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Retooling the Red Sox Bullpen for 2016

It has begun! On Friday, November 6th, the Red Sox outrighted RP’s Alexi Ogando (who I was going to tag as a keeper for the 2016 pen) and Jean Machi. That same day, the Cubs claimed RP Ryan Cook. So, with those moves already done, we plow forward with my thoughts for how I think (want) the Red Sox should retool the pen. A player that you will see return to the 2016 Red Sox pen would be Junichi Tazawa, despite his late season struggles in the closer role. Putting him back into 7th or 8th inning duty should put him back on track. A starter that might be better off in a bullpen role, besides Matt Barnes whom Dombrowski has already pegged as being part of the 2016 pen (barring injury), would be Joe Kelly. Being able to harness is plus stuff into just an inning or two might do wonders to his value! He might just turn into the closer by the end of the season if not before then.

I am of the opinion that they should part ways with Koji Uehara for two reasons.

  1. At age 40, he simply isn’t able to withstand the rigors of a full season as a Boston closer. He has broken down the past two seasons. At his age, sport handicapping says that he will break down again in 2016.
  2. I think he still has some life left in his arm, but due to my previous point, he might be better suited to be the 8th inning set up man. These days it helps if your closer throws in the high 90s or higher.

That last point leads me to my first real suggestion, if they can swing a deal for Aroldis Chapman without breaking the bank (aka giving up too many top prospects). Not only can he consistently throw over 100 mph, but he has had an ERA under 3.00 in 5 of the past 6 seasons with 30+ saves and 100+ K’s in his past 4 seasons – that’s over 15 SO9 over that time (stats from baseball-reference.com).

But if they can’t pull off a deal for Chapman, they next candidate to trade for would need to be Craig Kimbrel with maybe a swap for Koji and others to get this done. He may not hit 100 mph, but he has had save totals between 39 and 50 over the past 5 seasons and an ERS no higher than 2.58 in those seasons. Not only that, but he has tallied between 87 to 127 K’s over that same time span for a SO9 of over 13.2 to 16.7 over that time.

Other potential trades for either closers or set-up men would be either a reunion with Jonathan Papelbon if the Nats are willing to eat some of his salary as Pap may not be able to remain an elite closer for much longer given his loss in velocity over the past few years. Another option would be John Axford, but that’s only if they lose out on some of the others I’ve already mentioned as he would be someone they’d be gambling on, but may be had without much cost.

For trades for potential set-up men or bullpen specialists there is a reunion with Burke Badenhop as he is familiar with the team and did well in his time here or taking a chance on Jonathan Broxton who could, if they were lucky, find his former form as an elite closer or at least a premier set-up man.

You can find the most recent stats for Axford, Badenhop, Broxton & Papelbon below:

To go the free agent route, they can go after closers/set-up men Brad Ziegler or Joakim Soria for obvius reasons. For either set-up roles or 7th inning duties they could go with either Jason Frasor or Tyler Clippard. Their most recent stats can e found below, but before that, let’s talk about each player first. Soria was initially signed last year as a set-up man, but due to injuries became the closer in Detroit before being traded to the Pirates so he might be a solid back to the closer situation in Boston. He had saved between 28 to 43 saves between 2007 and 2011 before missing the 2012 season due to Tommy John surgery, but has notched 18 and 24 saves in limited save opportunities over the last two years. Ziegler is coming off his best year to date, a year which saw him notch 30 saves for the D-backs with a sub-2 ERA with only a 4.8 SO9, but buyer beware as he also had a 3.44 FIP. Peace of mind comes from a career 2.47 ERA, but he has only notched more than 10 saves in 2013 and in his rookie year of 2008 – never hitting 20 saves until he surpassed that mark this year. Frasor would be a one or maybe a two year contract given his age (38), but he has maintained a sub-3 ERA over the past three seasons, but is a career 3.49 over 12 years. Nothing special here as he is a role player  that can have a positive impact on the bullpen and would be an upgrade. Clippard who saw some World Series action while with the Mets in 2015 is now a free agent at age 30. His highlights are notching 32 saves for the Nats back in 2012, having a sub-3 ERA in 5 of his 9 seasons and 100+ K’s in 2010-2011, but he hasn’t had a SO9 above 10 since 2014. In fact, 2015 saw him with his lowest K totals since 2009. That might be worrisome and it might mean he could be had for less than he could a year ago!

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