Red Sox rumored to be targeting a reliever familiar with a late-inning role

MIAMI, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 08: Jeurys Familia #27 of the New York Mets delivers a pitch against the Miami Marlins at loanDepot park on September 08, 2021 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 08: Jeurys Familia #27 of the New York Mets delivers a pitch against the Miami Marlins at loanDepot park on September 08, 2021 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

The Boston Red Sox are interested in reliever Jeurys Familia

In their search to upgrade the back end of their bullpen, the Boston Red Sox have their eye on a free agent reliever who is familiar with a late-inning role. According to WEEI’s Rob Bradford, the Red Sox are showing interest in former New York Mets right-hander Jeurys Familia.

Familia has spent almost his entire 10-year career with the Mets, aside from one brief post-trade deadline stint in Oakland. While he’s served primarily as a setup man in recent years, he does bring experience in the closer role. Familia has notched 125 career saves, including a league-leading 51 saves during his All-Star campaign in 2016.

He’s not the dominant closer he was at his peak but Familia remains an effective middle reliever. He went 9-4 with a 3.94 ERA and 10.9 K/9 while recording one save this season.

Familia’s primary weapon is a hard sinker that tops 96 mph and dives sharply as it reaches the plate. He pairs it with a slider that’s his best pitch for generating swings-and-misses, producing a 38.2 Whiff% this season, per Baseball Savant. That was actually low by his standards, since he typically owns a Whiff% above 45.0% with his slider.

Familia only throws his four-seam fastball about 15 percent of the time but it has been effective when he pulls it out of his bag. He averaged over 97 mph with the four-seamer while holding opposing hitters to a .073 average this season and a .091 average in 2020.

He also throws a splitter that he utilizes almost exclusively against lefties. It wasn’t effective this season (.333 AVG) but it’s a small sample and the pitch has worked better for him in the past. Familia fared better against right-handed hitters (.231/.306/.392) compared to left-handed hitters (.270/.365/.490). Regaining his previous form with that splitter is the key to Familia being reliable against lefties.

A solid track record and impressive arsenal makes Familia an appealing target but there are some warning signs to be cautious of. He ranked in the bottom four percent of the league with a walk percentage north of 15% from 2019-2020. While his command improved this year, his 10.3 BB% is still a bit higher than you want from a late-inning reliever. Familia was also plagued by the long ball, coughing up a career-high 10 home runs and 1.5 HR/9. His intention to reduce his walk rate may have backfired with too many pitches left hanging over the plate.

Adam Ottavino and Hansel Robles are free agents. The Red Sox will have some holes to fill in the bullpen if those trusted relievers aren’t brought back. Garrett Whitlock and Tanner Houck are both in consideration for rotation spots, which would further deplete the bullpen. Despite a few red flags, Familia is still capable of being a useful asset to a bullpen in dire need of reinforcements.

Boston presumably wouldn’t sign Familia with the intention of making him their closer. Ideally, they will go shopping for a steadier arm to fill that role. If they reluctantly turn back to Matt Barnes in hopes that the issues leading to his second-half collapse have been solved, it wouldn’t hurt to stock up on pitchers who have a history of closing games in case Boston needs to turn to Plan B.

The Red Sox are going to look at any viable option to upgrade their bullpen. Familia isn’t necessarily at the top of their list but he has appealing upside. If Boston’s bullpen loses key pieces to free agency or role changes, Familia is a potential replacement they should keep an eye on.

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