Deep Dive into the Red Sox Bullpen

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The date was October 13th, 2013.  It was a Sunday.  I remember this specific day for a few different reasons.  The Patriots hosted the New Orleans Saints which didn’t really matter because it was an early season matchup.  I do remember that game though.  The RB 2 on my fantasy roster, Steven Ridley, went off.  I think he scored multiple times.  I had just completed a trade to acquire Mr. Ridley so it had a little extra importance.  Contrary to what you may be thinking, Sunday wasn’t spent watching football.

Photo courtesy of chatsports.com
That Sunday I attended a friend’s wedding.  I’ll never forget that.  It was a beautiful event and I had a ton of fun.  It was an outdoor ceremony that was set up perfectly.  The food was awesome too.  Shout out to Sherie and Josh.

After having a blast at the wedding, I tuned into Game 2 of the ALCS.  By the time I put the game on the Sox were already losing.  The Red Sox were taking on the Detroit Tigers with a chance to play in the World Series on the line.  Detroit won game 1 and I remember a lot of bad vibes around the team after that lose.  As I mentioned, Game 2 wasn’t going well.  Boston was losing 5-1 in the bottom of the 8th inning.  Then things began to change.  

The Sox loaded the bases and David Ortiz was walking to the plate.  Not a bad place to be in for the Sox.  Ortiz, the most clutch hitter in the history of the playoffs, was at bat with a chance to tie the game.  The very first pitch that Joaquin Benoit delivered to Ortiz was taken out of the park for a game tying grand slam.  Who could forget the scene when everyone realized Torii Hunter didn’t make the catch?  Fans went nuts, and Boston police officer Steve Horgan stood in the bullpen with his hands above his head in joy.  

Boston would go on to win the game with a single in the bottom of the 9th.  Rick Porcello was on the mound when Salty drove in the game winner.  The future Red Sox starter took the L that night.  Porcello wasn’t the only future Red Sock that was representing Detroit.  Red Sox President of Baseball Operations, David Dombrowski was manning the Tigers at the time. 

Even though Dombrowski has had success as a baseball executive, he has always had one knock against him.  Many of his major defeats were due to having a bad bullpen.  I would say that it is his loudest criticism.  After that home run from Ortiz, the echoes that Dombrowski can’t build a bullpen appeared once again.

Going into this upcoming baseball season, Red Sox fans can’t help but be very skeptical about the bullpen Dombrowski and company has put together.  His track record isn’t the best, and the names on the roster aren’t impressive.  I can understand the early uncertainty, but things might not be as bad as they seem.

This is just a theory.  It could even be a bad theory, but I’m going with it.  It seemed as if the Sox stumbled upon a dominate playoff pen.  Maybe Dave Dombrowski decided to stop throwing money at building his bullpen.  Now he’s just going to bring in a bunch of cheaper options and patch it together as the season goes on.  It seems crazy now, considering the Yankees are hell bent on having the most hyped bullpen in history.  

Remember, it wasn’t long ago when the idea was that relief pitchers could come from all over.  It seemed like relievers just came out of nowhere.  But things changed when the Royals won a World Series due to their strong bullpen.  After that, the market for relief pitchers went through the roof. 

As it stands right now, Ryan Brasier or Matt Barnes will be the closer for the Red Sox this year.  And regardless of who wins that title, both pitchers will be relied upon to help close out wins.  I don’t think anyone is necessarily excited about these options.  Don’t get me wrong, both guys are solid, but I don’t think either is reliable enough to be the choice closer.  Sox fans know all too that Barnes has had his fair share of lows as a Boston reliever.  That’s why I ultimately think and am hoping that Craig Kimbrel will re-sign with the Red Sox.

Kimbrel has been very good since Dombrowski traded for him.  In his 3 years with the Red Sox, Kimbrel sported a 2.44 ERA and had 14.9 strikeout per 9.  For those who are unfamiliar with baseball statistics, that is very good.  Even though last year he didn’t seem like the typical Kimbrel, he still finished with an ERA under 3.  I still think that Dirty Craig is one of the best closers in the MLB.  He is looking for the richest contract in reliever history.  If the Sox went over Wade Davis’ 3 year, $52 million dollar contract, then he would get exactly what he desires.  Let’s say they extend an offer that looks like this: 3 years for 55 million dollars.  That is an average salary of 18.333 million a year.  If the Sox front load it, then it won’t hurt so bad.  Kimbrel made around $14 million this past year, so it is not a ridiculous increase.  Just like John Malkovich said in Rounders…”pay dat mann his moneeyy.”

