The ability to handle late-inning pressure still has value to teams. But the accumulation of saves, standing alone, isn’t generally the driver of open-market bullpen salaries that it once was. For arbitration, however, saves tallies pay big, opening the door to significant earning opportunities for relievers.
So, which players have put themselves in position to command nice salary boosts this fall owing to their saves tallies? Here’s a list of the baker’s dozen hurlers who’ll be eligible for arbitration next year and have already accrued double-digit saves in 2019:
- Kirby Yates, Padres ($3.062MM current salary; entering final season of eligibility): Currently pacing all of baseball with 33 saves, Yates is lining up quite a fruitful final trip through arbitration. He’s not working off of the biggest platform, but he’s likely to get the biggest raise of this group with his saves totals and general brilliance (1.13 ERA, 77 strikeouts) … unless he and the Friars strike an extension.
- Roberto Osuna, Astros ($6.5MM current salary; entering 2nd to last season of eligibility): Osuna has been effective, but not exceptionally dominant. Having blown five saves, and not been ridden particularly hard by the Houston org, he has accumulated somewhat fewer saves (26) than might have been anticipated for one of the league’s winningest teams. Osuna is still on pace to out-earn every other pitcher on this list in total arbitration earnings, owing to his massive Super Two starting salary.
- Edwin Diaz, Mets ($607K current salary; entering 1st of 3 seasons of eligibility): Though he is still racking up strikeouts, Diaz is also proving exceptionally homer-prone in New York. His 5.56 ERA is an unquestionable disappointment. Still, having already picked up 25 saves and with more yet to come, he is going to command a big first-time arb salary. It just won’t be nearly as much as it would have been had his platform year looked more like his 2018 effort.
- Alex Colome, White Sox ($7.325MM current salary; entering final season of eligibility): The 30-year-old has the saves total (23) and ERA (2.30) of an ace reliever, with the peripherals (7.7 K/9 vs. 3.6 BB/9; 4.53 SIERA, 4.59 xFIP) of a passable middle reliever. There’s an argument to be made that he shouldn’t be tendered, since it’s going to cost a pretty penny, though that seems rather unlikely given that the South Siders decided against trading him when they had the chance this summer.
- Shane Greene, Braves ($4MM current salary; entering final season of eligibility): Unfortunately, Greene blew his shot — his first one, anyway; we’ll see how things progress in Atlanta — at building up his saves tally after being dealt to the Braves. He has already accumulated 22, so he’ll be in line for a nice raise regardless. In his last arb experience, Greene earned a raise of just over $2MM by closing out 32 wins in 2018.
- Hector Neris, Phillies ($1.8MM current salary; entering 2nd to last season of eligibility): The Philadelphia closer is still building on his 21-save figure. He has also already accumulated 68 strikeouts this season.
- Taylor Rogers, Twins ($1.525MM current salary; entering 2nd of 4 seasons of eligibility): The extra year of arbitration afforded by Super Two status sure can pay off. Rogers has 18 saves, 68 strikeouts, and a 2.68 ERA through 53 2/3 innings. A big raise this year will further raise his base for two additional arb trips.
- Luke Jackson, Braves ($585K current salary; entering 1st of 3 seasons of eligibility): Few expected Jackson to remain on the Atlanta roster all year, let alone to accumulate 18 saves and 73 strikeouts to this point. He isn’t especially likely to pad his total down the stretch, having surrendered the job to a still-unsettled cast of incoming relievers, but Jackson ha set the stage regardless for a much-better-than-expected offseason payday.
- Ken Giles, Blue Jays ($6.3MM current salary; entering final season of eligibility): The Toronto organization was never going to win a ton of games, so Giles was never likely to accumulate a huge number of saves. But he’s stuck on 16 owing to an unfortunate elbow issue that arose in the midst of an outstanding season (1.89 ERA, 62 strikeouts in 38 innings). If he had remained healthy and taken over the 9th for a contender, he’d have had much greater earning capacity. Fortunately for Giles, he has a high starting point to build from.
- Hansel Robles, Angels ($1.4MM current salary; entering 2nd to last season of eligibility): Another unexpected save tallier, Robles has picked up 16 with more to come. He has established himself as a key cog in the Halos pen, though it remains to be seen whether he’ll hang onto the closer’s role for 2020.
- Blake Treinen, Athletics ($6.4MM current salary; entering 2nd to last season of eligibility): Treinen enjoyed a record-setting arb run last year but has regressed on the mound, working to a 4.74 ERA with just 8.4 K/9 against 5.7 BB/9 along with an uncharacteristically low 42.9% groundball rate. With 16 saves already logged, Treinen is going to command a not-unsubstantial raise on top of his already hefty salary. It’d be awfully tough to give up on a pitcher with his upside, particularly since he’s still pumping upper-nineties heat, but the tab seems steep for the A’s. If he’s not a non-tender candidate, Treinen will likely be batted around in offseason trade talks.
- Roenis Elias, Nationals ($910K current salary; entering 2nd to last season of eligibility): There’s no real chance that Elias will add to his sum of 14 saves, all accrued with the Mariners before he was dealt to D.C., but that’s still a nice feather in his cap. Elias can also hope to add some holds down the stretch, though he’ll have to work back from the injured list first.
- Liam Hendriks, Athletics ($2.15MM current salary; entering final season of eligibility): Since taking the reigns from Treinen, the breakout Aussie hurler has picked up 13 saves with more to come. While he’s not going to drive a huge raise with the save numbers alone, Hendriks is also pacing this list with a hefty 63 1/3 inning workload and has already recorded 88 strikeouts.