Red Sox’ search for left-handed reliever could have internal solution

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Even after signing Craig Breslow to a 1 year/$2M contract on Friday night, the Red Sox bullpen has a dire need for a dominant left-handed reliever. With high-grade free agent options like Andrew Miller and Zach Duke already having signed, however, there are few available players that could fill Boston’s left-handed relief vacancy. Thus, the Red Sox may be forced to turn to internal solutions and give one of their young guns the gig, so let’s examine our options in that regard.

  • Drake Britton burst onto the scene during his first MLB stint with the Red Sox during the stretch run of the 2013 season, beginning his big league career with ten shutout innings from the bullpen. He faltered a bit towards the end of the season, though, as his ERA rose to 3.86 in 18 games and he missed the postseason roster. Britton began the 2014 season in Triple-A Pawtucket and he struggled to the tune of a 5.86 ERA, walking more hitters than he struck out during 58.1 innings for the PawSox. That poor performance prevented him from being promoted until roster expansion in September, though he did turn in a quality, albeit brief, performance in Boston, tossing 6.2 shutout innings. Britton has struggled with command throughout his career and has not struck out enough batters to overlook his walk troubles, giving him a slim chance at opening the 2015 season in the Boston bullpen.
  • Edwin Escobar, acquired from the Giants in the Jake Peavy trade, has been a starter throughout his entire minor league career. However, 2015 could be the season that the Red Sox begin his inevitable transition to the bullpen. A former top prospect for the Giants, Escobar hasn’t necessarily been bad as a starter apart from his 2014 performance in Triple-A, where he posted a 4.94 ERA between Fresno and Pawtucket. Escobar still might be destined for a bullpen role, though, as his career has been defined by severe lefty-right splits. While Escobar has been dominant against fellow lefties, limiting them to a .200/.244/.230 slash line in 2014, righties have crushed him, coasting to a ridiculous .323/.383/.576 line. Those incredibly pronounced splits could lead to a bullpen role sooner rather than later and he could be a strong candidate to serve as Boston’s lefty reliever this season.
  • Tommy Layne, a non-roster invitee before the 2014 season, put together a strong case for this year’s left-handed reliever position over the course of last season. Layne was excellent in Pawtucket, posting a 1.50 ERA in 37 games for the PawSox, before his promotion to Boston, where he was even better. In 30 games for the Red Sox, he had a stingy 0.95 ERA, which was admittedly unsustainable given his 3.08 FIP, and also limited lefties to an encouraging .159/.229/.182 slash line. While Layne’s overall ERA will likely rise in the coming season, his dominance versus left-handed hitters is valuable and could place him as the frontrunner to win the job.

So, should the Red Sox use one of these three pitchers to fill that vacancy or should they continue to explore free agency and the trade market? Tell us what you think in the poll as well as the comment section.