Red Sox potential bullpen trade targets: Who to target?

MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 18: Jared Hughes #48 of the Cincinnati Reds throws a pitch during the eighth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on April 18, 2018 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 18: Jared Hughes #48 of the Cincinnati Reds throws a pitch during the eighth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on April 18, 2018 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

The Boston Red Sox may not need any bullpen help according to Dave Dombrowski, but there is no harm in dredging up potential support. Here are a few.

According to Red Sox president of baseball operations, Dave Dombrowski no help is needed for the bullpen. That little bombshell was dropped after Carson Smith went down with an injury and Tyler Thornburg got bumped around with Pawtucket. Just in case there is a sudden shift in corporate policy, I wondered just who looks as a possible target.

The Red Sox will eventually trade Blake Swihart to improve the team and to give Swihart an opportunity to play elsewhere. The approach this season with Swihart has been similar to a smorgasbord as the 26-year-old switch hitter has dabbled in the outfield, DH, first base, and his more traditional catcher slot.

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The conventional wisdom would be an extended visit to catcher since the two incumbents – Christian Vazquez and Sandy Leon – have done little to strike any fear in opposing pitchers. Manager Alex Cora appears reluctant and the frustration for Swihart recently surfaced with a request – via his agent – to be traded.

MLB Trade Rumors recently had an article of potential landing zones for Swihart based on the apparent needs of other teams – especially in the catching department.  What I would look for in any transactions fortifying the one weakness that is surfacing – the bullpen.

My first choice in the enforcement department would be contacting the former Red Sox executives who are now the Major Domo’s of the first place Arizona Diamondbacks. I would love to see Archie Bradley stepping out of the Red Sox bullpen, but even tossing in the depreciating talent of Jackie Bradley would not get that deal accomplished.  Prying Bradley loose from Arizona would be similar to opening on of those adult proof medicine containers. So, let’s look elsewhere.

Where opportunity knocks is not necessarily needs, but failure elsewhere. Teams that are rapidly excusing themselves from being contenders often have marketable players and may be less concerned about immediate needs and far more concerned about the rebuilding process.

Baltimore is having an awful season, and with the contracts of GM Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter expiring, a massive baseball construction project may soon be underway. What they do have is righty Darren O’Day a long time personal favorite.

O’Day certainly knows the American League East, keeps his walks under control with a 1.3 BB/9, still whiffs them with an 11.3 K/9, and is signed for this season and next at $9 MM. And I will mention the so far this season a .25 GB%. I am sure the O’s would love to see that $9 MM evaporate for this and next season. So much for nostalgia – I’ll pass.

What about Miami?  The Marlins are strip-mining their franchise and that may present some opportunities. Miami wants young and Miami wants cheap. That certainly means a Swihart and Miami does have a pitcher that would be a fine addition – maybe.

Kyle Barraclough is a 28-year-old right-hander who had an excellent break out season for the Marlins in 2017.  Barraclough finished 6-2, 66 innings pitched, 3.00 ERA, 10.4 K/9, and 5.2 BB/9.  Wait! Slow down. What is that BB/9? This season it is a 5.5 BB/9 and the very last thing we need is a rush on portable defibrillators when another member of the bullpen decides to go on a walking parade. I’ll pass.

Finally, there is Cincinnati. The Reds are awful, and eventually they may even market Joey Votto and release him from last place purgatory. But their bullpen has two I would target and in this instance, the Red Sox would have to add it a bit more than Swihart to make the deal sociable to all parties and that could be prospects or a possible MLB player.

The two I see with the Reds are 26-year old lefty Amir Garrett and 32-year-old right-hand veteran Jared Hughes. In 2017 Garnett was awful with the two highlights being a 7.39 ERA and a dismal 5.1 BB/9. This season that has not only been reduced but pulverized as in 1.40 ERA and a 2.5 BB/9.

Garrett throws hard in the mid-90s and relies primarily on his fastball (55.9%) and a slider (32.3%).  Lefties are hitting Garrett at a .205 clip while righties at just .180. Garrett also has modified his penchant for giving up the long ball. In 2017 his 2.9 HR/9 has now decreased to 0.7.

Garrett is enticing as he may be an example of a pitcher who suddenly “gets it” and becomes a bullpen stud. Of course, it could also be a mirage and suddenly explode with a flurry of walks and home runs. Then there is the veteran Hughes.

If you like strikeouts look elsewhere.  Hughes has a career 5.9 K/9 and a 7.7 K/9 this season. If – like me – you have an aversion to a pitcher that walks the ballpark then slice Hughes off your list. This season his 1.8 BB/9 certainly shines and contributes to a 0.94 WHIP. But there is more to like with Hughes.

First is the money.  Hughes signed as a free agent for two years at $2.125 MM per season and an option at $3 MM. That seems under market for a pitcher who has demonstrated remarkable consistency in his eight-year career.  The second is a career 61.1 GB%. Hughes induces ground balls and a third is he does not give up home runs with a career 0.6 HR/9.

Just how would you get either? My preference would be the ground ball machine Hughes with his career run prevention numbers. But would the Reds do it? What is in it for the Reds? What would new GM Nick Krall want?

The Reds may wish to hold Hughes since the market value will increase as pitchers fall apart and the races tighten up. Maybe selling too low if it happens now? But the Reds do need a few building blocks and that means young.  Swihart is an obvious and finding a place such as a catcher could be limited with Tucker Barnhart doing the bulk of backstop work. And unless Votto is moved first base is a no go.

The outfield is a possibility for Swihart especially if the Reds make a swap or two.  If the Red Sox offer Bradley as part of a package that could also add some depth to the Reds outfield. The Red Sox could certainly sweeten the mix with little-used Brian Johnson.  All three players would make a balanced package according to my less than trusty trade analyzer. And, quite frankly, all three players need a fresh start somewhere else.

Krall may wish to pass on MLB players and look to our farm system that is suddenly rather barren. But also buried within the system are prospects that may be a year or three years away from arriving.  Just who becomes the negotiating tool.

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The Red Sox will eventually have to address the bullpen situation as arms seem to wear down quicker than a $25 “hardly used” bargain tire. Hughes is one possibility, but there are others and the price will only increase.