The Red Sox made a pair of, “Hey, why not?” moves last week. We might soon get a better glimpse of whether or not they’ll actually pay off.
The Red Sox signed veteran relievers Jose Contreras and Brandon Lyon to minor league contracts, with the hope being that each has a little something to offer at a reasonable cost. Obviously, the signings didn’t send shock waves throughout baseball, but it’s not unreasonable to think that one or both could end up pitching in Boston this season.
Contreras, who was released by the Pirates last week, gave up five earned runs in five innings with Pittsburgh this season. The 41-year-old spent much of his campaign with Triple-A Indianapolis, where he went 2-0 with a 0.93 ERA in 19 1/3 innings over 16 appearances.
Contreras has twirled 3 2/3 hitless innings since joining Triple-A Pawtucket. It’s a small sample size, but Red Sox manager John Farrell said Thursday that the reports have been encouraging.
“Decent velocity, low 90’s velocity. He still has the swing and miss to the split, at least in what he’s showing while at Pawtucket,” Farrell said of Contreras. “The two innings, the durability is there in terms of the length inside a given outing.”
The Red Sox certainly won’t rely on Contreras to be some bullpen savior, especially given his age, but the right-hander has enjoyed some success in the past. He went 6-4 with a 3.34 ERA in 56 2/3 innings over 67 relief appearances with the Phillies in 2010, so perhaps he could provide some innings down the stretch if the Red Sox are unable to obtain help elsewhere.
The same can be said for Lyon, who turns 34 in August. Lyon was released by the Mets on July 9 after posting an unimpressive 4.98 ERA in 37 appearances, but he enjoyed success while playing for Farrell in Toronto last season.
“He was very consistent,” Farrell said of Lyon. “The strikeout rates were greater than his career norm. A veteran presence who has the ability to make a pitch in a key spot and not solely rely on velocity. He’s at that stage of his career where experience is going to go a long way with his success.”
Lyon was 4-0 with a 2.88 ERA in 30 appearances after being traded to the Blue Jays by the Astros last season. He struck out 28 hitters in 25 innings — an average of 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings — while with Toronto, which, as Farrell noted, blew away his career norm. Lyon has averaged 6.1 strikeouts per nine innings over the course of his 12-year career, but the righty averaged a career-high 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings in his 67 appearances split between Toronto and Houston in 2012.
The Red Sox will continue to be aggressive in pursuing bullpen help before the trade deadline, but acquiring quality relievers this time of year is often costly. The Red Sox might ultimately determine that they’re better off standing pat than giving up quality prospects for a two-month rental or for someone who may or may not help the club down the stretch. If they do stand pat, it could open the door for Contreras and/or Lyon.
“In just talking with [Pawtucket manager] Gary DiSarcina, both [Contreras] and Brandon Lyon have been eager to get on the mound,” Farrell said. “They both had about 10 days down before they signed and reported to Pawtucket. They know that there’s opportunity here. When that presents itself at the major leagues is to be determined. But two veteran guys that are in good shape and healthy.”
Being in good shape and healthy just might be enough to warrant a look if nothing materializes on the trade market.