This report comes less than a week after Sox manager Alex Cora announced that right-hander Nathan Eovaldi would be moving to the bullpen once he is activated off the injured list in the coming weeks.
With that impending move to the ‘pen, Eovaldi’s spot in the rotation, which had been occupied by the likes of Brian Johnson, Hector Velazquez, Ryan Weber, and so on, became more of a pressing area of improvement for Boston.
Per ESPN.com, the Red Sox’ rotation owns an ERA of 4.70 and batting average against of .257, the seventh and eighth best in the American League, respectively.
Last Friday, when speaking with The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said, “We built our ballclub for (the starting rotation) to be our strong suit. I don’t think it’s been what we expected or hoped.”
Dombrowski also added that, “They’re a very talented group of pitchers…They’re the guys who are supposed to carry us, really. That’s why I think they’ve been fine. They’ve been okay. But I can’t say they’ve really carried us at any point.”
Names the Red Sox could pursue in trade talks include San Francisco Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner and Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman, although they are more of the premium targets.
Detroit Tigers southpaw Matthew Boyd and Texas Rangers left-hander Mike Minor, two hurlers Boston was scouting late last month, could be made available as well, but it has been reported that Boyd has a high asking price, while the Rangers remain in contention for a wild card spot.
The situation the Red Sox are in reminds me of what happened last season right before the club acquired Eovaldi from the Tampa Bay Rays. All the speculation pointed to the Sox pursuing a reliever like Zach Britton to bolster their bullpen, but they went out and traded for a starter instead.
We’ll just have to wait and see what Dombrowski has in mind leading into the July 31st trade deadline, and how said plans could affect any luxury tax implications.
After it was reported by NESN’s Tom Caron on Monday that Nathan Eovaldi will become the Red Sox’ closer when he returns from the injured list, manager Alex Cora made things official in Toronto on Tuesday, stating that the right-hander will move to the bullpen once he is healthy.
Cora: “We’ve been talking about Eovaldi to the pen for the last few weeks, for him to contribute as soon as possible it makes sense for everyone. It’s been an ongoing dialog the last 15 days, he gave us his blessing. We are not closing the door on him starting later this season.”
“We’re about to find out if he is built for high leverage situations, this is a new role for him. Eovaldi will embrace it. We will take care of him. Funny, everyone is saying closer…but he’ll help in the bullpen. Haven’t made that decision.” from MLB Radio
Although there was no clear indication that Eovaldi will serve as a traditional closer for Boston, this moves come at a time when the Sox’ bullpen has been under heavy scrutiny lately, especially during this past weekend’s series against the New York Yankees in London.
Since June 20th, Red Sox relievers have posted a cumulative 8.73 ERA and .321 batting average against over their last eight games played, both the worst in all of baseball in that span.
Eovaldi, 29, last recorded a save on June 14, 2009, more than 10 years ago, when he was a prospect in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization and pitching for the Class-A Great Lakes Loons.
In eight career big league appearances as a reliever, the Texas Native owns a lifetime 3.21 ERA and .188 batting average against over 14 total innings of work.
The Red Sox this season lead the American League in blown saves with 17 in 34 opportunities, so the need is obviously there to bolster the back end of a struggling bullpen.
Matt Barnes was viewed as the man who would see the most high leverage opportunities for Boston, but now it appears that role will shift over to Eovaldi once he returns from the IL.
One problem that comes into light once this move is made would be the Sox’ starting rotation.
Eovaldi inked a four-year, $68 milliion deal with Boston back in December to be a starter, he said as much during his press conference at the baseball winter meetings in Las Vegas.
“There were a lot of teams that reached out, wanted me to be a closer,” Eovaldi said. “I view myself as a starter, and that’s something I’ve always done my entire career. And I enjoy doing that. So if I had that choice, I still wanted to be a starter.”
Moving Eovaldi to the ‘pen would leave the Red Sox with the same issue they have been trying to deal with in the righty’s absence, that being the fifth and final spot in the rotation.
