Who we didn’t get
The one area we all expected the Red Sox to address at the trade deadline is one they ignored. Despite the inconsistencies of the setup options bridging the gap to Craig Kimbrel, Boston failed to acquire a reliever before the deadline.
We heard rumors that the Red Sox were aiming high in their pursuit of a top-notch reliever. A closer who could pair with Kimbrel to form two-headed monster at the back of the bullpen. Ideally, one they could control beyond this season to provide insurance if Kimbrel bolts in free agency.
Boston inquired about a pair of lefties from the San Francisco Giants but Tony Watson and Will Smith ended up staying put. Ditto for St. Louis Cardinals closer Bud Norris and a trio of Cincinnati Reds relievers.
The Red Sox reportedly talked to the Nationals about Kelvin Herrera until Washington pivoted the night before the deadline by deciding not to sell.
Virtually every potentially available reliever was linked to the Red Sox at some point. Several of those options ended up being traded to another contender. They even toyed with the idea of bringing back Brad Ziegler, although assuming he’d replicate his 2016 success in Boston would have been a mistake.
Dave Dombrowski downplayed the need for a reliever in his post-deadline press conference televised on NESN. The president of baseball operations claimed he likes his bullpen and didn’t see a reliever as a dire need. Which goes against everything we’ve been hearing for the last several weeks and is contradicted by the report of chasing Herrera the night before the deadline.
The Red Sox wanted another reliever and came up short. That’s a failure on Dombrowski’s part but not a devastating one. There are reasons to believe their bullpen will improve.
Tyler Thornburg has been great in his last few outings since tweaking his mechanics. Ryan Brasier has been a revelation in his brief time on the roster. Joe Kelly has been a mess lately but if he turns back into the pitcher he was in the first half then he’s a legitimate setup option. Their surplus starting pitching depth, when everyone’s healthy, will allow them to shift a starter or two into the bullpen in the postseason.
We would have preferred a more reliable setup man to handle the eighth inning but there are enough quality arms on this staff to patch together an acceptable bullpen.