UPDATE: Cameron expands on his analysis of multi-year deals for relievers here.
6:09 AM: It always takes a while for teams to turn to the bullpen during the offseason, but when they do, they tend to do it all at once. And it was certainly a big day for relief pitcher signings and rumors yesterday. Matt Guerrier, Kerry Wood and Jesse Crain signed. There’s action on Bobby Jenks and Octavio Dotel. I’m sure this will continue for a while.
Of particular note: Crain and Guerrier signed three-year deals. As did Joaquin Benoit and Scott Downs recently. Three-year deals for relievers seem kind of nuts to me given how up-and-down almost every reliever’s performance tends to be. I hadn’t realized how up-and-down until I saw this tweet from Dave Cameron yesterday:
List of relievers who have signed 3+ year deals since 2006 and been worth the money: Rivera. That’s it. That’s the list.
He means free agent relievers, not necessarily young ones locked up by their teams during arbitration years such as Joakim Soria, but it’s still a pretty startling observation. And even though Cameron doesn’t define “worth the money” in his tweet, it’s hard to come up with a single non-Mariano exception to the observation, even if you’re generous about what “worth” is.
The Jayson Werth deal signaled that baseball’s recent run of relative austerity was over. The fact that setup guys are getting three-year deals like this is pretty darn good supporting evidence.