As we finish off our review of the top available free agents, we come to an area in which the Indians won't be making any huge splashes.
Here's my list of the top couple tiers of relievers. In other words, these are the pitchers that will be getting multi-year deals.
RHP David Robertson
LHP Andrew Miller
RHP Pat Neshek
RHP Francisco Rodriguez
LHP Luke Gregerson
RHP Rafael Soriano
RHP Jason Frasor (already re-signed with the Royals)
RHP Luke Hochever (already re-signed with the Royals)
RHP Casey Janssen
LHP Zach Duke (already signed with the White Sox)
Buying relief pitching at retail prices is generally not something to you want to be doing, especially as a mid-market club, for a couple reasons. First, you're getting less production for your money here than in other areas of the club, and second, the volatility of relievers as a group is much greater than position players or starting pitcher. In addition, it tends to be a lot easier to develop a relief pitcher than position players or starting pitchers. And I include in that development bucket starters who couldn't make in the rotation but found a home in the bullpen. If as a club you're having to buy an entirely new bullpen every couple years, you're doing things wrong on the development side.
The Indians lost nobody from last year's bullpen to free agency, and although that's no guarantee that they'll have a good bullpen in 2015, it should mean that you won't be hearing any reference to the Indians among the top relievers on the free agent market. They will probably sign several relievers to one-year major-league deals or minor-league contracts in the hopes that one of them turns to be next year's Scott Atchison, or perhaps get a reliever as part of a larger trade.
As things stand now, we're probably looking at a bullpen of Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, Scott Atchison, Scrabble, Kyle Crockett, Zach McAllister, and Nick Hagadone, assuming that Terry Francona gets his eight-man bullpen. McAllister is out of options, and did pitch well late last year in relief. I do think that the Indians could trade Scrabble or even Shaw if the return is good enough, as they have a group of relievers at the AAA level (CC Lee, Austin Adams, etc) that could start to take on high-leverage roles next season. But even with this projected depth, it's always good to bring in more options. Just about every main cog in last year's bullpen set personal highs in appearances and innings, and that may have an effect in 2015.
Just don't expect those new options to come via the top tier of free agency.