The Answer to Boston’s Bullpen Problem

It’s no secret that the weakest link for the 2019 Red Sox is their bullpen.

The departure of Joe Kelly and likely departure of Craig Kimbrel leaves plenty of innings to be filled. As the reliever market grows thinner, time is running out to sign someone who can be immediately inserted into the big league bullpen.

Up to this point, Dombrowski’s been looking for the next Ryan Brasier through acquisitions like Colten Brewer, Zach Putnam, Erasmo Ramirez, and Jenrry Mejia. While these guys have high upside, none of them are poised to make an immediate impact at the MLB level. As Spring Training approaches, there aren’t many big names left on the reliever market. Fortunately, the Red Sox may not need a big name to drastically improve their bullpen.

LHP Xavier Cedeno was non-tendered by the Milwaukee Brewers back in November. The Brewers gave up two low-level prospects for Cedeno at the non-waiver trade deadline in 2018. He was mainly used as a lefty-specialist and allowed only one run over eight innings pitched.

On the season, Cedeno made 48 appearances for the Brewers and White Sox. In 33.1 innings, he pitched to a 2.43 ERA with a FIP of 2.95 and an xFIP of 3.50. Since 2015, he’s thrown 123.2 Innings and posted a 3.06 ERA with a 3.38 FIP and an xFIP of 3.45. Despite missing most of 2017, he’s proven himself to be a consistent reliever over the past four seasons.

Cedeno is a two-pitch pitcher. He throws his cutter most of the time but also possesses a nasty curveball that had an average spin rate of 2860 in 2018 (ranked 21st among pitchers who threw at least 500 pitches). His two-pitch approach has proven to be effective in inducing ground balls and limiting the long ball, something that will be of use when pitching in a hitter-friendly ballpark like Fenway.

Most importantly, Cedeno can get lefties out. In 2018, Boston’s bullpen had a 4.20 xFIP against LHH compared to a 3.95 xFIP against RHH. Over 58.1 innings combined, Kelly had a 3.53 xFIP against lefties while Kimbrel had an xFIP of 3.68, good for 2nd and 3rd best among Boston’s relievers with at least 10 IP against LHH in 2018. With the departure of these two guys, Barnes is the only reliever left who was efficient at getting lefties out (2.53 xFIP over 23.1 IP in 2018 vs LHH). In 2018, Cedeno had a 1.15 ERA against LHH with a 2.01 FIP and 3.17 xFIP.

As far as I’m concerned, Xavier Cedeno is exactly what Boston’s bullpen needs: a proven LHP whose pitching method would work well in Fenway. Cedeno would join Johnson and possibly Poyner as the only lefties in the bullpen. Given that Barnes will likely be the closer, Cedeno will give Cora the ability to play the matchups against lefties in crucial situations.

Someone get this man in a Red Sox uniform.

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