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Signed RHP Masahide Kobayashi to a Two-Year, $6.25M Contract ($3.25 2010 Club Option)

Kobayashi, unlike his countryman Daisuke Matsuzaka, didn't have to go through the posting process. That helped, since there were at least two other teams interested in him. Because the Indians are again an attractive place to play, they were able to land in their estimation a top-echelon reliever for an affordable price. Best case scenario: he gives the Indians another excellent setup man and backup closer. Worst case scenario: he'll be off the payroll in two seasons. Plus, if he stays effective through 2010, he'd be under the Indians' control for another three seasons.

Even though Kobayashi has considerable closing experience in Japan, he cost much less in dollars and years than Franciso Cordero, who signed a four-year, $46M deal to close for the Reds. Scott Linebrink got a four-year, $19M deal to set up for the White Sox. I can sort of understand the Cordero contract - the Reds really need help in the bullpen, and they weren't going to use the money anywhere else. But four years for a non-closer, much less one who struggled down the stretch last year?  

After the 2003 season, these were the top 15 relievers in baseball, measured by WXRL:

  1. Eric Gagne
  2. Keith Foulke
  3. Billy Wagner
  4. Brendan Donnelly
  5. Mariano Rivera
  6. Latroy Hawkins
  7. John Smoltz
  8. Rheal Cormier
  9. Damaso Marte
  10. Joe Borowski
  11. Octavio Dotel
  12. Guillermo Mota
  13. Shigatoshi Hasegawa
  14. Matt Mantei
  15. Tim Worrell
Leaving out Smoltz, and given what you know now, how many of those relievers would you have give a four-year contract of any dollar value to? Rivera, Wagner, and ??? Relievers as a whole have an extremely short shelf life. Giving out four-year deals to any reliever is a big risk, to say nothing of giving one to a pitcher whose strikeout rates dropped precipitously in 2007.