Even before Jonathan Papelbon blew a save on Wednesday night in Denver, the Red Sox needed help in the back end of the bullpen. Daniel Bard can not go two innings each game the Sox are leading in a close game in going into the eighth inning.
Both Papelbon and Hideki Okajima’s production have been trending downward over the past few seasons. Okajima’s K/BB ratio has fallen each since he arrived in Boston. He is becoming more of a situational reliever.
Papelbon’s K/BB ratio dropped like an anchor last season to 3.17 from an incredible 9.63 in 2008 and has fallen to 2.08 in 2010. He is still a productive closer, but I don’t brush my teeth when he comes into the game. Papelbon is hittable now and not going two innings. The Olde Towne Team has to get another reliever to give the club a trifecta of late inning relievers.
Unfortunately, most upper level top Red Sox prospects probably are not seen as valuable assets. Most are not performing very well, aside from Jose Iglesias and Felix Doubrount. Iglesias is not going anywhere. He is penciled in as the 2012 Opening Day starting shortstop. Doubrount is unlikely to be moved for bullpen assistance, as he could help in that area himself later in the summer. But the southpaw is unlikely to be the answer for the Sox late inning pitching woes, since he currently does not have swing-and-miss stuff for the Show.
The Red Sox may not have all of the assets to exchange as they did in 2007, when they acquired Eric Gagne for David Murphy, Kason Gabbard and Engel Beltre. (The trade did not work out well but it was a solid acquisition at the time.) It seems the only asset Yawkey Way has to offer is the financial flexibility to add to payroll. So get ready for the big addition to the pen being Kerry Wood and his $10.5 million salary or could the Sox get lucky again like last year and score another Billy Wagner reliever? I’m hoping for the later.