You can never have too many relievers. At least that seems to be the mindset of the Boston Red Sox as they enter the 2023 Major League Baseball season.
Boston has completely revamped its bullpen this offseason by adding Kenley Jansen, Chris Martin, Joely Rodríguez and Wyatt Mills to a group that ranked 26th in ERA (4.59), 22nd in WHIP (1.36) and 18th in saves (39).
The Red Sox made another move Monday as they dealt Matt Barnes to the Miami Marlins for left-handed reliever Richard Bleier.
At 35-years-old, Bleier has played for six MLB organizations since being drafted in 2008, including AL East rivals like the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles. A left-handed specialist, Bleier held lefties to a slash line of .256/.287/.389 with just one home run in 94 plate appearances last season. In 55 total appearances, he went 2-2 with a 3.55 ERA.
Though he isn’t a strikeout guy, Bleier specializes in soft contact, ranking in the 90th percentile in that category in 2022. A soft tosser, Bleier utilizes a sinker, cutter, slider, changeup and fastball, but throws his fastball the least of those five pitches. His presence in the pen will bring something Alex Cora basically did not have last year, which was a lefty who can come in and get out left-handed batters.
Though he does own the MLB record of three baulks in one inning, Bleier is extremely consistent and has notched a 3.06 ERA over the course of 306 career appearances while holding lefties to a .225 average and .573 OPS. He’s also a college teammate of Chris Sale, which is fun.
The move serves as yet another instance of the Red Sox improving the depth of their roster, having suffered through a deep drop off from their most effective bullpen arms in 2022 (John Schreiber and Garrett Whitlock) to their least (Barnes, Hansel Robles and Hirokazu Sawamura).
Bleier is under contract for $3.5 million in 2023 and has a club option for 2024, so the Red Sox have control of him for two seasons.