The future of the Red Sox bullpen relies on the team’s ability to extend Craig Kimbrel’s time in Beantown. This is why the team needs to extend him.
For as much as this team needed to add a bat, specifically in the form of J.D. Martinez, the Boston Red Sox failed to address what was possibly the biggest weakness of all this offseason – adding a top reliever.
While the team has Craig Kimbrel taking the ball in the ninth inning in any game the team is winning, the rest of the Red Sox bullpen leaves much to be desired and could have used a boost this offseason.
Joe Kelly was a nice surprise last season with a solid 2.79 ERA with a 4-1 record and .202 average against.
However, he is by no means someone who should be trusted in the eighth inning as the bridge to Kimbrel and has so far not been able to repeat his success in 2018 as he gave up four runs to blow their Opening Day should-have-been win.
Another arm, internally, that the team has at its disposal is Matt Barnes who was also an effective reliever for the team last season with a 3.88 ERA and .224 average against.
Once again, though, he is not really a great option to bridge the gap to Kimbrel and does not have the resume that would make one trust him in the eighth inning.
The last true consideration for the eighth inning spot in this team’s bullpen is Carson Smith. He has the issue of health, though, that has plagued him his entire career.
In his career with the Red Sox, the right-hander has in only 11 games in a span of three years. That is by no means someone the team should feel comfortable relying on.
And that part is just talking about the scenarios they have this season with Kimbrel. The fact is that the Red Sox only have one year of control remaining on the reliever and the above information about the 2018 season should make everyone scared about the team’s bullpen if they fail to keep Kimbrel.
The closer had a 1.43 ERA and 126 strikeouts in 69 innings last season that led to an All-Star Game appearance and put him among the elite in the game.
If the 29-year old is even comparable to that version of himself the Red Sox will have to pony up a ton of money to keep him and will likely have to regardless.
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Kimbrel is that good, though, and the Red Sox should try to beat other teams to the punch while they still can.
If they choose not to, that market could get out of the team’s price range, and while they lead every team in baseball in payroll this season, the team (believe it or not) does have a budget and Kimbrel might have to be a casualty if they can’t find common ground on a deal.
While that free agent class is daunting and features multiple closer options, none possess the quality and future potential of Kimbrel on the open market.
Sure, the team could go out and bring back former friend Andrew Miller, but at the age of 36, who knows how effective he will be.
The Red Sox should give the money to their own guy that just so happens to be a top-five reliever in baseball before it’s too late.