How much of a financial investment will it take to gain an additional 3 wins from the bullpen? As I've posted a few times, they need to spend the money to upgrade the pen.
I feel pretty strongly that you trade prospects for relievers who are a year or two from FA and pitching for non-contenders (Sean Marshall of the Cubs, Sean Burnett of the Nats) or on a team with relief depth to spare (Mike Adams of the Padres). We are in a position to overpay with prospects because a guy who projects to be good, solid, MLB player like
Yamaico Navarro or Che-Hsuan Lin has no actual
value to us if there will never be room for them on our roster. That is, in fact, one of the main rationales for building a farm system with this kind of depth -- to be able to (theoretically) overpay in talent for the guy you really want..
If you look at the bullpens on EV's list, and how those pitchers were acquired, and what their salaries were when acquired, I think you'll agree that it's not about spending a lot of money. It's about scouting and luck. There is exactly one non-closer being paid >$5M among those eight teams, Kerry Wood (and of course he was a closer when he negotiated that salary). The large majority of the non-closers are being paid <$3M, especially on the teams at the top of the list. San Diego's top 5 relievers are being paid a grand total of just over $6 million.
I actually meant to say that I had that info handy. Let's look at where the guys on the top pens came from (I skipped the Braves because their pen hasn't actually been great).Closers
1 - Established closer, Type A FA at $7.5M (Soriano, although he was re-signed by his original team and traded for a reliever, Jesse Chavez, who was promising and had 1 year of servoce time -- Chavez being less valuable than the second round pick the Braves would have gotten otherwise).
1 - Established closer traded the winter before FA in big multi-player deal (Lidge)
1 - Established closer traded at deadline 1+ years before FA for a #2 prospect having an off year (Capps for Ramos)
1 - Top prospect (#18 the year before, #5 the following) obtained in trade for veteran star (Feliz)
1 - Nothing reliever obtained after 1 year of service time and developed (Bell)
1 - Late round draft pick (Wilson, 24th)
1 - International signing (Rivera)#2 Guys
1 - Failed closer, traded at deadline for PTBNL with new team paying $2M of salary for 2 months (Wood)
1 - Established set-up guy, non-compensation FA at $3M (Oliver)
1 - FA signed to a minor league deal (Benoit)
1 - Nothing reliever obtained after 1 year of ST and developed (Adams)
1 - High draft pick (Crain, 2nd)
2 - Late round draft picks (Madson, 9th, and Romo, 28th)#3 Guys
1 - Established set-up guy traded at deadline 1+ years before FA for a #8 prospect (Rauch)
1 - Nothing reliever obtained in trade after 3 years of ST (Balfour)
1 - Low-level prospect obtained in trade for veteran (Gregerson, ranked #29)
1 - Non-compensation FA at $1.5M (Contreras)
1 - Waiver claim (O'Day)
1 - FA signed to a minor league deal (Casilla)
1 - Late round draft pick (Robertson, #17)
Among the good extra men, Ryan Webb was a #24 traded prospect, Francisco a #28-29, Durbin a FA signed to a $0.9M deal, Choate a fa signed to a ml deal, Ogando a Rule 5 pick, Duensing a 3rd round pick, Logan a promising extra body in a bigger trade.
To Savin's luck and scouting I'll add coaching / internal development. They had the right idea with Atchison and it wouldn't surprise me to see him qualify as a good extra guy next year.