Of all the shortcomings that the Red Sox have featured this season, the bullpen is arguably the biggest. This season Boston has used 14 relievers, who have combined to hold a 3.89 ERA in 284.1 innings pitched, which rank 22nd and 6th in the MLB respectively. While Boston’s shaky starting staff has taxed the pen to this point, their time spent on the mound has not resulted in a positive manner.
The blame pie is hardly shared equally among Boston’s relief core. Arms like Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa have been dynamite once again anchoring the Red Sox pen. And even though guys like Alexi Ogando and Tommy Layne have their fair share of red flags going forward, their limitations pale in comparison to other names in Boston’s relief core. But nothing gets better if the Red Sox just point fingers. There needs to be action in order to fix the pen and charge up the standings.
First things first, clear some of the dead wood out off the roster. Craig Breslow, Robbie Ross Jr, and Matt Barnes should be cleared from the pen. In their place, Boston must go outside the organization to reel in a solid arm to plug to holes on a sinking ship. Since the market is chock full of late innings relievers, perhaps the most intriguing option is to grab a guy like old friend Jonathan Papelbon. Since leaving Boston, the 34 year old has been nails for the less-than-perfect Philadelphia Phillies. This season, the closer possesses a 1.60 ERA and a 2.75 FIP in 33.2 innings pitched for the NL East bottom feeders. The 2015 campaign marks the last year on his 4 year, $50 million contract that he signed in the winter of 2011.
In this scenario, Boston’s bullpen would feature a potentially deadly 7th-8th-9th inning punch. Since Papelbon is in his contract year, and Koji Uehara has probably signed his last big league contract, the former 2007 World Series champ would assume Boston’s 9th inning. Uehara would then be required to handle the 8th inning set-up duties, while Junichi Tazawa would boast a dominate 7th inning option. Meanwhile, Boston starters will more-or-less need to just get through 6 effective innings, before turning it over to the pen. The Red Sox can then use Ogando more scarcely, which could push Farrell to use Tommy Layne as more of a lefty-only reliever, and subsequently open up a spot for a long reliever like Steven Wright. The seventh and final spot in Boston’s pen could be used experimentally perhaps with an arm like Joe Kelly.
Adding Papelbon, or any solid late innings arm for that matter, would provide an instant fix for Boston. In summation, the team would be rolling with Papelbon, Uehara, Tazawa, Ogando, Layne, Wright, Kelly(?) as opposed to their current set up of Uehara, Tazawa, Ogando, Layne, Breslow, Barnes, Ross Jr. And since Philly is desperatly trying to move the free agent to be, Papelbon, the Red Sox could add a much needed quality arm for a miniscule cost.
- The Red Sox have the chips to add talent to their roster come the trade deadline. Trading away quality minor leaguers that are banging on the major league door could help Boston close the gap between themselves and the Yankees. (How Red Sox can add talent at trading deadline)
- With Clay Buchholz on the shelf right now, the Red Sox have momentarily turned to 22-year old Eduardo Rodriguez as the staff ace. However, with innings count being closely monitored, the team can not expect the rookie to shoulder the load of the rotation. (Why Red Sox won’t be able to treat Eduardo Rodriguez like an ace)
- David Ortiz is a player that fellow major leaguers gravitate towards, so it shouldn’t come as a shock that one of the best hitters today wanted to bring himself closer to Big Papi. (Nelson Cruz wanted to sign with Red Sox past 2 seasons)
- Good news: Yoan Moncada looks like he’s worth the truck load of money the Boston dumped on him this winter. (Brace yourself for the blazing speed of Yoan Moncada’s inside-the-park home run)
- Tweet of the day: \o/