So far, names such as Brian Johnson, Hector Velazquez, Josh Smith, and Ryan Weber have made spot starts for Boston, and none have ran into a great deal of success in that role.
When speaking with MLB Network Radio on Tuesday, Cora did not rule out the possibility of Eovaldi returning to the starting rotation later in the season.
Out since the middle of April while recovering from right elbow surgery to remove loose bodies from the area, Eovaldi could be back sooner rather than later now that he will not have to ramp up his workload.
There’s also no guarantee that the former 11th round pick, who as already mentioned has no real closing experience, will be a shutdown reliever once he makes his return. How will his elbow react to working multiple times in a week, compared to just once every five days? That much is unknown.
This all goes to show how unprepared the Red Sox were for the 2019 season. They lost two key pieces of their World Series-winning bullpen in Joe Kelly and Craig Kimbrel, and did almost nothing to address it outside of acquiring Colten Brewer.
It’s been no secret that Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes has been struggling as of late.
Since the turn of June, the right-hander has posted a 7.82 ERA over 12 2/3 innings pitched, allowing runs in five of his last 14 appearances while also blowing three saves in that span.
He entered the month with an ERA just over two at 2.08 and a batting average against of .160, but those numbers have since skyrocketed.
The main issue involved with these regressing statistics would have to be that Barnes has been used more frequently out of the Red Sox bullpen by manager Alex Cora.
In that span where his ERA was at 2.08 heading into June, the UCONN product appeared in 22, or 40%, of Boston’s first 55 games this season.
Since the beginning of the month though, as previously mentioned, Barnes has appeared in 14, or 58.3%, of Boston’s last 24 games, which is where those struggles have arisen.
As things stand right now, the 29-year-old is on pace to make 71 relief outings in 2019, which would be eight more than he made all of last year. His previous career-high in that category was 70 back in 2017.
With that recent workload comes not much rest, and the numbers back up the sentiment that Barnes has struggled when asked to come out of the ‘pen on consecutive days.
Per Baseball Reference, Barnes has made 10 appearances on zero days rest, another career-high for him. In those 10 games, he has posted an ERA well over 10 and batting average against of .351 over 8 2/3 total innings.
With one or more days of rest, however, the former first round pick has fared much better. That much is evident by how his ERA shrinks from 10.38 with no days off down to 2.16 over 25 frames with anywhere from one to five days off.
If Barnes continues to work at the rate he is now, he is only going to wear out quicker. He’s already walked nine batters in June, more than he had in March/April and May combined.
Clearly, whatever plan president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski had in place for his bullpen has not panned out and is just not sustainable for a deep postseason run.
Barnes has struggled at closing games, yes, but was he ever named the Red Sox’ closer to begin with? No.
What the Sox need is an actual closer. Someone with saving experience to fill the gap Craig Kimbrel left from last year’s team.
As long as they figure out some way to upgrade their bullpen, there’s no need for this team to sell.
I wrote on Sunday about how this Red Sox bullpen needs help from the outside. With the way things are trending, the three relievers Boston has frequently turned to so far this season will be burned out later in the year.
Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier have seen their share of struggles in June, Brandon Workman is averaging nearly seven walks per nine innings this season, and Heath Hembree has been missed during his time on the injured list.
It’s been well stated that president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski should look to upgrade his bullpen before the July 31st trading deadline, so here are five names I think he and the Red Sox should target.
LHP Will Smith, San Francisco Giants
As the featured image would indicate, Giants closer Will Smith first comes to mind for upgrading the Red Sox’ bullpen situation.
Set to turn 30 next month and become a free agent this winter, the left-hander has had a fantastic year in his second full season with San Francisco, posting a 2.01 ERA and 2.10 FIP over 32 appearances and 31 1/3 innings while averaging more than 13 strikeouts per nine innings and holding opposing hitters to a .157 batting average against.
Given that Sox manager Alex Cora has decided to go without a traditional closer so far in 2019, Smith could provide the reigning World Series champs with what they have been missing in that traditional ninth inning man.
