It’s never too early for offseason talk. The Boston Red Sox will seek to bolster the bullpen in an effort to defend their crown.
Despite being disregarded as a weakness for the Red Sox nearly all season, the bullpen powered Alex Cora‘s club to a World Series championship in 2018. Now, with a couple of pending UFA’s in Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly, Dave Dombrowski will seek to bolster a unit that may see a bit of change.
It would be ideal to see a lot of the same players back in Boston in 2019; however the challenge for all World Series winners is to bounce back and improve next season. There is reason to believe that the Red Sox may be without Craig Kimbrel next season, as he’s expected to receive a multi-year contract in the ballpark of $16.5 million per year. It’s clear that the Sox have a back up plan in place with Dombrowski giving both Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier a vote of confidence; however it’d be foolish to rely solely on the aforementioned players.
Here’s a list of relievers that the Red Sox may pursue this offseason:
LHP Andrew Miller / Cleveland Indians (Expected Contract: 3 years / $54 Million)
It would be very prudent for the Sox to pursue their old friend. As many know, Miller was a member of the 2013 Red Sox before being dealt to the Baltimore Orioles, in exchange for Eduardo Rodriguez, the following season.
The lefty has been a fixture of dominance throughout the American League over the past few seasons. Last year, he posted his lowest ERA (4.24) since 2011; however the outlier may be attributed to a case of the injury bug. The Indians’ closer did not receive a Qualifying Offer – meaning if Boston were to sign Miller, they would not forfeit a draft pick in consolation.
The Red Sox had a major hole in the bullpen due to the lack of a lefty, but were able to navigate through the postseason with starters performing irregular duties. Simply put, it remains to be seen whether Bobby Poyner is a viable option, in addition to the sporadic performances of Robby Scott. Signing the big lefty would fill the gap that has been prevalent, or could sure up the closer spot if Kimbrel were to sign elsewhere.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see Andrew Miller back in Boston next season.
RHP Kelvin Herrera / Washington Nationals (Expected Contract: 4 years / $50 Million)
Herrera was one of the Red Sox biggest targets throughout last season’s Trade Deadline. The hard throwing righty had emerged from being the closer in Kansas City, to a headline closer in Washington. There were certainly struggles in our nation’s capital, posting a 4.34 ERA, but the upside is prevalent.
The former Nationals’ bullpen piece did suffer a season-ending injury to his left foot, but is expected to be ready for Spring Training. He won’t see Craig Kimbrel or Kenley Jansen-type money (5 years / $80 million), but he’ll get paid heavily for his resume thus far. Herrera is only 28 years old and will likely command a deal with an annual value of roughly $10-12 million. A 4 year / $50 million deal is likely and may be worth the investment.
If the Red Sox are to pursue Herrera, it will likely be due to the conclusion that prospect Durbin Feltman is not ready for Major League action. It’s certainly an added bonus that Herrera was unable to receive a Qualifying Offer due to a midseason trade; however it wouldn’t be too surprising to see him in Boston.
RHP Adam Ottavino / Colorado Rockies (Expected Contract: 4 year / $36 million)
The Rockies’ reliever features one of the best wipeout sliders in all of Major League Baseball and has been quietly hiding out in the NL West for the duration of his career. Ottavino posted a career best 2.43 ERA and a 13 K/9, also a career high.
Colorado would certainly like to retain an arm that could be a future closer, but paying a 32 year old setup man may not be prudent for the long term of the organization. The Red Sox could seek to add Ottavino whether, or not, they re-sign Kimbrel. He’d likely fill in for Joe Kelly if he signed elsewhere and would make an immediate impact out of the Sox bullpen.
Ottavino has followed a similar career path to Addison Reed, who is expected to see a contract in the 4 year / $36 million range according to Spotrac. The expected price tag is quite reasonable in terms of the reliever’s output. A high K/9 fits the archetype that Dave Dombrowski has compiled at the back-end of the bullpen.
LHP Tony Sipp / Houston Astros (Expected Contract: 2 years / $7.5 million)
The left-handed journeyman would immediately fill the role of a much-needed lefty specialist. Sipp posted a 1.86 ERA last season and held LHH’s to a .191 batting average.
In addition to solid production, Sipp has familiarity with Alex Cora and bullpen coach, Craig Bjornson, from their time in Houston. There is reason to believe that the Astros will seek to retain him; however the Red Sox could desperately use some left-handed help. Financially, the 35 year old will likely receive a shorter deal with higher annual value, hence the projected contract.
Tony Watson of the San Francisco Giants received a 3 year / $9 million deal last season. A player with a similar career path shows that market value doesn’t command a huge number, but there’s still a solid annual value. As one that clamored for the Red Sox to sign Watson last season, it would be prudent for the Red Sox to inquire on Sipp or Oliver Perez during the offseason.
There’s certainly no guarantee that the Red Sox will sign any of the mentioned players, but each has relative ties to members of the Sox organization. Dombrowski’s aggressiveness in the reliever market will be heavily influenced by the decisions of Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly.
Stay tuned for your extensive coverage of the Red Sox offseason moves.