With the best relief pitcher being taken off the market, and the Red Sox needing to acquire a reliever, what is the outlook for Boston’s 2020 bullpen?
The Boston Red Sox lacked an experienced left-handed reliever in 2019 – only Darwinzon Hernandez and Josh Taylor, albeit both were very good. However, adding a veteran lefty would not hurt the bullpen.
Will Smith would have been a target for the Red Sox as he just had a dominant 2019 season, 152 ERA+ and 13.2 SO/9. He is projected to have a solid 2020 season, 3.57 ERA and 11 SO/9.
He would have definitely solidified the back end of the Red Sox bullpen and could have been their closer. However, the Atlanta Braves inked Smith to a 3-year, $40 million deal with an option for a fourth season.
Smith will set up for the Braves with Mark Melancon still expected to close in 2020. So where does this leave the Red Sox?
First of all, it is unlikely Smith would have signed with the Red Sox as he had a draft pick compensation attached to him and their payroll may not be able to support $13 million for a closer. However, this affects the paychecks that all other pitchers will receive.
If Smith were to remain on the free agent market, he would have been the best reliever available. He would get a large contract with all other pitchers getting lesser deals. With one of the top bullpen arms taken off of the market, this could add value to other relievers.
Now, arms such as Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson have more leverage. If Smith was on the market and the Red Sox tried to acquire Doolittle, they had more leverage as there were other options available. Now, the pitchers hold the market as one of the top arms in baseball is no longer an option.
At the end of the day, it was unlikely for the Red Sox to sign Smith, but it will definitely send a ripple effect across the market.
Whichever reliever Boston signs this offseason, there will be two consequences. One, they will not be as good as Smith as he was the best pitcher on the market. Also, they will likely have to fork up a few more million.
While Smith’s new contract with the Braves is certain, what is not cemented is that the Red Sox will now be able to acquire a top of the market reliever to stabilize their vacant closer role.