With upgrades to the starting rotation and defense, the Sox have a solid foundation for the 2010 season. Right now, the only glaring weakness is the bullpen. The Sox have the closer and setup men in place (Pap, Bard, and Okajima), but are missing the pieces to bridge the gap if a starter only goes 5 or less innings. When perusing the list of free agents still available, a few names jumped out at me.
One name that I have heard more about lately is Kiko Calero. Calero is a talented rightly who had an excellent 2009 campaign and is the best relief option available. He had 67 appearances and posted a 1.97 era with 69 K’s in 60 innings last season with the Marlins and held his opponents to a .180 batting average. If Calero can stay healthly, he could be a consistent 5th or 6th inning reliever, which is exactly what the Sox are missing.
Another name that popped out at me was a familiar one for Sox fans, Alan Embree. Being a lefty, Embree could be a strong roll-player for the Sox. After a 15 year career in the big leagues, Embree doesn’t have a ton of bullets left, but would bring veteran leadership to the young bullpen and could be used as a lefty specialist, which is a role that is up for grabs. His familiarity with the pressures of Boston and the large market media is certainly a plus for him, allowing him to be comfortable from day one.
The final name, Kevin Gregg, may be unfamiliar to many due to his past three seasons spent in the National League. Gregg won’t wow anyone with his stuff, but each of the past three seasons, has made 70+ appearances out of the pen and held an average era slightly above 4.00. Gregg has quite a bit of experience closing out games, with 84 saves over the past 3 years while playing for the Marlins and Cubs. If the price was right, Gregg would provide some protection to Okajima and Bard in the set-up role and be a solid 6th inning reliever.
Thus far, the Sox have shown no interest in any of the guys mentioned, but I would be surprised if Theo didn’t add another arm to the bullpen before opening day. With the bullpen the Sox currently have, they will need 7 or 8 innings from their starters on a daily basis to win 95+ games. They have more than capable starters, but over the course of a long season, middle relievers you can trust become more and more crucial.