Photo Credit: AP / David J. Phillip

The Red Sox bullpen has been an important facet of early season success. Will they look to bolster this group before the end of the season?

At every stage of Dave Dombrowki’s career, there have been bullpen falters that led to an ultimate World Series demise. Most recently, Red Sox fans will remember when the Detroit Tigers bullpen imploded – leading to a David Ortiz grand slam off Joaquin Benoit – and a Sox series win in 2013.

Last season, it was very evident that Dealin’ Dave would not let history repeat itself, this time in Boston. The aggressive general manager pursued Addison Reed to help solidify a very formidable bullpen.

To Dombrowski’s credit, it was not the bullpen that caused the Red Sox to fall to the Houston Astros – rather a buzz-saw of an offense that dismantled the rest of the competition en route to a World Series title.

Now a year later, let’s take inventory of the Red Sox bullpen with some power rankings.

1. Craig Kimbrel

2. Joe Kelly

3. Matt Barnes

4. Hector Velazquez

5. Brandon Workman

6. Heath Hembree

7. Bobby Poyner

8. Austin Maddox *

9. Brian Johnson

10. Tyler Thornburg *

Honorable Mentions: Justin Haley, Marcus Walden, Robby Scott

The first three choices are a relative lock with the potential of Barnes and Kelly flip-flopping. After Kimbrel / Kelly / Barnes there is a relative cluster of mediocrity and starters that are performing bullpen duties.

At the moment, Wright is locked into the starting rotation with Drew Pomeranz on the mend; however his strong performance may lead to a re-shuffling of the bullpen. Additionally, Hector has performed admirably out of the bullpen, despite being used primarily as a starter throughout his career.

Carson Smith was recently deemed out for the season with a shoulder injury. This will likely force the Red Sox to search elsewhere for bullpen reinforcement.

It’s hard to rank Thornburg as he has yet to throw a pitch as a member of the major league roster. Assuming he returns at full strength, it shouldn’t be long before he ascends up the list. Additionally, Maddox was a valuable bullpen piece last season and should see plenty of usage upon his return from injury.

Keep an eye on draft pick, Durbin Feltman, if he makes a quick ascension through the minor league ranks.

Potential Trade Options:

–  Kelvin Herrera

The hard throwing reliever is nothing more than a rental option for teams; however he’s a very solid option. The Royals’ closer has allowed three earned runs all season while proving that he’s going to get paid a hefty amount of money as a free agent next season.

As a rental, it is possible that he may be had at a cheaper price, but due to the heavy interest league-wide, Dayton Moore will do his very best to drive the asking price up.

–  Brad Hand –

As it stands, Hand is one of the premium bullpen arms that will be available at the mid-summer’s Trade Deadline. The Padres are in the middle of a rebuild, but won’t be inclined to move a reliever that won’t hit free agency until 2022.

The Red Sox certainly could use Hand’s flexibility to appear in a variety of innings, in addition to solidifying a lefty specialist.

He possesses a 1.83 ERA while featuring multiple two-inning saves. Due to his team control, the Sox would have to part with a few prospects in order to acquire his services.

–  Joakim Soria –

The veteran closer has had a solid season in Chicago – as exemplified by his two saves against the Red Sox this past weekend. Soria in no means is a premier option for any contending club, but does have the experience that teams look for in October.

The Red Sox would likely be able to retain any big prospect to acquire the veteran closer, which would be a bonus for a very thin farm system. Soria is set to become a free agent in 2020, but could certainly become a valuable addition to the Sox bullpen this season.