The Boston Red Sox will be looking to bolster their roster and one area will be the bullpen – specifically a left-handed reliever. Jake McGee may be just that option.
The Boston Red Sox bullpen has certainly been a pleasant surprise this season with some remarkable performances as a group. At last glance, the Red Sox ‘pen was ranked fourth in the American League for their relief efforts.
Of note is the fact that two key players disappeared from the bullpen – Tyler Thornburg and Carson Smith – both were touted as being key ingredients. Smith recently returned and in his brief sojourn after an extended surgery/rehabilitation looks like the real deal.
The absence of Smith and Thornburg also means opportunity for others to either prove themselves or be shuffled off the roster. Matt Barnes, Joe Kelly, Heath Hembree and the somewhat surprising Brandon Workman may not have had a season for the ages, but they did the job. The Red Sox also brought in Addison Reed to bolster for the stretch run and even rookie Austin Maddox showed promise.
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All those mentioned have one thing in common – they are right-handed and that is where the Boston bullpen needs some high-end pitching diversity. Face it, folks, Robby Scott, Fernando Abad and a few that stopped by for a day or two do not instill fear in lefty hitters throughout baseball. And don’t expect David Price to be in the bullpen in 2018 – not with his exorbitant salary. So where do they find some lefty talent? Trades are always an option, but money also speaks rather loudly and that means free agents.
My personal choice is a long time favorite when he played for the Tampa Bay Rays – Jake McGee. McGee is a tad unusual for any pitcher in he throws fastballs almost exclusively – 90.7% rate for his career. What McGee does is toss that ball with a nice career 95.3 MPH velocity. McGee will also occasionally toss in a slider, change, and cutter, but if I was Mr. Hitter I would be dialing up the heater on every serve.
McGee is certainly no wild thing as his 2.53 BB/9 in 2017 will attest and his 9.16 K/9 shows he can get the strikeout when needed. Looking for a negative is his less than spectacular earned run average as a Colorado Rockie the last two seasons. That, however, has an asterisk. Playing in Denver has caused many an ERA and batting average to be inflated and McGee is no exception. McGee’s two-year Denver stats show a 5.57 ERA while the road checks in at a 2.76 ERA.
McGee also has another interesting statistic in that he has more success against right-handed hitters (.208) than lefties (.239). McGee’s career Fenway Park numbers are excellent with a 3-1 record and 1.80 ERA. If you are in a pinch for a closer McGee has done that with 44 career saves. With a 1.5 fWAR, McGee is one of the best lefty relievers in the majors and has been for several seasons.
McGee is 31-years-old and with left-handers always at a premium, I would expect some interesting negotiations on McGee. How many years and at how much could make the Red Sox sticky with lower end in-house options. Maybe even the possibility of Brian Johnson getting a long look or even bringing back Abad and Scott.
In the great scheme of needs, a left-handed reliever is not in the higher need range of a power hitter – preferably a right-handed power hitter. But little moves sometimes have a way of becoming significant – just think Eduardo Nunez.
Stats through 9/29.