LHP Tony Watson, San Francisco Giants
Another left-handed Giants reliever, Watson’s current contract runs through the end of the 2019 campaign and includes a player option for next year.
Now in his second season with San Francisco, the 34-year-old hurler hasn’t picked up a save in a game since he was with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2017, but he can still provide help and experience to a club that is in need of it.
Through 33 appearances and 30 2/3 frames of work in 2019, Watson owns an ERA of 2.64 and a slightly higher FIP of 3.87. He is averaging nearly seven strikeouts per nine and opponents are hitting .250 off of him.
Obviously, these numbers are not as elite as Smith’s, but I think it would be worth the Red Sox’ time and effort to look into acquiring Watson, especially if the former has a hefty asking price.
LHP Sean Doolittle, Washington Nationals
The third and final southpaw on this list, Doolittle has a team option attached to his deal that runs through the end of this season.
The 32-year-old has been a bright spot in what’s been another disappointing year for the Washington Nationals to this point, posting a 3.13 ERA and 2.87 FIP over 33 relief outings and 31 2/3 innings pitches.
A one time Oakland Athletic, Doolittle has converted 16 out of a possible 19 saves while averaging nearly 11 punchouts per nine and holding opposing hitters to a .254 batting average against.
With plenty of late-game experience in hand, Doolittle is another option that could alleviate some stress for the back end of the Boston ‘pen.
RHP Shane Greene, Detroit Tigers
Now on to the American League arms, and we’ll start with Tigers closer Shane Greene.
Acquired from the New York Yankees in December of 2014 when Dombrowski was still at the helm in Detroit, Greene has evolved from a failed starter to one of the better relievers in the AL in his time with the Tigers.
The 30-year-old righty, who still has one year of arbitration left, owns a minuscule ERA of 0.93 to go along with a FIP of 3.56 through 29 games this season. He has converted 21 of a possible 22 saves while limiting the opposition to a .154 clip.
In his time running baseball operations with Boston, Dombrowski has built a reputation of going out and acquiring or signing players he has had a history with. David Price, J.D. Martinez, and Ian Kinsler all come to mind. So, why not do it again by bringing in Greene to be the new Red Sox’ closer? The asking price may be high given the years of control and what not, but this is an avenue that at least needs to be explored.
RHP Ken Giles, Toronto Blue Jays
Finally, someone the Red Sox just saw this past weekend in Blue Jays closer Ken Giles.
Like Greene, the 28-year-old right-hander still has another year of arbitration remaining before hitting free agency following the 2020 season.
Since being acquired by Toronto from the Houston Astros last July, Giles has been solid, especially this season with an ERA of 1.33 and FIP of 1.07 through 27 appearances and 27 innings of work.
In those 27 outings, Giles has averaged 15.7 punchouts per nine innings while holding opposing hitters to just a .202 batting average against. He has also converted 12 of a possible 13 save opportunities.
Giles missed a little more than a week of action earlier this month due to inflammation in his right elbow, so that may be something to monitor.
The trade deadline is just over a month away and the Red Sox currently sit eight games back of the New Yankees for first place in the American League East.
The Red Sox bullpen blew a 6-1 lead against the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday with the help of four straight walks from both Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier in the eighth inning.
Per FanGraphs, the Boston ‘pen has been the fifth best in the American League so far this season in terms of ERA (4.00) and fWAR (2.9), but they also lead the AL in blown saves with 15 on the year. All this without a set closer.
Matt Barnes entered June with a 2.08 ERA on the season. Since then, the right-hander has posted an ERA of 7.15 while appearing in 12 of the 22 games the Red Sox have played this month. He is on pace to make 71 relief appearances in 2019, nine more than he made all of last year.
Brandon Workman has become one of the more valuable members of Boston’s relief corps after not making last season’s Opening Day roster and being optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket three times. He appeared in a total of 43 games in 2018 and is only five outings away from reaching that mark this year.
In those 38 appearances, the right-hander has really limited the hits he has given up, but walks remain a legitimate issue, as he is averaging nearly seven per nine innings.
