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Have the Royals broken the reliever market?

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More years and dollars are being handed out to relievers. We've been taught that relievers should not get more years and dollars.

This man.
This man.
Tim Bradbury/Getty Images

The Royals have a really good bullpen. For two years in a row, the baseball world watched as games were shortened to six innings for the opposing team and nine innings for the Royals. Yes, I'm ignoring all extra-inning games because narratives.

Jeff Sullivan at FanGraphs took it upon himself to examine the elite bullpen phenomenon in general, not just specific to the Royals. His findings suggest that having an elite bullpen does indeed increase a team's win total beyond what is expected by fWAR. The more extreme the bullpen, the larger the difference. This makes sense because an elite bullpen can help a team win more close games than expected.

The Royals are not the only team with an elite bullpen. The Orioles and the Cubs have also been in the top 10 in reliever fWAR the past two years. The Royals just made it more visible in the playoffs due to weaknesses elsewhere, mostly the starting rotation, and by actually playing longer than most other teams. They took the strategy of having a quick hook in the playoffs and followed it, more or less, by the book. Maybe more than other teams. Also, we saw what happened to teams with lesser bullpens (the Astros, Blue Jays, and Mets come to mind)(also lesser defenses).

Relievers are back in vogue. Let's look at what the reliever market has done last year and this year.

Last year, Andrew Miller and David Robertson found themselves to be free agents. Robertson had four very good years with the Yankees before leaving in free agency, but he was not a closer until the last year. Typically, only closers get the big money (Craig Kimbrel's extension comes to mind, which was before the Royals' time). The White Sox signed him to be their closer for four years, $46 million despite the qualifying offer attached to him.

To examine a slightly more extreme case, Miller was not a closer until after he signed his free agent contract. He had decent years before 2014, but they were shorter in innings. Traded midseason, Miller was not eligible for a qualifying offer and ended up signing a four-year, $36 million contract with the Yankees to be their closer.

That's a lot of money and years given out to relievers.

Just before last season began, the Padres traded a bunch of players to the Braves for Kimbrel and Melvin Upton. Upton's poor contract muddles the waters on the value of this trade, but the Padres also took on Kimbrel's salary. In order to get Kimbrel without giving up much, the Padres had to take on a ton of money. There's some value there.

Now, after this season ended, the Padres traded Kimbrel to the Red Sox. The seemingly universal opinion is that the Red Sox gave up a ton to get him despite having one less year of control. The Athletics traded Jesse Chavez, a rather useful starter/swingman type, to get Liam Hendriks from the Blue Jays. Yes, that same Liam Hendriks who started three games for the Royals last year. Hendriks had 1.5 fWAR coming out of the bullpen for Toronto. I'd rather have Chavez anyway.

Darren O'Day is the top free agent reliever this year, and he is seeking a 4-year deal in the range of $28-36 million, which is not far from what Andrew Miller got. O'Day is a 33-year-old guy who has beat his peripherals consistently for the past four years, but again he's not a closer.

Aroldis Chapman will be a free agent next year, and lordy that contract will break all the other contracts I've mentioned here.

Closers are not the only relievers getting big money anymore, though O'Day might close for whichever team signs him. Given all this information, what do you think? Have the Royals upended the reliever market, or was it going to happen anyway? I am not really sure, though I lean toward the Royals having upended the market. Discuss!