The Boston Red Sox are rumored to be among the teams interested in trading for Miami Marlins right-handed reliever Brad Ziegler.
With only a couple of days remaining before the MLB trade deadline, the Boston Red Sox may turn to a familiar face to upgrade their bullpen.
FanCred’s Jon Heyman mentioned the Red Sox as a possible landing spot for right-handed reliever Brad Ziegler.
It appears a reunion may be in order. Boston acquired Ziegler from the Arizona Diamondbacks at the 2016 trade deadline. He pitched well for the Red Sox down the stretch, posting a 1.52 ERA over 29 2/3 innings. That’s the type of impact Boston’s bullpen could use now.
A repeat performance doesn’t seem realistic even if Ziegler does return. His last stint in Boston turned out to only be a short-term rental. Ziegler signed a 2-year, $16 million deal with the Miami Marlins after the 2016 season. The contract hasn’t panned out well for Miami. Ziegler owns a 4.41 ERA over the last two seasons with the Marlins. He converted 20 of 26 save opportunities before being replaced in the closer role by Kyle Barraclough earlier this year.
Ziegler has turned his season around since moving into lower leverage situations. He surrendered 20 earned runs over his fist 23 inning this season. Since then he has allowed only three earned runs over 28 innings. Miami hopes to spin that impressive streak as a sign he’s back on track and can help a contender looking for relief help at the trade deadline.
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However, there are some warning signs that should concern those contenders. All three of those earned runs he’s allowed since the beginning of June came on home runs. Ziegler has now allowed a career-high seven home runs, a troubling trend for a pitcher with an MLB-high 74.5% groundball rate. He’s been successful in his career by keeping the ball in the park, which he hasn’t been doing as effectively lately.
He’s fortunate the bases were empty for those home runs yet keeping runners off the bases isn’t Ziegler’s strong suit. He owns a mediocre 1.25 WHIP for his career and a 3.1 BB/9 rate. Ziegler doesn’t miss many bats either. His career strikeout rate is 6.0 K/9 and he’s only slightly above that this year with a 6.2 K/9.
That’s another red flag for the Red Sox to consider. We recall how well he pitched for this team in 2016 but that success was a bit of smoke and mirrors. His WHIP and walk rate during his time in Boston were about the same as his career levels, if not slightly worse. Yet he stranded most runners to post a shiny ERA.
How did he do it? Part of it has to do with the 9.4 K/9 he posted with the Red Sox. That strikeout rate is far higher than anything he had posted before or since. Don’t count on him striking out anywhere close to a batter per inning if the Red Sox bring him back. If batters put more balls in play against him then more runs will inevitably score.
Ziegler still has about $3 million owed to him this season before he hits free agency again this winter. While that may not seem pricey, it will be after factoring in the tax penalties now that the Red Sox have exceeded the highest threshold. It may not be worthwhile for ownership to shell out that extra cash for someone who isn’t a real difference-maker. It’s not as if the Marlins would be eager to pick up a significant portion of the remaining contract.
Time is running out for the Red Sox to upgrade their bullpen. Ziegler would be an improvement over some of Boston’s struggling relievers. He’s just not the shutdown setup man they need. The Red Sox had their sights set higher on the reliever market but at this point they may be forced to settle for what they can get. Ziegler could help this team but don’t expect him to pitch as well as he did the last time he was here.