I think the underlying point is that if you try to get those lightning in a bottle pitchers on short/cheap money too often then you'll just keep shuffling the deck chairs over and over.
This made me think about "short/cheap" guys and how we use them. Consider last year's AL Playoff teams; all four built their bullpens in differnet ways, but every one of them had 3-5 "short/cheap"/"let's see if there's anything" kinds of guys. All salaries are 2004 money in millions, per baseballreference.com.
Foulke---3.5 mil (more, really, but deferred)
So the Sox threw serious money at five relievers, all "proven" veterans (Leskanic got his 1.25mil paid by KC I think). They pulled the short/cheap money move on Dinardo, Terry Adams, Malaska, Myers, etc Those guys pulled in the minimum or a little above it. So the "short/cheap" guys were all where you might expect--in the mopup/long relief/loogy/11th pitcher spot.
The Angels pour their money into Percival, but hit the jackpot with four "short/cheap" guys who were all effective. These are the "lightning in a bottle" types.
Like the Sox, the Yanks stocked their BP mostly with pricey vets, then used the last slot for "short/cheaps" like WOTS, Scott Proctor, and Nitkowski and Prinz.
Minn went ALL short/cheap, and had excellent results.
So for me the problem is not simply "short/cheap" guys as a concept, it is how we find, evaluate and decide to keep them. How does Minnesota, with 1/3 our payroll and probably 1/3 our resources find a Joe Nathan but we end up with Bobby Jones? Did Anaheim (good) luck into Brendan Donnelly whereas we simply (bad) lucked into Jamie Brown? By what method do we decide Bobby Howry can't help us but Alan Embree can?
This is not hindsight--nobody on SOSh ever posted "we'll rue the day we let Howry and Todd Jones go!" Bot those guys were
let go, and somebody (with better scouts? better coaching? better luck?) took them on as "short/cheap" guys and made it work. Meanwhile we used the slots vacated by the those guys who sucked for us to sign new guys who suck for us.
What is not fair is to say that the Sox don't spend on their bullpen. The spend plenty. But the best bullpens are not the most expenseive ones.