Boston Red Sox pitchers Rich Hill, Craig Breslow file for free agency


We may find ourselves so wrapped up in debating potential free agent targets that we often overlook the players that may be departing as their contracts expire. The Boston Red Sox have a pair of left-handed pitchers that may be on their way out in Rich Hill and Craig Breslow, both of whom filed for free agency on Monday, the first day players were eligible.

Hill spent nearly the entire season working his way up from the minor league system. After he was released from the Washington Nationals system in June he served a stint with the Long Island Ducks in the Atlantic League, where he tossed 11 shutout innings over two starts. This caught the attention of the Red Sox, who signed him to a minor league deal in August and sent him to Triple-A Pawtucket.

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After starting the season as an afterthought, the 35-year old enters free agency primed to cash in on his strong finish. Hill was called up to the big leagues on September 13 for a start in which he dominated the Tampa Bay Rays over 7 shutout innings. He would make four starts to end the year, delivering a sparkling 1.55 ERA to go along with 30 strikeouts in 23 innings.

It’s a small sample size in which Hill was clearly pitching at a level well beyond expectations, but it’s enough to entice teams to take a flier on him. As much as the Red Sox would like to keep him, Hill is expected to seek an opportunity with a team that has a spot open in their rotation. Boston has loftier goals for filling the front of the rotation and are committed to to a surplus of options to fill in the rest of the starting staff. Barring a flurry of trades, there’s little room left for Hill beyond the bullpen or as added depth to be stashed in Pawtucket. Hill has earned a more significant role, which he’ll likely find elsewhere.

Breslow is likely to follow Hill out the door, but the Red Sox will put up far less of a fight to retain his services. The veteran reliever bounced back from a dreadful 2014 season, lowering his ERA from a brutal 5.96 to a still unappealing 4.15. That’s a solid improvement, but hardly enough to make the Red Sox eager to re-sign the 35-year old. Boston will be focused on assembling a stronger bullpen through options available on the free agent market or by exploring trade opportunities with the intention of upgrading under-performing relievers like Breslow. He may remain a fallback option if the Red Sox fail to find a better lefty reliever, but he won’t be their top choice.

The contributions that Breslow made as a key cog in the bullpen for the 2013 World Series champions won’t soon be forgotten, but the last two years have shown us that he is no longer the same pitcher.

While these two pitchers will be testing the free agent market this winter, Clay Buchholz will not be. As expected, the Red Sox agreed on Tuesday to pick up the $13 million option on Buchholz’s contract, reports the Boston Herald’s Jason Mastrodonato.

There’s still a chance that he could be traded, but if Buchholz remains in the rotation to start the season he should be a bargain at that price. When healthy he was the best pitcher on this staff this year and still managed to provide enough value to be worth his contract despite missing essentially half the season.