Red Sox should consider signing Tony Sipp to help fix the bullpen
By Evan Lewis
With their bullpen even weaker than it was last year, the Red Sox should seriously consider bringing former Houston Astros’ reliever Tony Sipp aboard.
There’s no way to sugarcoat it: the Boston Red Sox bullpen is bad. It’s been bad for a while now and has only gotten worse this offseason. In 2018, Boston won the World Series despite their dreadful bullpen. Things were so bad that Alex Cora often had to bring starting pitchers into the game in relief as opposed to relying on his undependable relievers.
The only relief pitchers Cora could consistently count on were Joe Kelly, Matt Barnes and a virtual stranger named Ryan Brasier. Even All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel couldn’t get his act together when the playoffs rolled around. Still, the Red Sox won it all, no thanks to their haphazardly assembled bullpen.
Fans shouldn’t count on things to get even better in 2019. Kelly is already gone and the odds of Kimbrel coming back are apparently slim to none. That means the only pitchers Cora can count on heading into the season are Barnes, who is the early favorite to nab the closer role, and Brasier, who may not be able to live up to the extremely impressive storybook season he had last year.
The rest of the expected relievers will be made from the motley crew of Brandon Workman, Heath Hembree, Hector Velazquez, Carson Smith, Bobby Poyner, Tyler Thornburg, Brian Johnson, Steven Wright, and Colten Brewer. None of these names should convince the Fenway Faithful that the bullpen isn’t a complete mess.
Practically all of the aforementioned pitchers have either had consistency issues, health issues or both during their careers. Even if one of them manages to have a Brasier-esque breakout, it still might not be enough to preserve a lead when the starters exit the game.
But fear not, New Englanders. There’s still plenty of time left in this weirdly long offseason for Dave Dombrowski to aid the ailing bullpen. There’s still a proven reliever out there who could make a difference late in games. No, it’s not Kimbrel. It’s a man named Tony Sipp.
It might seem like an underwhelming option at first, but it’s one that makes a ton of sense and can have a serious impact on resolving the relief issues. Sipp isn’t exactly the biggest name left on the market, but he somewhat surprisingly has the highest WAR (1.3) of any available relief pitcher not named Kimbrel. He’s coming off a brilliant season for the AL West champion Houston Astros where he appeared in 54 games with a career-low ERA of 1.86.
Heading into his eleventh season in the MLB, the 35-year-old has a lot of major league experience under his belt. In an age where relievers often get crazy deals, it’s possible that teams are shying away from the southpaw because of his age. Not many organizations want to invest money into a guy who’s approaching the tail-end of his career.
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That age, however, should be another reason why the Sox want him. Given his age and with spring training less than a week away, Sipp would be foolish not to settle for a short-term deal, especially if it’s with the reigning champs. Holding out for a better deal for much longer might end up forcing him into early retirement.
As for the Red Sox, taking a flyer on a guy who had a sub-2.00 ERA last year seems like a slam dunk. Even if he doesn’t work out in Boston, it shouldn’t be too hard to unload a cheap expiring contract elsewhere. Furthermore, Sipp could also bring a level of maturity to an otherwise youthful bullpen.
The journeyman also has experience pitching in high-leverage situations. This guy was a staple for the powerhouse Astros over the past few seasons and has seen enough action in the postseason to be accustomed to the kind of pressure the highly competitive AL East race is bound to bring.
Aside from Johnson and Poyner, neither of whom are guaranteed to even make the roster, the Sox don’t have a lefty in their bullpen. Sipp could effortlessly slide into that role. He had a 0.90 ERA against lefties last season and could be brought into games simply to get out left-handed hitters in big spots, as long as the three-batter minimum rule doesn’t go through.
All in all, Sipp seems like a perfect fit for this team. At the very least, he can be an inexpensive rental who gets dealt/designated for assignment if he doesn’t work out. If all goes according to plan, though, the southpaw can be a big difference maker late in games and solid an otherwise shaky bullpen. The Red Sox should get this deal done and fast before another team beats them to it.