The Red Sox are showing interest in free-agent Brandon Workman
The Boston Red Sox have made progress in upgrading a bullpen that rated among the worst in baseball last season but they might not be done tinkering. According to MassLive’s Chris Cotillo, Boston has expressed interest in a reunion with right-handed reliever Brandon Workman.
The acquisition of Adam Ottavino in a trade with the Yankees provided the Red Sox with a late-inning upgrade but the team’s reluctance to anoint him as their new closer left the door open for another addition. Ottavino has briefly served in the closer role with his previous clubs but never for a full season. Boston may prefer a proven closer with more of a track record, which would allow them the flexibility to deploy Ottavino in other high-leverage situations.
Workman emerged as a legitimate closing option in the second half of the 2019 season, collecting 16 saves for the Red Sox while posting a 1.88 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 13.1 K/9.
Workman made only seven appearances in 2020 before the Red Sox traded him to the Philadelphia Phillies. The results were fairly mediocre over those 6 2/3 innings with Wokrman posting a 4.05 ERA but he converted all four save opportunities.
The wheels fell off in Philly though. Workman posted a brutal 6.92 ERA in 13 innings while converting only five of eight save opportunities. He blew a save in his first appearance with the Phillies and the dismal first impression didn’t improve, ultimately leading to Philadelphia taking him out of the closer role.
The free-agent market is saturated with viable options and Workman has fallen down the list of priorities with his disastrous run in Philadelphia tanking his stock. Trevor Rosenthal, Alex Colome, Mark Melancon, Shane Greene, Jeremy Jeffress and Joakim Soria are among the available options that might be more appealing.
Boston’s familiarity with Workman might give him an edge if they believe that the small sample in last year’s shortened season was an outlier. He should also be cheaper than some of the other remaining options, which could be a factor for a Red Sox team with just over $5 million remaining in their budget if they want to remain below the competitive balance tax threshold. It’s hard to see him getting more than that in this market so Boston should be able to squeeze him into their payroll.
It’s possible that the Red Sox would be willing to dip over the tax line if it meant securing a more reliable reliever who isn’t coming off a poor season. They can always make mid-season deals to cut payroll and get under the tax if they fall out of contention.
Bolstering the bullpen is a wise strategy regardless of how confident the Red Sox are in their chances to contend this year. They’ll need more trustworthy arms if they are going to make a run in the competitive AL East. Contenders always need bullpen arms so if Boston were to fall out of the race, any reliever they sign now to a short-term deal is a potential trade chip at the deadline.
A reunion with Workman isn’t necessarily Boston’s preferred choice but he’s back on the radar. If they miss out on the top remaining relievers or need to pivot to a cheaper option, welcoming back the Yak Man is a viable option.