The Boston Red Sox will slash payroll but one area will be cost-effective and that is the bullpen. The bullpen may be under $10 Million for 2020.
The Red Sox payroll for 2020 is certainly costing a bundle in internet ink as the discussion will continue on with just who to sign, how much, is he worth it, and how to do it on the cheap. I will focus on the cheap and center on one specific part of the team – the bullpen.
The Red Sox certainly made the right decision in avoiding Craig Kimbrel, but not with Carson Smith and Tyler Thornburg. Thornburg was the most significant cost from the bullpen in 2019 with a nice farewell present of $1.75 Million. Expect Matt Barnes at $1.6 Million to exceed that for 2020, but by how much is certainly open to the quirks of arbitration.
The cheap is certainly promising news for young players such as Josh Taylor, Darwinzon Hernandez, Travis Lakins, Trevor Kelly, and Bobby Poyner. Taylor and Hernandez showed promise for the future while the remaining are certainly questionable. None will be close to getting a cool million for 2020 and that alone gives each a very long look. Even Colten Brewer is well under seven figures.
The closer – finally – is Brandon Workman who should break into the $2 Million level with his fine 2020 season. For a closer that is inexpensive and for the Red Sox to go forward and hunt down a more established closer via trade or free agency would represent expenses they wish to avoid.
Two notable veterans or semi-veterans are Brian Johnson and Hector Velazquez who both contributed to the inflated home runs totals in MLB. Neither should be back, but a minor league deal is certainly a possibility. Both have the “C” word attached – cheap.
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Heath Hembree is also a veteran and the righty had another vanilla season earning $1.3 Million. Just what arbitration presents may make Hembree expendable since conceivably that could be a $2 Million hit.
Cheap and potentially valuable is Ryan Brasier who could displace Hembree. Brasier had a difficult – to be kind – season, but is it injury impact or performance? Brasier is certainly in the bullpen mix and if I was doing a depth chart Brasier would be on it.
Has the clock finally timed out on Steven Wright? Wright accomplished nothing of merit on the field and even less off the field. In the wonderful world of arbitration, Wright could get an increase over his $1.375 Million for 2019. Is he replaceable? Just say Marcus Walden for one-third the price.
The Red Sox will have some millionaires out of the bullpen in Workman, Barnes, and possibly Hembree. The remaining are or should be under a million a season. The Red Sox bullpen will be under the $10 Million mark and based on Boston’s recent aversion to payroll expansion that is good news.
The key will be performance and just what kind of bang they will get for the buck. In the 2019 season, the bullpen was rather stable in the second half of the season with a closer in place and other roles more clearly defined. For the season, the bullpen ranked fifth in the AL with a 5.2 fWAR. The accent on youth is both a positive and a negative with inexperienced matched against the desire to get some serious “Iron” as Dennis Eckersley would say.