Free-agent relievers are flying off the board without the Boston Red Sox showing any serious interest of bidding on arms that would upgrade their bullpen.
The free-agent market was littered with productive relievers when the offseason opened but most of those options have already been scooped up. The Boston Red Sox could use an upgrade to their bullpen yet they haven’t sent any signals that they plan to address that area of their roster.
It’s not that the front office hasn’t spent any money. Sure, they remain intent on dipping below the luxury tax line and that naturally is going to prevent them from splurging on free agents. That hasn’t stopped them from bargain hunting to fill areas of need.
Martin Perez will be paid $6 million to fill the spot at the back of their rotation. Boston needed infield depth and found Jose Pereza for $3 million. Kevin Plawecki was brought in as a cheaper version of Sandy Leon to fill the backup catcher role.
Was the bullpen not deemed an area of need? It should have been in the wake of a season where Red Sox relievers ranked 18th in the majors with a collective 4.40 ERA. The bullpen settled down and performed much better late in the season once a clear hierarchy was formed behind Brandon Workman so we should expect the results to improve in 2020. It still would have been ideal to add a veteran setup man to provide some stability.
Nobody expected Boston to shell out a lucrative deal for Will Smith, the top closer on the market who signed early with Atlanta for $40 million over three years. A 3-year, $24 million deal for a 35-year old Will Harris was understandably too rich for Boston’s blood. Dellin Betances may have been too risky at the $10.5 million contract he received from the Mets coming off a season lost to injury. A reunion with Drew Pomeranz wasn’t happening considering how poorly his last stint in Boston went.
That leaves several other appealing targets, many of whom have already been claimed for a price that should have been in Boston’s range.
Daniel Hudson is staying with the Washington Nationals on a 2-year, $11 million deal. Craig Stammen re-signed with the San Diego Padres for $10 million over two years. Perhaps it would have cost the Red Sox a bit more to pry them away from their current teams but we’re still talking about approximately $5-6 million per year. That doesn’t seem excessive based on what they’ve spent to fill other holes.
Steve Cishek was another affordable option who actually wanted to come to Boston. Apparently, the feeling wasn’t mutual and he’ll end up wearing different color Sox in Chicago. Notice that the price is still in the same ballpark at $6 million.
Who does that leave on the market? The only available reliever to crack the MLB Trade Rumors Top 50 free agent list is Pedro Strop. Oddly enough, MLBTR pegged him to sign with the Red Sox for $5 million. That might be too steep considering their reluctance to make a run at the various other free agents who signed for a similar price. The 34-year old is coming off the worst season of his career and wouldn’t be the safest investment anyway.
Beyond that, Boston would be sorting through the scrap heap to find bullpen help in free agency. At that point, they might as well save their money and look to internal options rising through their farm system.
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Either the Red Sox are content with the options they already in their bullpen or they are being frugal to the detriment of the 2020 season. The bullpen was arguably their biggest area of need this offseason. They clearly could have afforded one of the solid mid-tier options but they decided to spend that money elsewhere.