Four free-agent relievers who could be of interest to the Red Sox.
The decline options list continues to provide fertile shopping grounds with buyers beware being the optimum word. Teams decline options for a variety of reasons such as poor performance, other organizational options, age, injury, fiscal concerns, and the reasoning of resigning the player for less money.
The option also gives an insight into the value of a player based on the value of the option and the performance of the player during the season. This is all tossed into a tumbler over the COVID-19 situation that may have skewered the numbers for several players. Had Charlie Morton and Ryan Braun value sunk over deteriorating skills or an awful set of circumstances?
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Where the Boston Red Sox need help – and that is certainly understated – is pitching with emphasis on a bullpen that developed an innate ability to toss a jerrycan of petrol on any reasonable performance by a starter – just ask Martin Perez. But some talent has surfaced and the Red Sox need at least one or preferably two solid arms to provide substance to the ‘pen. Frankly, I would sign a shape-shifting Martian if it could help.
The Braves declined Darren O’Day at $3.5 MM. O’Day made an excellent recovery from an injury racked 2019, going 4-0 in the shortened season with a 1.10 ERA/2.76 FIP in 16.1 innings. The 38-year-old righty was a long time staple of the O’s hurling for the Birds for seven seasons with a 2.40 ERA/3.33 FIP.
O’Day was especially effective at Fenway Park, posting a 1-0 record and 1.35 ERA in 26.1 innings. Certainly, a plus is O’Day’s career 2.5 BB/9 and 6.7 H/9. O’Day earned $2.5 MM in 2019 in the first year with the Braves so his value probably rests somewhere in the $3 MM range. A valuable setup reliever who is risky as a closer with a 45.5% on career save opportunities. My personal choice of the four.
Right-hander David Robertson has had a remarkable 12-year career in a variety of bullpen roles. Robertson’s option for 2021 was $12 MM and the Phillies declined based on health issues including missing a large chunk of the 2019 season and all of 2020 over Tommy John Surgery. Robertson will face a tight market based on age, health, and value available. This could present the Red Sox with a low-value risk/reward situation.
The Phillies also declined 34-year-old right-hander David Phelps who was scheduled to earn $4.5 MM if the Phillies chose to exercise the option. Phelps – originally a starter with the Yankees – has migrated to the bullpen making only two starts in the last four years.
Phelps split his 2020 between the Brewers and the Phillies with a rather unremarkable stat line going 2-4, 6.53 in 20.2 innings for a 0.2 bWAR. Need a warning sign? In that handful of 2020 innings, Phelps gave up seven home runs.
Brandon Kintzler is gone with savings to the Marlins of $4 MM. The 36-year-old righty is an 11-year veteran and is now on the open market after a 12 save season with two blown saves as Marlins closer. Kintzler is not noted for being a whiff concentric pitcher with a career 6.3 K/9, but survives on control (2.4 BB/9) and getting a ground ball.
In 2020, Kintzler went 2-3 in 24 games and 24.1 innings with a 2.20 ERA. The alarming note is a 5.00 FIP. For his career, Kintzler is 61/84 in saves for 72.6%. Kitzler posted a 1.2 bWAR in the short season and was originally signed for $3.25 MM for 2020. Throughout his career, Kintzler has been strictly a bullpen pitcher with no starts in his 454 career games. Kintzler could be available at a relatively bargain price.