Ryan Brasier, meanwhile, was not even up with the big league club at this point in 2018. He may have played an important tole in Boston’s success then, but, in what is now his first full season in the majors, it’s clear to see that the 31-year-old has regressed, which had to have been expected.
From July 8th to the end of the 2018 campaign, Brasier appeared in 34 games for the Sox, posting a 1.60 ERA and .171 batting average against over 33 2/3 innings of work.
This year, the right-hander has already made 35 appearances out of the ‘pen, and has yielded 12 earned runs on 25 hits and 10 walks in 31 1/3 frames of relief.
The bottom line here is that, at this rate, the big three of Barnes, Brasier, and Workman will be worked into the ground with the way things are going.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora has been given no other choice in order to give his club the best chance to win. Contributions from guys like Heath Hembree, Marcus Walden, and now Josh Taylor have helped, but the Red Sox bullpen needs some legitimate support from the outside.
President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski needs to go out and acquire a veteran reliever with closing experience. If a move is not made in the coming weeks leading up to the trading deadline, then it may be too late to think about clinching a fourth straight American League East title.
I will post a list of a few relievers I would like to see the Red Sox pursue before July 31st very soon, so stay tuned for that.
At 3:06, the Red Sox officially announced the acquisition of Addison Reed via the team’s Twitter account. Reed, a 28-year-old reliever who has been with the Mets since 2015, owns a 2.57 ERA and a WHIP of 1.12 so far this season. The righty has been in the bigs since 2011, racking up 125 saves over that span. This will be Reed’s fourth big league team, and this is most likely the only addition that will be made to the Red Sox bullpen. He does have big game experience, as he pitched in five games during the 2015 World Series. In exchange for Reed, Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox are trading three pitching prospects. Jamie Callahan, Stephen Nogosek, and Gerson Bautista are all part of the deal, Callahan probably being the most well-known out of three. I don’t think there’s enough evidence to really judge this trade yet, but if there was one thing, I would have to say it’s the fact that the Red Sox have traded five pitching prospects in the past week. I know none of them were that highly regarded, but it’s just something to consider. Reed is essentially a rental, but with the uncertainty Tyler Thornburg and Carson Smith will bring going into next season, I wouldn’t be surprised if an extension is considered.
At 3:15, the Yankees officially announced that they have acquired Sonny Gray from the Oakland Athletics. Gray, who was on the trading block for what seemed like an extensive amount of time, finally gets traded. Before David Price and Chris Sale made their way to Boston, Sonny Gray was definitely a pitcher sought out by the Red Sox, fans and executives alike. In return for Gray, the Yankees are giving up three of their best prospects, Dustin Fowler, Jorge Mateo, and James Kaprielian. With Clint Frazier in New York, Fowler was the best outfielder in the Yankees system. The value of both Mateo and Kaprielian has diminished a bit since the start of last season, mainly due to injury and other trades the Yankees made. All and all, the Yankees got a controllable arm and the A’s got three of their top prospects in return. With the additions of Gray and Jaime Garcia, the Yankees look like they have a legit rotation for a pennant race.
This was the biggest move as the day, everything else has been smaller, mostly. Tony Watson is going to the Dodgers, Francisco Liriano is going to the Astros, the Marlins aren’t moving Dan Straily, the Tigers aren’t moving Justin Verlander, the Orioles have yet to trade Zach Brittion, Brad Hand is still a Padre, etc.
I’m pretty positive the Red Sox are done making moves. Trades can still happen after today too, can’t forget that.
It is now 4:09 and nothing big is happening.
UPDATE: The Dodgers got Yu Darvish. A 74 win team has gotten a whole lot better today. Darvish, Tony Cingrani, and Tony Watson. I would say they’re not going to have any trouble getting to the World Series, but they haven’t been in one since 1988.
UPDATE AGAIN: The Nationals got Brandon Kintzler from the Twins. So they go from having a weak bullpen, to now having Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle, and Kintzler, which is not half bad.