With the Red Sox in the thick of the Wild Card race, will they move on from the “closer by committee?”
A closer by committee approach is not new methodology, but it was Alex Cora‘s plan for the Red Sox in 2019. Through a couple of months, it has largely gone against the anticipated plan of success. Ryan Brasier has been far worse than last season and has been followed by a parade of relievers that include Matt Barnes, Brandon Workman, Marcus Walden, and Heath Hembree, none of whom have been able to lock down the ninth inning.
The amount blown leads in the late innings at this point of the season has been staggering, and with no confidence inspiring options in the farm system, the Red Sox will need to look to the trade market to find a closer if they plan to make a legitimate postseason run.
Historically speaking, the closer has commanded haul of prospects at the deadline that have allowed out of contention teams to cash in on while contenders look to fortify the game’s final innings in the hopes on winning it all. In 2016, the Chicago Cubs gave up a top three overall prospect in the game in Gleyber Torres, to secure a half season of Aroldis Chapman. Of course, this paid dividends for both teams with the Cubs ending one of the longest championship droughts in any sports, while the Yankees acquired a cornerstone player during their rebuild.
This year’s trade market features a handful of potential candidates that would help the Red Sox stabilize their biggest weakness. Closer’s like Ken Giles (Toronto), Will Smith (San Francisco), Felipe Vazquez (Pittsburgh), Rasiel Iglesias (Cincinnati), and Kirby Yates (San Diego) won’t command the haul that a borderline superstar closer like Chapman did in 2016, but none will be had on the cheap, as these teams look to build for the future by maximizing the return on one of their few expendable assets in a lost season. The Red Sox certainly have a need, but with a consensus bottom ranked farm system coming into 2019, do they have the assets to acquire an impact arm as they look to defend their World Series title?
While the farm system is far from fruitful, it does have a couple of intriguing pieces with two prospects entering the Baseball America Top 100 list very recently. The system’s highest ranked prospect coming into 2019, Michael Chavis, has graduated to the majors and has become an everyday player. The second highest ranked prospect, Bobby Dalbec, has shown the type of power and plate discipline (14 HR; .377 OBP in in 57 games in AA) that play well in today’s game. Both play corner positions and will draw plenty of intrigue in any trade deadline package.
As mentioned, Triston Casas and Jarren Duran both entered the Baseball America list and while not yet household names to the casual baseball fan, the duo will likely be among the most sought after names involved in trade talks. Casas’ first round pedigree automatically put’s him on the prospect radar, but his on-field play and projectability as an offensive oriented first/third baseman with plus power has moved him up the list’s in 2019. Duran, a college senior draft pick from Long Beach State, is the fastest rising prospect in the farm system, and possibly all of baseball. The athletic center fielder batted over .400 through the season’s first two month’s and recently was promoted to AA Portland. After hitting .357 with a .910 OPS in just over 300 professional at-bats in 2018, he’s off to a .361/.952 start in 2019. With a major league ETA of 2021, his presence in the farm system looms large with Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. still unsigned past the 2020 season.
The pitching situation in the Red Sox system is far more of a question mark due to large amounts of inconsistencies. Jay Groome, at one point, was the potential top player in his draft class before falling to the Red Sox. In his professional career, he’s dealt with injuries including Tommy John surgey. Tanner Houck has been up-and-down, but’s produced as of late and does have first round pedigree. Travis Lakins, Darwinzon Hernandez, and Bryan Mata have all shown flashes, but currently grade out as organizational depth, rather than impact pieces to be relied upon in the near future. Potential closer of the future, Durbin Feltman had plenty of preseason buzz, but a 5.01 ERA in AA has raised some eyebrows.
The Red Sox are searching for help, but who’s truly untouchable?
Michael Chavis: Hold
Bobby Dalbec: Trade
Triston Casas: Trade
Jarren Duran: Hold
Jay Groome: Trade
Tanner Houck: Trade
Darwinzon Hernandez: Trade
Travis Lakins: Trade
Durbin Feltman: Trade
Bryan Mata: Trade
Triston Casas is the only reluctant trade, but if a true lock down closer becomes available, it will likely take a blue chip prospect to land one. The emergence of Chavis and Duran could prove to make Casas a movable asset. Duran is untouchable because he’s the organization’s most intriguing prospect, and because there is likely to be a void in the outfield after 2020. If he continues to produce offensively, he gives the team a controllable, affordable in-house option.
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