The Boston Red Sox have acquired right-handed reliever Austin Brice from the Miami Marlins, adding a low-cost arm to bolster their bullpen.
Lost in the shuffle of the arbitration news on Friday was an under the radar trade to improve the depth of the Boston Red Sox bullpen by acquiring right-handed reliever Austin Brice from the Miami Marlins in exchange for minor league shortstop Angeudis Santos.
To make room on the 40-man roster for Brice, the Red Sox designated infielder Marco Hernandez for assignment. It’s been a rough winter for Hernandez, who was non-tendered before re-signing at a lower salary, only to be designated for assignment. He could still remain in the organization as a non-40-man roster player if he clears waivers, which would leave him toiling away in Pawtucket hoping for a spot to eventually open for him again in Boston.
The 18-year old Santos was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2018. He had an underwhelming stint in the Dominican Summer League and is a long way from helping a major league team, if he ever gets there at all. He wasn’t listed among the top 30 prospects in the Red Sox system by MLB.com.
Brice had the best year of his career with the Marlins last season, posting a 3.43 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, and 9.3 K/9 in 44 2/3 innings of relief.
The 27-year old debuted with the Marlins in 2016 only to be traded to the Cincinnati Reds in the Dan Straily trade after the season. Following two forgettable years with the Reds, Brice landed back in Miami after they scooped him up on waivers last February. The Marlins designated him for assignment last week before working out a trade with Boston.
The first few years of his major league career were brutal. Brice owned a 5.68 ERA, a well below-average strikeout rate of 7.7 K/9 and a troubling 1.8 HR/9 rate from 2016-2018.
There are reasons to be optimistic that last year’s breakout wasn’t a fluke though. Brice altered his pitch mix, leaning heavily on a curveball that ranks in the 94th percentile in spin rate, per Statcast. The curve was his most frequently used pitch at 44.7% and it held opposing batters to a .172 batting average with a .375 slugging percentage and 29.3 whiff percentage. Paired with a similarly effective four-seam fastball, Brice managed to reduce the amount of hard contact that he allows while seeing his strikeout rate skyrocket.
Brice is out of minor league options so he’ll need to make the active roster out of camp or risk being exposed to waivers.
Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom has yet to make a big splash during his brief tenure but he’s made a number of low-cost moves to fill in the edges of the roster. Lefty Josh Osich and right-hander Chris Mazza are two other pitchers claimed off waivers earlier this offseason. Both will compete with Brice for the open spots in the bullpen this spring. Boston has a handful of relievers locked into secure roles but there are a few openings up for grabs.
Brice isn’t a player fans will be excited about acquiring but he has the potential to help this team. His cheap pre-arbitration salary fits into their tight budget and he cost practically nothing to pry away from Miami. Bloom helped turn the Tampa Bay Rays into a contender on a limited budget by finding great value when he couldn’t afford superstars. Now he’s putting those skills to work for the Red Sox.