5 moves the Red Sox should make when the MLB lockout ends
Red Sox Free Agent Target: RHP Ryan Tepera
The 2021 Red Sox Achilles’ heel was undoubtedly its bullpen. While Garrett Whitlock was a savior and Josh Taylor was one of the best pitchers in baseball for a two month stretch, there was very little consistency throughout the rest of the relief staff.
Matt Barnes was an All-Star closer but became untrustworthy almost immediately after signing his new contract. Adam Ottavino was the definition of inconsistent, and most likely will not be back with the team in 2022 (though the door is not completely shut). Hirokazu Sawamura showed flashes of brilliance (he had a 35% whiff% – good for top 5% in the league in 2021), but was derailed by injuries down the stretch. Darwinzon Hernandez showed that his stuff can still be electric, but he has yet to develop the command needed to be an elite bullpen weapon. Ryan Brasier battled back from multiple injuries, but how effective he can be for a full season remains to be seen.
Insert Ryan Tepera. The right-handed reliever’s best pitch was his slider in 2021 – he threw it 44.9% of the time at a 50.6% whiff rate. He also completely abandoned his cutter (his most used pitch in two of the previous three seasons), and the adjustments resulted in the best season of his career at age 33.
Tepera finished 2021 with a 2.79 ERA and 0.88 WHIP in 61.1 innings. He was a top target at the trade deadline among teams in the market for bullpen help, and the Cubs ultimately sent him crosstown to the White Sox in exchange for a pitching prospect. Tepera ended the season in the top 4% of the league for xERA, xSLG and xwOBA, and threw four innings in the ALDS giving up one earned run on two hits against the Astros.
Why it makes sense:
Signing Tepera doesn’t fix the bullpen, but the move is an excellent start to the process. Tepera made just $800,000 last season and could land a multi-year deal in the $2-3 million annual range when the lockout ends.