Well, we are already off to the races in the silly season. Technically, it doesn't open until tomorrow, but the Tigers essentially fired the first shot by re-signing Todd Jones to a one year contract worth $7M, which represents, roughly, a $2.2M raise over his 2007 salary.
The shoulder injury suffered by Joel Zumaya likely provided the impetus for the move, but the Jones contract is the type that can set the market for other available relievers. A few years ago, the Mets set the market by signing Kris Benson to a very high (at the time) contract which subsequently increased the asking price on all starting pitchers.
In 2007, Todd Jones pitched 61.3 innings, posted a 4.26 ERA, a 1.42 WHIP, and a K/BB ratio of 33/23. His performance earned him 6 Total Win Shares. However, in 2007, Todd Jones had a WSAB (Win Shares Above Bench) of only 2.
Here's the definition of WSAB:
Win Shares Above Bench, or Baseline. WSAB is a refined approach to Win Shares, in which each player's total Win Shares are compared to the Win Shares an average bench player would have received, given that player's time at bat, on the mound or in the field.
So, in short, the Tigers just gave Todd Jones a $7M contract for doing something only marginally better than any average bench player would have posted. It hardly seems like a sound business decision to pay so much for production that almost equals that of an average bench player.
Unfortunately, this contract may set the market for all relievers on the free agent market, which is why there are very few good values to be realized on the free agent market.
The Reds need to be wise and not spend their money like the Tigers. The Reds should only pay for production that is unique (i.e. well above bench/replacement level production) and, hence, difficult to obtain anywhere else.