pay the big name guys, but unfortunately for a talented class of relief pitchers, history isn’t on their side when it comes to teams signing them to massive contracts.