After Boston brings Kimbrel back on board they do not have to stop with him.  There are still some bullpen pitchers available that could help this team.  None of which should cost the team too much cash.  Of course, that is relative, because they will all make a million plus dollars next year playing baseball. 

Jake Diekman:  I have written about the lefty before.  He is a good bullpen arm and his awkward delivery stikes guys out.  Just a couple seasons ago Diekman posted an ERA of 2.53.  If the organization doesn’t believe that they have a good enough lefty reliever, Jake Diekman may be a good option to bring in this spring.

Bud Norris: Bud Norris saved 28 games for the St. Louis Cardinals last year and has yet to sign with a big league club.  I think after posting a 3.59 ERA in 2018, Boston should give Norris a chance to be in their bullpen in 2019.

Nick Vincent: I can’t lie, I have never really heard about this pitcher.  Nick Vincent has been in the big leagues since 2012.  The 32 year old righty played 4 years in San Diego and 3 seasons in Seattle.  Vincent’s career ERA is 3.17, not too shabby for a depth piece.  He has pitched around 50 innings in 5 out of his 7 seasons in the bigs.  He isn’t a strikeout pitcher, but he does average about a K an inning.  Why not bring him in for a small deal?  Do it, Dave.

It is almost Valentine’s Day and the baseball season is just around the corner.  Boston hasn’t shown any signs that they are looking to add any pitchers.  Well maybe other than Kimbrel.  Why are they so quiet?  Maybe they have some internal options that they think can contribute.

Durbin Feltman: Get used to this name, its one I have mentioned more than once in my articles.  Durbin Sanders Feltman was drafted in the in the 3rd round in last year’s MLB Draft.  In half a season with the organization he posted a sub 2 ERA throughout all single A levels.  He was a closer in college, maybe the best closer in the nation before getting drafted.  The Red Sox have been toying with the idea of fast tracking young pitchers to help in the bullpen if they can.  I think Feltman can help the big league club as soon as this summer.

Colten Brewer: Most people don’t remember the blockbuster trade that the Red Sox made in November.  Boston acquired Colten Brewer for Esteban Quiroz.  Okay, so it was the opposite of a blockbuster, but Brewer is a dark horse to help the bullpen in 2019.  The big right hander throws very hard and has shown his ability to miss bats in the high minors.  He is a ground ball pitcher that could play well in Fenway.  His control has been the reason he hasn’t made it in the majors, so it’s anything but a given that he will be any good.  If the Sox decide to continue the “play it as we go” strategy, fan could see Colten Brewer pitch for the Red Sox. 

Josh Taylor:  Taylor was the left handed pitching prospect Boston received in the Deven Marrero trade in May of 2018.  Taylor has never been a high end prospect, but last year he pitched very well when he entered the Boston organization.  I would guess that he starts the season in Pawtucket, but I think if he continues to pitch like he did last year, he could provide help for the Sox bullpen. 

Who knows how deep Boston will have to dig to provide quality innings for their bullpen.  By the looks of it right now, real deep.  Darwinzon Hernandez, Travis Lakins, and Tanner Houck are all pitchers in the Red Sox system that may get the call.  

Hernandez is currently ranked as the Red Sox number 4 prospect on SoxProspects.com.  He is currently thought to be a starter but was moved into the pen to close out 2018.  He was pretty good as a starter, but was nasty as a lefty reliever.  By the end of the season you could tell he had a better feel for all his stuff.  Hernandez played in the Arizona Fall League and struck out 24 batters in 11 innings.  So out of 33 potential outs, he struck out 24.  Pretty good.  If he stays in the bullpen and continues to develop, he could rise through the minors quickly.  

Lakins is a converted starter who posted a 2.32 ERA in 2018.  He made it all the way to AAA to close the season.  While in Pawtucket he posted a 1.65 ERA.  Given his 2 plus pitches, Lakins could pitch for Boston this year.  

Tanner Houck is a big time long shot.  He was drafted as a starting pitcher in the first round of the 2017 draft.  He hasn’t pitched well as a pro, but showed great improvement at the end of the year.  He has a wild delivery, so if they decide to move him to a relief role, maybe, juuust maybe, Houck could be a factor in 2018.

Who knows what Alex Cora and the front office will decide to do.  They could decide to bring in people from the outside, or they could just roll through their young arms.  Who knows if they will have a good bullpen?  I don’t think anyone really knows.  And Dombrowski’s track record isn’t great.  But I think the Sox organization as has the arm talent to help defend the World Series title. 


Follow me on Twitter @Matty_wests1de

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Boston Sports Syndicate: Deep Dive into the Red Sox Bullpen
Deep Dive into the Red Sox Bullpen
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