You know that nostalgic feeling that you get when catching up with an old friend that you haven’t seen for a while? This offseason the BoSox Injection staff will be checking up on a number of former Red Sox players to see what they have been up to since leaving Boston, while reflecting on how the team has managed to replace them since they left.
The bullpen was one of several weak spots for the Boston Red Sox this season. Even before injuries thinned an already shallow pool of relievers and fatigue overcame the team’s most trusted options when they were pressed into a heavy workload, this bullpen needed help. So it goes without saying that they would have looked a lot better in the later innings with Andrew Miller on board.
The Red Sox traded the impending free agent at the 2014 deadline in an effort to unload anyone that wasn’t tied down beyond that season from their sinking ship. While the team toyed with the idea of bringing him back once he hit free agency, Miller ended up signing a lucrative 4-year, $36 million contract to become the New York Yankees’ new closer. With their own closer role already filled, the Red Sox apparently felt that deal was too rich for a middle reliever.
Sure, because why spend $9 million a year on an elite setup man that the team sorely needed when you can spend more than double that on a No. 5 starter?
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Miller would end up having another brilliant season as the ninth inning man for the Yankees, posting a career-best 2.04 ERA to go along with a 0.86 WHIP. His 36 saves were the third most in the American League, while his 100 strikeouts made him one of only two relievers in the league to hit triple-digits, joining teammate Dellin Betances. As you might imagine, the Yankees bullpen was significantly better than Boston’s. In a related story, New York made the playoffs despite a starting rotation that wasn’t much better than Boston’s, while the Red Sox sat buried in last place.
It’s obvious that the Red Sox bullpen would have been better off with Miller in it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they were wrong to trade him away. Not when the prize was Eduardo Rodriguez, whom they acquired from the Baltimore Orioles as part of that deadline deal.
Rodriguez immediately became one of the most enticing pitching prospects in the Red Sox organization before bursting on to the scene as a rookie this year. The 22-year old went 10-6 with a 3.85 ERA in 21 starts following his promotion to the big leagues. He battled through some inconsistencies that are typical of a rookie pitcher that debuts at such as young age, but the lefty is gushing with potential and projects as a future top of the rotation starter.
Stealing Rodriguez is a tremendous value for a player the Red Sox were prepared to let walk in free agency anyway. Baltimore’s front office knows they paid a steep price to acquire Miller on a two month rental, but they were in win-now mode at the time and prepared to overpay to fill a position of need. The O’s ultimately fell short of their goal, despite Miller’s dominance, so once he bolted in free agency it became clear that the Red Sox won that trade.
Given how valuable Rodriguez appears to be to the future of this rotation, it’s difficult to argue that the Red Sox made the wrong choice in dealing Miller. However, given the dire need for another elite arm at the back end of the bullpen, you can make a strong case that they made the wrong choice in not making a stronger push to sign him as a free agent.
One of the top priorities for Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski this offseason will be to bolster the bullpen with an unhittable strikeout machine that can shutdown opposing lineups in key sports late in the game. Basically, he’s searching for their next Andrew Miller.