The Boston Red Sox could cast a wide net in their search for bullpen help.
But what exactly are they fishing for?
The Red Sox, like most contenders, will be linked to a bunch of relievers leading up to the Major League Baseball non-waiver trade deadline, with Baltimore Orioles left-hander Zach Britton already emerging as a potential target. Such is life ahead of July 31, as teams are looking to assemble the perfect collection of arms for the stretch run and the postseason, where pressure mounts and late-inning matchups can be the difference between an early exit and playing deep into October.
All told, each rumor should be taken with a grain of salt, especially since it can be difficult to pinpoint which specific relievers certain clubs might be eyeing. We can deduce possible fits, sure, but there are so many variables involved — a pitcher’s track record, his salary/proximity to free agency, the team’s asking price, etc. — that a blanket statement like “Team X is searching for bullpen help” is as nebulous as it is obvious.
The Red Sox have a fairly solid bullpen as constituted, with Craig Kimbrel serving as the closer and viable hurlers like Joe Kelly, Matt Barnes and Heath Hembree bridging the gap to the ninth inning. Tyler Thornburg and Drew Pomeranz represent two wild cards, as well. It’s entirely possible — if not likely — they’ll focus on acquiring a low-cost rental, especially since Boston’s farm system isn’t great and the Red Sox seemingly would like to stay under the $237 million luxury tax threshold to avoid additional tax penalties and losing 10 spots in next June’s draft.
(The Red Sox currently are approximately $3 million under the $237 million threshold, according to the Boston Sports Journal.)
That would explain any potential interest in pitchers like Jerry Blevins, Aaron Loup, Jake Diekman or even Britton, an elite closer whose value is nearly impossible to gauge based on his recent injuries and impending free agency. Each could help, but none — except maybe Britton — should require a significant trade package.
But what if the Red Sox have higher aspirations? What if they try to reel in a big fish?
While perhaps far-fetched, given the aforementioned constraints, it reportedly isn’t out of the question, if we’re to believe a report from ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick.
“The Red Sox are blanketing the relief market, and they’re aiming higher than just a depth piece,” Crasnick wrote in a piece published Wednesday. “Craig Kimbrel is a free agent in November, and the Sox are looking for a reliever who’s an upgrade rather than a complement to Joe Kelly, Matt Barnes, et al.”
Sources told Crasnick the Red Sox checked in with the Colorado Rockies about Wade Davis and Adam Ottavino, and Boston reportedly sent a top evaluator to watch Kyle Barraclough of the Miami Marlins.
“They’re not just looking to get an eighth-inning reliever” an evaluator for a competing club told Crasnick. “They’re looking to get a guy. A real guy.”
Make of that what you will. It’s probably still a long shot the Red Sox aggressively pursue a premium reliever, like Brad Hand or Felipe Vazquez, over the next few weeks, but Boston president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has shown a willingness in the past to make bold moves.
Expect him to at least chum the waters in this instance.
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