<
>
Get ESPN+

Three relievers who could make big money this winter

Despite a glut of relievers on the free-agent market, Boston bullpen hero Joe Kelly is in line for a big payday this winter. AP Photo/David J. Phillip

A week before the playoffs began, Joe Kelly was right on the cutting edge of Boston's postseason roster because of a September slump and concerns about his consistency. But now, a week after Kelly was an October hero for the Red Sox, he is set up to be paid well in free agency, in an offseason in which a lot of relievers may be disappointed by the offers they receive.

The swell of free-agent relievers will be well over 50 by the time teams complete their decisions to tender contract offers (or not) -- more than double the number of relievers who have been on the open market in most winters. Bullpen guys have become to MLB what running backs are to NFL franchises: They are used heavily for a short period of time, working through heightened risk of injury, and because breakdown is inevitable, most relievers don't get the big payoffs.

But as with last winter, some free-agent relievers will land good deals, such as: