The Boston Red Sox need some serious help in the bullpen heading into next season. Could they already have some of that assistance on the payroll?
For much of last season, we heard about how atrocious the Red Sox bullpen was. I can’t necessarily argue against that sentiment but they also weren’t as bad as many would have you believe. When the rotation was in the gutter in the early part of the season it was the bullpen keeping Boston competitive.
They would see a steep decline in effectiveness during the middle portion of the season as their insane workloads began to have an impact. With guys like Marcus Walden, Brandon Workman, and Matt Barnes getting the call almost nightly, it’s no surprise that their arms would tire.
The blown saves metric would be tossed around all year long despite the fact that they finished with the same amount (31) as the A’s and with only two more than the Dodgers, Nationals, and Mariners.
I won’t argue that the 31 blown saves are something that can just be scoffed at and ignored but in the grand scheme of the entire season, Boston wasn’t far off from their competition. Hell, the Yankees finished with 28. So yes, they led the league in a trash metric that isn’t perfect and yet it was used as a narrative all season for the failing Red Sox.
So they must address the bullpen in the offseason to avoid overworking their relief squad in 2020 without a doubt, but Boston does have some arms they can bring up to fill that need.
That brings me to Travis Lakins being a solution to help ease the workload for the battle-worn Red Sox bullpen. Lakins split his 2019 season between Pawtucket and Boston with mixed results in both but he really turned it up once the calendar hit September. Alex Cora would even go to him in bullpen games as a guy that could be trusted to eat innings without giving the game away.
With there sure to be some movement and a shake-up of the roster going into next season it feels like no position is safe. Everyone feels as if they can be offered up in a trade at any time and must earn their spot going forward, and Lakins is all about that. Even though his season wasn’t a concrete success end to end he still put in the work and got himself on the roster.
"“I think what changed for me was a little bit of a mindset change,” Lakins said. “I just started telling myself, ‘Listen, you’re here for a reason and just show them why you got called up.’ And just stay true to myself. And I think that’s been a big thing for me.”"
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This winter will give him the chance to continue honing in on his skillset and bettering himself to become even more of an asset to Cora going forward. Red Sox Nation may not feel that he’s the best option but with money being tighter than ever, he’s a hell of a choice as he’s shown he can get the job done. Lakins is also just 25-years-old and has the right mindset in order to better himself on and off the field.
Boston doesn’t need to go out and sign a gaggle of relievers, they need to give designated roles for guys so they know what they’re getting themselves into. There was absolutely no reason for Cora to be so coy all season long about who the closer would. In doing so he would continuously flop Barnes with Ryan Brasier and both would fail due to a lack fo routine from the skipper. As the season concluded Workman took the job and ran with it and looks to be the favorite for 2020.
"“My confidence is at an all-time high,” Lakins said. “I’m going to go into this offseason and prepare like I’ve never prepared before. And I’m going to try to break camp next year and not get sent back to Triple A.”"
Having a guy like Lakins on the roster not only gives Cora the flexibility to have him eat some innings if necessary or simply using him in quick relief. He’s the type of pitcher that is just looking to get his chance and to show the work he’s put in during his career. With how he’s talking going into the offseason I really feel like he can be a real weapon for the Red Sox next season.
Lakins’ early-season struggles would skew his metrics for the rest of the year but he really was a reliable arm out of the bullpen for the Red Sox. With a lot of uncertainty coming from that bullpen in 2019, it will be nice having an arm that can be consistent on a daily basis. It’s clear that Travis has zero desire to return to Pawtucket in 2020 and will do what he has to in order to remain in Boston, and that’s the hunger this team needs right now.