The Red Sox continue to improve their bullpen and their chances in 2011 by signing a familiar AL East foe, Dan Wheeler. Wheeler is a solid late-inning righty who has spent the last 3 seasons terrorizing the Sox with the Tampa Bay Rays. In 37 games against, Wheeler allowed the Sox a .168 batting average against mark, his best against any AL team. With this signing, it is becoming more and more clear that the Sox are looking to bulk up their bullpen options, preparing for some stiff competition in the Spring. They have added both veteran late-inning guys (Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler) as well as younger, unproven talent (Andrew Miller and Clevelan Santeliz). The team understands a team can never have enough arms throughout the course of a long season.
The 1-year, $3 million deal for Wheeler is perfect for the Sox, because they didn’t want to give any free agent relievers more than 2 years. In principal, relievers tend to be inconsistent (except in rare cases), so signing longer-term deals is a huge risk and can back-fire quite easily. The deal for Wheeler has an added bonus for the Sox, including a vesting option for 2012 if he appears in 65 games. If the Sox want to bring him on for a 2nd year, they have that option, but could just as easily walk away if things don’t work out. The deal also includes a bonus for that 2nd year option if Wheeler appears in 75 games (he will earn an addition $250,000). All in all, it is a great move for the Sox and along with Bobby Jenks, Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon, Wheeler likely fills the remaining middle-to-late inning bullpen spot.
With just about 2 months until pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers, FL, the Sox lineup and rotation look to be in great shape. There are still many issues to be dealt with, including lineup positioning, starting rotation order and selecting the final spot or 2 in the bullpen, but those decisions will begin to iron themselves out in February and March, not in December. This off-season continues to be a huge success for the entire Red Sox organization, but success is measured in wins and losses on the field, not on the transaction log.