Per reports, the New York Yankees have agreed to a 4 year/$36M with left-handed relief pitcher Andrew Miller, a record deal for a non-closer reliever. Miller, who pitched for the Red Sox from 2011 to this year’s trade deadline underwent a major transformation from struggling starter to dominant reliever during his time in Boston and, with his place in the bullpen having been vacated following his trade to the Orioles, was one of the Red Sox’ top targets this offseason. However, with Miller off the table, the Red Sox will be forced to turn to other options to fill the role of dominant left-hander in the bullpen so let’s look at a few of the names that the Red Sox could target this offseason.
- Phil Coke, who you may remember as the Tigers’ closer during their (unsuccessful) World Series run in 2012 or as a piece of the huge Yankees-Tigers-Diamondbacks blockbuster of the 2009-2010 offseason, could be a decent bargain on the free agent market this winter. On the whole, his career statistics are somewhat underwhelming, as he owns a career 4.16 ERA, 6.9 K/9, and 3.3 BB/9– none of which jump out as terribly impressive– and his 2014 numbers weren’t much better with a 3.88 ERA, 6.4 K/9, and 3.1 B/9. However, while his totals aren’t fantastic, Coke has always been quite effective against left-handers, who sport a slash line of .243/.297/.352 against Coke over his career. He certainly shouldn’t be the Red Sox’ first choice but he would be relatively cheap and would likely be an acceptable option.
- Mike Dunn would represent a more attractive name for the Red Sox as the 29-year old has really come into his own during his last two seasons in Miami. Over that pair of seasons, Dunn has appeared in 75 games twice with ERA’s of 2.66 and 3.16, respectively, with K/9 rates of 9.6 and 10.6, developing into a dominant lefty out of the Marlins’ bullpen. With the Marlins attempting to sign their stars to long extensions and clearly gearing towards a bright future (from which they are still a season or two away), it might make sense for them to cash in on a reliever and trade him for some prospects. Provided that the price isn’t too high, the Red Sox certainly have the pieces to conclude a deal and Dunn could be a very intriguing name when the Winter Meetings roll around.
- James Russell was recently tendered a contract by the Braves, meaning that he will cost prospects rather than being a free agent, but he still likely wouldn’t be very expensive and could be another low-cost option for the Red Sox. But while Russell isn’t a dominant force out of the bullpen like Miller or Dunn, he has been a consistent and solid option throughout his career, sporting a career 3.74 ERA and having limited lefties to a .241/.280/.410 slash line over his career. He’s far from the sexiest option available, but for the right price, he could be a good candidate to come out of the Red Sox bullpen.
- Joe Thatcher, during his eight-year career spent mostly in San Diego, has developed into one of the more consistent left-handed relievers around the game. Now a free agent, he hits the market after a season which saw him post a 3.86 ERA– however, showing just his final ERA would not tell the full story of Thatcher’s season. In 37 games and 24 innings for the Diamondbacks to start the season, Thatcher was absolutely dominant, posting a 2.63 ERA to go with a phenomenal 8.33 K/BB. After a midseason trade to the Angels, however, Thatcher was awful, posting an 8.53 ERA over 16 games, though Thatcher did pitch just 6.1 innings in that span and the high ERA is likely due to small sample size. However, it could lower his cost enough to allow Boston to pick him up on the cheap, a move that could pay great dividends.
- Wesley Wright, who was a bright spot on many a miserable Astros team during his younger years, spent the 2014 season in Chicago and had a relatively successful campaign for the Cubs. In 58 games, he posted a 3.17 ERA, 6.9 K/9, and 3.5 BB/9 and has been even more successful in his career against lefties, whom he has held to a .238/.315/.331 slash line in his career. At 29 years old, Wright may require a larger commitment than the other free agents on this list, but he would be an excellent addition to a Red Sox bullpen in dire need of a left-handed reliever.
So, what do you think? Should the Red Sox pursue the players on this list or am I way out of line? Vote on this poll or if you are more intrigued by other names, leave your answer in the comments.