Boston Red Sox: Who from the bullpen should stay in 2016?

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Aug 23, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher

Alexi Ogando

(41) is relieved by Boston Red Sox interim manager

Torey Lovullo

(17) in the seventh inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

If you clicked this article and expected to see the solitary word “nobody” written, then that wouldn’t surprise me. That the much vilified 2015 Boston Red Sox bullpen may actually have some redeeming qualities that could carry over into what is hoped will be a return to contention in 2016 is a wonder. In my opinion there are still a few decent options available that give Boston something on which to build.

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Even still, it’s hard to imagine after we witnessed a season in which turning to the bullpen was akin to opening a trap door in a canoe. In terms of statistics, the Red Sox relievers combined for a headache-inducing ERA of 4.42, the fourth worst in the American League. When you consider that this is kept afloat somewhat by Koji Uehara‘s 2.23 ERA, you may begin to imagine just how bad it really was. In most cases, the relievers provided no relief for the pitchers they replaced, requiring yet more inept relief for themselves. An endless spiraling chain of hemorrhaged runs and blown saves that makes one most inclined to suggest a start from scratch would be the more appropriate response.

Easier said than done. For Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski, the challenge is difficult enough. While many may focus, perhaps understandably, on Dombrowski’s search for a staff ace this winter, it will likely be his rebuild of the bullpen that will have the most impact on Boston’s fortunes going forward. To do that he has to cut the dross.

Soon-to-be free agent Craig Breslow was a revolution in 2013, posting an impeccable ERA if 1.81 in 61 outings and stamping his authority as one of the best set-up men in the majors. Today, following a disastrous 2014 and 2015, he has stamped his authority only as the official Red Sox white flag. Too risky to throw out in high leverage situations any more, Breslow comes in as the fans go out following an all too common implosion from the starting pitching. From set-up to mop-up, a dramatic reversal of his and Boston’s fortunes that will doubtless see him walk this offseason.

So too, Alexi Ogando started his tenure with the Red Sox promisingly (his last 11 games/innings in June he didn’t give up a run and had a 1.84 ERA on the month). His fastball that averaged 95.4 MPH was electric and seemingly just what Boston needed. Then it fell apart, as the rest of the year was mixed with sporadic and ugly implosions most frequently involving the long ball. Keeping Ogando on each out was like playing yet another round of Russian Roulette with dingers being the bullets. The former AL All-Star finished the year with a 3.99 ERA, which was brutal but only really tells half the story. The Red Sox may elect to keep him, but they can do an awful lot better here.

Uehara and Junichi Tazawa are both likely to return in 2016, given their strong performances alongside confirmations by Dombrowski.

Expect none of these names to appear on the list, obviously. Instead I want to examine the few more unlikely candidates that can be salvaged and look ahead to what 2016 may look like from the view of the Fenway bullpen.

Next: Robby Ross Jr