The Big Dig took 15 years and 15B to complete and, hopefully, the reconstruction of the Red Sox bullpen will require less time and dollars.
Where I live we have a landfill operated by the town and Waste Management Corporation. When I take vegetation to the landfill I see trucks entering with just plain old garbage. A truck could easily contain the Red Sox bullpen. A disaster in 2015. I am positive the new architect of the team, Dave Dombrowski, has a “list” and on that list – probably near the top – is a line saying “rebuild bullpen.”
What do they have to work with? What is worth retaining and what needs to be jettisoned? Junichi Tazawa has been a staple and racks up his usual 70+ games. Now Tazawa has assumed the closer duties and the fatigue is starting to show. The plus is Tazawa throws hard (93.5 MPH per FanGraphs), has a nice forkball and mixes in the occasional slider and change. Tazawa has an attractive K/9% at 8.48 and an impressive BB/9% at 1.38.
That piece is in place as Tazawa has demonstrated his ability to be a quality set-up pitcher. A keeper on which to build around provided you not roll him out too often.
Koji Uehara is a competent closer. Koji is also signed for another season and where Tazawa does in with power, Uehara does it with stealth. You will not see radar gun burnout from Koji, but what you will see is pained expressions on the face of batters as they wonder just how he fanned them or got a weak ground ball. Certainly a closer of merit.
Then comes the rest. A forgettable collection that just needs to be dismissed. If the Red Sox go to baseball war with what the bullpen represents, then expect 2016 to be a season where no lead is safe. There should be yellow tape placed around the bullpen – a pitching crime scene. That valued set-up option went poof when Andrew Miller signed by you know who.
That brings up one Jake McGee, who is now on the DL for Tampa. McGee also started the season with an injury, so there are certainly bookends to his year – a very good year for the 36 games the 29-year-old left-hander appeared in. McGee lives and occasional dies by using heat. McGee tosses a fastball or its variance about 90% of the time and the speed is generally in the 95 MPH range with some quality movement.
McGee has been a dependable staple out of the Rays bullpen for several season. Home or road the splits are about equal, so no big ballpark syndrome. So maybe he is just a specialist? Tell that to right-handed hitters with a career .190 average versus .223 from lefties. McGee sports a career K/9 of 11.2 and BB/9 2.48. This season? K/9 is 12.4 and BB/9 is down to 1.80. So McGee can toss strikes.
McGee would be a great addition as a player certainly to compliment Tazawa. The good news is he is arbitration eligible and the Rays are notorious regarding some degree of fiscal sanity, so they may wish to avoid a big hit. The injury issue is also in play as McGee is essentially damaged goods until he proves otherwise. Does arbitration and injury, reduce the potential cost of making a trade? Probably.
What would Tampa want? The Rays certainly are always looking for young and controllable talent. They have no qualms about trades and McGee would just be another swap that could address some needs. That is the difficult part – consummating a trade. The give and take, similar to high stakes poker and just who will blink?
If I was Matt Silverman, Tampa Baseball Operations, I’d ask for Brock Holt. If I was Dave Dombroski I would chuckle and offer a prospect or two. The Red Sox have an abundance in their farm system and Tampa always will cherish someone who they could flip or control. Just who? Or possibly who else?
Boston does have a high risk and expensive item in Pawtucket – Allen Craig. I could see TB taking a chance if Boston tossed in a boatload of what is now becoming dead money. And TB does have James Loney (9.7M) in a last year and, of course, Craig can play 1B. Craig would also provide outfield, DH and 1B depth, but a smart GM would require a bit more.
TB has Asdrubal Cabrera possibly leaving creates a hole at short. Boston has excessive prospects at that position, but so does TB, so scratch that and go to Boston’s prospect list. Would tenth ranked prospect Sam Travis and another lower end prospect do it? I suspect TB would be tempted, especially with Craig being a minimal fiscal risk and the Rays concerned about McGee’s injury.
Can a deal be consummated between the two division rivals? I doubt either Silverman or Dombowski is shy or reluctant about pulling the trade trigger. In such a transition Boston gets something in return for almost 20M, TB may or may not get a viable vet in Craig along with a prospect that has potential and one that does not. TB also removes the risk of wondering how McGee’s injury will impact his performance.
The best trades are the ones where the result is neutral with no winner or loser, but just needs met. This one just may be one such swap.
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