Red Sox bullpen shake-up possible as relievers near returns
The Boston Red Sox bullpen has been good to very good, but not great. There is room for improvement or possible improvement and that time nears. Recent recruit Brandon Workman is positioning himself for a return with some quality work at Worcester. In the wings is Ryan Brasier who is working his way back to health. The big “IF” is when they are ready. Then who goes?
The Red Sox are under no obligation with Workman or Brasier. The team could also have a “sudden” injury. Even the most incidental of physical tweaks can result in cautionary use of the IL. Trades are another consideration as the Red Sox can explore external rather than internal options. Keep a close watch on fading teams since that usually triggers opportunity. But back to who goes?
Matt Barnes, Adam Ottavino, and Hirokazu Sawamura are safe thanks to performance and contract status. Matt Andriese has had the shakes with his ERA nudging over the 5.00 mark. However, Andriese has a comfortable contract, a long and positive performance track record, and should be on an island of safety.
Garrett Whitlock has options but also has been quite solid. Whitlock is not base on balls prone and has rebounded well from the occasional meltdown – usually a home run. Maybe the next few weeks will change that and the 25-year-old righty could be visiting Kelly Square?
There are two lefties in the bullpen with Josh Taylor and Darwinzon Hernández. Hernández’s awful 11.1 BB% is offset by an impressive 23.6 K%. Hernández could be the closer of the future if he can learn to limit the free passes. Taylor is certainly vulnerable. He has not duplicated his fine 2019 debut. The walks are his personal plague and his only possible safety net is being a lefty. Left-hand hitters are just swatting .172 against him.
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Right-hander Phillips Valdéz is no novice when it comes to the organizational merry-go-round. Boston is Valdéz’s sixth organization in his professional career. For the Sox, Valdéz has been a pleasant surprise and doesn’t get crushed by lefty hitters.
The Red Sox could simply do nothing. They are under no obligation to provide an MLB roster slot to Workman or Brasier or any other prospect like WooSox closer Kaleb Ort. Ort could be pitching himself into contention for a trip to Boston.
The in-season movement of bullpen pieces is generally under the category that causes a yawn. There is the designated for assignment option that has claiming risks. Nobody wanted Austin Brice. Last season the Red Sox scoured the DFA, waiver, and the baseball landfill for players. Sometimes it works, but mostly it is a failure.
The current configuration of the bullpen is rounding into a reasonable shape. Roles are defined by performance and metrics. When both fail or diminish changes are made. Right now as the one-third point approaches judgments can be made. I would not make any long-range plans if I was Taylor or Valdéz.