Red Sox closing arguments will be decided in 2019 season

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 18: Matt Barnes #32 of the Boston Red Sox leaves the game in the seventh inning against the Houston Astros during Game Five of the American League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park on October 18, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 18: Matt Barnes #32 of the Boston Red Sox leaves the game in the seventh inning against the Houston Astros during Game Five of the American League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park on October 18, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /

The Boston Red Sox have apparently distanced themselves from Craig Kimbrel or any other high-profile bullpen additions. What worked in 2018 may not in 2019.

The intriguing mystery surrounding the bullpen has elicited a certain level of apprehension among the more fervent followers of all things Boston Red Sox. I will most certainly swear on a stack of Baseball Digests that I remain one with them as I wonder just what elaborate game plan is being formulated within the bowels of the executive bunker at Fenway Park? The caveat is that good judgment comes with experience and that is quite àpropos to Dave Dombrowski, otherwise known as president of baseball operations for the World Champion (nice saying) Red Sox.

Experts dictate what is presumably the best course of action and that expert credo is synonymous with Dombrowski. After Dombrowski’s refusal to bow to public and media insistence that the 2018 season was about to become a baseball Titanic without bullpen help the final verdict need no jury – a glorious parade that millions enjoyed settled that.  Apparently, all the money was well spent devising internal metrics and evaluations that stay the course was the most practical of options.

The Red Sox certainly had a list of available bullpen arms that have slowly been expunged from the line marked unemployed to the one marked employed. Shawn Kelley and Derek Holland are two that have taken their questionable metrics to another mound location. Bluntly stated, the loss of neither will lie me awake sleepless while contemplating the dire outcome of 2019. What we have is either equal or better.

In the musky hierarchy that is the bullpen, one particular talent stands as elevated among the rest with special privilege usually bestowed via excessive compensation and that is the closer. A unique talent that can daily face the same rigor as a football placekicker with the game on the line, hearts aflutter, a voracious media, and players whose future can be linked to a curveball that decides now is the most opportune time to sit on a pedestal so that even the most deficient of batters can send it on a long journey. The Red Sox had one of the best. And by best that means in baseball from when it was Rounders to today.

Craig Kimbrel is still in some baseball netherworld awaiting contractual resolution. For Kimbrel, the first message from his camp was a contract that approached $100 MM for six years of service was justified. Based on Kimbrel’s employment status I am confident that the message of rejection is clear. Maybe Kimbrel will acquiesce and seek out a return to Boston? Already his demands have receded faster than Dustin Pedroia’s hairline.

The Red Sox have not shown any great desire to employ their former closer – an action that could be part of the great negotiation scheme. Smarmy agents and GM’s have both adopted an ability to have words flow from both sides of their mouths. So far my scorecard has Dombrowski in a clear lead in the negotiation process or ploy and a waiting game may be afoot. Time will tell if the Red Sox strategy is one of measured market interpretation or just rejecting a return of Kimbrel.

If Kimbrel signs for a more realistic payoff the Red Sox will most certainly be in a sweet spot for a repeat. Without Kimbrel, it is the option that is internal and that could be trial by fire of holdovers or new recruits – recruits that are on the cusp of baseball extinction. A risky move, but one that is similar to 2018. Go with what is already embedded on your roster.

More from Red Sox News

Can the Red Sox win without Kimbrel? Can the Red Sox win without an experienced closer? The answer to part one is a yes, but win and succeed at duplicating 2018 may be a long shot for even the most jubilant in Red Sox Nation. As for the second part just look at the roster for all four championships this century and you have the answer.

A closer is often developed and Mariano Rivera is a typical example. HOF Rivera had a grand total of two saves with the Yankees in 1995-96, but Mo also had four failures. For the Red Sox, Keith Foulke was the closer in 2004 but was already an experienced elsewhere. Jonathan Papelbon had one blown save and no saves in his first Red Sox season. Then became one of the best. In 2013 it was Koji Uehara who already had experience closing elsewhere, but had service time in multiple bullpen roles.

The previously mentioned closers all had time trials before being handed the end of a game inning. This same could certainly apply to the two heir apparent in line for the Kimbrel closer throne – Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier. Both have had the test of fire playing in Boston and playing in make or break playoffs. Maybe the Red Sox realize that now is a most opportune time to move on, save some money, and keep their bats crossed that others can answer the call as dependable as Kimbrel?

Handing a key position to a novice is potentially dancing in a minefield if failure ensues. A closer by committee will historically do as magnificently as the Cubs College of Coaches as a managerial substitution. Internal failure could reverberate throughout the roster ultimately rendering either a season lost or a player of note being packaged elsewhere for an experienced closer.

Next. The greatest relief pitcher bargains in Red Sox history. dark

Dave Dombrowski is on the same exalted level as Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Belichick may make moves that on the surface question if the coach needs a CAT Scan, but with Super Bowl rings galore it is “In Bill we trust” and now it is “In Dave we trust.”