So by now you’ve likely heard that Boston Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski is looking to upgrade, if not overhaul, the pitching staff this offseason. How desperate is Dombrowski for pitchers? He’s delegated himself to go down to the GM meetings in Boca Raton to look for a pitcher, instead of the actual Red Sox GM. Pitchers are the first thing he mentions in almost every interview, including on his very first day in office. When the Dombrowski family go out for dinner, at NESN sponsor Unos of course, they get a pitcher of water with their food. Dombrowski wants pitchers. Why? Because Boston needs them.
For those who abandoned ship on the 2015 Red Sox S.S. Titanic early, and I don’t necessarily blame you, a cursory glance at the game scores should tell you everything you need to know. While the Boston offense was buoyed by breakout years from Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Blake Swihart and Travis Shaw, they were fighting against the leaking current of runs allowed by Rick Porcello, pre-mustache Joe Kelly, Wade Miley and Henry Owens.
Those are the starters though and they weren’t even the real villains of the year, which really says a lot. The bullpen were so atrociously bad that, even with Koji Uehara in their ranks, they still managed a collective ERA of 4.24, the fourth worst in all of baseball. Remove Koji and Junichi Tazawa and the picture is so bleak that the Red Sox may as well have brought in Johnny Gomes to pitch. Would have been more entertaining, if nothing else.
So yeah, it’s not terribly shocking that Dombrowski is moving quickly on a personal mission to rebuild the pen. With few salvage choices outside Uehara, Tazawa and perhaps a Robbie Ross Jr and the like, Dombrowski has little option but to look at basically every half-decent reliever available, spreading a wide net to reel in as big a haul as possible.
With that in mind, it’s little wonder that Dombrowski is looking into options such as Joakim Soria. As reported by FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi, this would be an understandable move from Dombrowski who had traded for Soria with the Detroit Tigers:
What the tweet doesn’t tell you though, is that Soria is being sought by other clubs as well, notably the Tigers who want him back following the midseason trade to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Indeed, the Tigers have already had a crack at Soria’s agent and, reportedly, Soria is quite open to returning to Mo Town. So take this all with a grain of salt.
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That said, Soria would certainly make a reasonable pickup. He’s 31 years old, which for a reliever of even half-decent pedigree is enough to guarantee a 3-4 year deal, and as he already had Tommy John surgery in 2012, there’s less concern about his arm blowing up. Overall, Soria is an average MLB reliever, who would be an above average Red Sox reliever. His ERA of 2.53 in 2015 is reasonable and while he only had a K/9 of 8.51, he did still manage to induce a healthy amount of ground balls at 42.3%.
Actually, 2015 was something of a strange year for Soria overall. His fastball speed jumped up to 93 MPH, from a previous norm of 91-92, and he started leaning on it much more. While it sports better than ever vertical movement, Soria was striking out less hitters than before and seeing more of the long ball too.
Still, Soria has a number of feathers in his cap. First of all, he has a lot of experience with closing, converting 24 of 26 save opportunities in 2015, which would tick a box of Dombrowski’s – a reliever who could be a backup closer if soon-to-be 41 year old Uehara gets injured. Second of all, and perhaps more clinically, Soria has much better results against left handed hitters, holding them to .176/.270/.266 while boasting a K/9 of 10.70. If nothing else, he would be a good depth piece, the anti-Tommy Layne if you will. Having someone who can reliably shut out righties would be an essential addition for Boston going forward, particularly in a division with right handed juggernauts like the Toronto Blue Jays.
Of course that would only be the beginning for Dombrowski, according to other sources the Red Sox are in on former Orioles hurler Darren O’Day. In fact, according to some sources, the Red Sox are in on just about everyone. And that’s how it has to be. The holes in the bullpen’s outer hull are too numerous and too large for one single reliever to cover with his hands alone. The leaking of runs has to stop if Boston hopes to arrive safely at port postseason.
Soria may not be headed to Fenway any time soon, or he might be one of many to do so. Dombrowski is, however, interested and don’t be surprised to see that this is but only the first step on the process of turning the ship around for 2016.