Major league baseball GMs will pay big money for a pitcher who can come in during a tough situation and get a strikeout with the bases loaded and the game on the line, preserving a one-run victory. Just ask Ruben Amaro, Jr., who dished out a record $50 million for four-time All-Star closer Jonathan Papelbon, or the New York Yankees, who paid $35 million the other year for Rafael Soriano to pitch the seventh inning of ballgames.
The best relievers in the game don’t pitch much more than 60 or 70 innings per season but if used at the right time, those innings can amount to more than a handful of wins in the annual realm, which can really make the difference between whether a team is playing ball in October or watching their division rival compete for a World Series.
Each team employs about six to eight relievers at any given time, which leaves several hundred to pick from when the players on the disabled list are factored in. This won’t be a traditional list that just looks at the best closers and essentially ranks them; you will find more than your fair share of setup men and even the occasional LOOGY (lefty one-out guy) in with the selection of closers.