Red Sox Must Follow Up Adrian Gonzalez Signing by Addressing Bullpen Issues

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Red Sox Must Follow Up Adrian Gonzalez Signing by Addressing Bullpen Issues The Red Sox scored 818 runs in 2010 — over five per game and good for second best in the majors. They compiled an OPS of .790 as a team — the best in the majors at nearly four fifths of a base per at-bat. Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis and just about everybody you've heard of other than Marco Scutaro and Adrian Beltre missed significant time. If you add Adrian Gonzalez to that equation, it's tough to really say that the team needs more offense.

Many wanted to see the Sox sign both Gonzalez and either Jayson Werth or Carl Crawford, but that clearly isn't in the cards. Werth's seven year, $126 million deal was ridiculous, and has surely set the market so that Crawford's contract will be nearly unimaginable — but, is outfield really even a position of need? Sure, a Mike Cameron, J.D. Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury outfield may not be star-studded, but it's clearly more than serviceable — especially given the depth at the position that 2010 brought to light.

The clear position of need is on the mound. The Sox are unquestionably in the market for bullpen help. They even considered Mariano Rivera, but they're going to have to execute. Joaquin Benoit posted a 1.34 ERA in 63 appearances for Tampa Bay last season — good enough to earn him a three year, $16.5 million deal from the Detroit Tigers.  That may sound expensive — but compared to the amount of risk and money that go into signing a big-name position player, it's almost a no-brainer. Crawford added 4.8 wins above replacement for Tampa in 2010, while Benoit added 2.4 — yet Benoit's contract is a minuscule portion of what Crawford will receive. Rivera's 3 wins above replacement at $15 million per year seems massively more frugal than acquiring Crawford's 4.8.

Simply put, spending on a bullpen is a more efficient means of making a team better — and one that the Sox are in desperate need of. If Benoit had replaced the average performance of a Red Sox reliever for the 60 innings he pitched last year, the team's bullpen ERA would have been over a third of a run lower.

So, the options are out there. Scott Downs is just one of the many names floated around, and with winter meetings in progress, you'd have to think that just about every team would be willing to give up strong bullpen arms for the right price. Boston should go ahead and offer it.

Should the Red Sox now focus all of their attention on upgrading the bullpen? Leave your thoughts below.

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