Red Sox: The most crucial positions for the 2017 season
By Jimmy Longo
After an up-and-down 2016 season for the Red Sox bullpen, it will once again portray an important role as the Red Sox look to get back to the postseason, though with some different faces.
Gone are the workhorses that have become so familiar to the Boston faithful, especially during the 2013 season, as both Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara were not offered contracts during the offseason. Tazawa signed a two-year, $12 million contract with the Marlins while Uehara moved over to Fenway Midwest, signing with the Cubs.
Brad Ziegler, who I personally felt the Red Sox should’ve made a more valiant effort to re-sign, landed with the Marlins as well.
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With the losses, though, the Red Sox made an acquisition to the bullpen that’s an upgrade as well. Acquiring Tyler Thornburg to replace Uehara as the setup man, the Red Sox now have two dominant relievers at the back end of the bullpen, hopefully coinciding with Matt Barnes in the seventh inning being able to build off of the many positive moments he experienced during last year.
Of note, the Red Sox will also get another upgrade around the All-Star break, as Carson Smith should finally be able to make his way back from Tommy John surgery pending any setbacks. With Smith’s return sometime in the third or fourth month of the year, the Red Sox bullpen will be gaining full strength right when they need it to, providing a plethora of wealth to prepare for the postseason stretch run, preserving leads for the best rotation in the American League.