Red Sox revamped bullpen is an improvement
Boston’s bullpen was among the worst in baseball last season, ranking fourth-worst in the majors with a collective 5.79 ERA and in the bottom-five with a -0.5 WAR, per FanGraphs.
While the Red Sox didn’t land one of the high-priced proven closers on the free-agent market this winter, they did overhaul their bullpen to assemble a core that appears vastly improved.
The closer battle still hasn’t been clearly settled but candidates Matt Barnes and Adam Ottavino both proved worthy of the opportunity based on their strong spring performances. Neither reliever allowed an earned run and they combined for 25 strikeouts over 11 2/3 innings.
A pair of newcomers provide the bullpen with options that can log multiple innings and fill in for the occasional spot start. Matt Andriese owned a solid 2.70 ERA and 0.80 WHIP in 10 innings this spring. Garrett Whitlock allowed only one run in nine innings while striking out 12 without a walk.
Hirokazu Sawamura faces an adjustment period adapting from Japan to MLB. His control remains a work in progress after walking eight batters in only 4 /23 innings but he still managed a decent 3.86 ERA. He might take some time to work his way up the hierarchy but Sawamura has the talent to be a valuable asset to this bullpen.
Josh Taylor and Darwinzon Hernandez were expected to be the key left-handed options in last year’s bullpen but the Red Sox got very little out of either of them since they were sidelined by COVID-19 for most of the season. Now healthy, these southpaws are ready to contribute. Taylor allowed only one earned run in his seven appearances. Hernandez struggled with his command, walking seven batters in 5 2/3 innings, but we know there is elite strikeout upside that comes with those bouts of wildness.
The bullpen depth beyond that is a bit questionable but the Red Sox have a solid core of relievers to rely on. It might not be the strength of the team but it no longer appears to be a weakness.