Will the Red Sox go blue chip or on the cheap for the bullpen?
By Rick McNair
What direction will the Boston Red Sox go on their bullpen? Will it be cheap or will it be expensive? I say go expensive.
Just how will the Red Sox approach their bullpen replacement – cheap or blue chip? The Red Sox lost out on Joe Kelly (4-2, 4.39) who accepted an offer from the Dodgers for three years of pitching servitude for $25 MM. “Fighting Joe” was good and bad for Boston in the 2018 regular season and then superlative in the playoffs. Is this now the bar for pitchers such as Kelly or is this just an example of overpaying?
The early market saw a variety of pitchers signed and none could be classified as outstanding with the possible exception of closer Jeurys Familia (4-2, 3.13, 18 SV) who returned to the Mets for three years and $30 MM. But even Familia will never be confused with Craig Kimbrel. Familia does, however, give an insight into what Andrew Miller, Zach Britton, and David Robertson may eventually be paid in years and money.
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The market also has some early signings that are baseball cheap such as Jordan Lyles (3-4, 4.11) who appeared in 35 games with the Padres and Brewers. Lyles signed a one-year deal for $2.05 MM. Jesse Chavez (2-1, 1.15) received a two-year deal for $8 MM for his 2018 efforts. Then there is Trevor Rosenthal who missed 2018 and signed a one-year deal for $7 MM. Rosenthal represents a risk-reward for his new team – the Nationals.
The relief market is one where the cheap far outnumbers the blue chip and the Red Sox could go and easily acquire several new faces and arms for a fraction of Kelly money. But why? The team already has an abundance of capable relievers who have proven themselves and offer a better alternative to cheap. A Lyles type or Chevez type offers nothing to Boston that they do not already have.
Boston has only one legitimate pathway and that is to spend. Kelly is gone and the presumption is Kimbrel will follow unless he modifies his demands. I just cannot envision the Red Sox re-signing Kimbrel as both the years and fiscal obligation will be a significant payroll hit for a team that is already in rarefied luxury tax territory.
The Red Sox also – via the rumor mill – have set out feelers regarding cutting payroll or repositioning payroll by trading three players of note. Will a Rick Porcello equal a Britton or Miller? For one year it will, but then comes the next year and the next. And, of course, the eventual contract crunch of young players.
The reality is that to maintain a level of success Red Sox fans now demand expenditure and not a sudden sense of corporate parsimony. Replacement of a Kelly and Kimbrel will not be done by trolling the depths of free agency looking for mediocre talent. The other option is to avoid the free agent marketplace and trade.
Names have already surfaced with righty Adam Ottavino (6-4, 2.43) with the Rockies being mentioned. I doubt that Jeff Bridich – the Rockies GM – is giving out any pre or post-season Christmas presents to the Red Sox or any other team. The price will be high. Either with the Rockies or any other team wishing to expose quality to the market.
The bottom line is if the Red Sox do the cheap alternative they better hope the baseball Gods are kind and elevate several on the staff to the next performance level. Historically with year-to-year bullpens, the only consistency is inconsistency. If they go cheap they will pay a penalty.