By Joshua Nord – @nordjoshua (photo credit-Getty images)
The off-season is in full swing, teams have already made trades, signings and perhaps the biggest thus far, is our rival landing Seattle Ace James Paxton. Thats a great pickup for them, but the Sox still have the advantage of having a well rounded, World Series winning team.
Except for the newly vacant closer role that is.
Kimbrel is gone, after giving us three years of work which often had us either happy or worried depending on the day. Who will take over? There are three solid options. First is to re-sign Kimbrel, paying a huge contract to a reliever who despite not blowing a save, was far from lock down in the postseason. Option two is to promote one of our own. Barnes, Brasier, or Kelly if he returns. To that I say, good lord no. Remember in three years we still haven’t figured out a setup man. Why add another inning to the merry go round of potential meltdowns? This leaves us with the remaining option: Pin point a free agent closer on the market and sign him. Here are four potential pitchers for this role.
The right handed reliever is only twenty eight years old, and enters free agency after a dismal second half. Starting 2018 with the Royals he pitched to a 1.05 ERA and 0.82 WHIP before being traded to the Nationals. Once arriving in the Nation’s capital, things started going south in a hurry. His ERA ballooned up to 4.34, and his WHIP to 1.71. The reason for this is a shoulder injury that then turned into ligament tear in his foot. Ending his season.
Now these injuries are obviously impactful to what a contract could look like. He shouldn’t be considered as an immediate long term solution as the closer, and possibly limited to a one year contract until proven healthy.
Herrera could be ready for opening day just as easily as he could miss time if he isn’t able to rehab correctly. This all does play to our favor though as his value is going to be lowest out of any other available option. These issues might appear risky to some, but his low cost should make him the number one target as Kimbrel’s replacement.
The thirty three year old former Yankee will be representing himself this offseason, as he seeks a new team following another productive season after serving as a cornerstone in the Yankees bullpen.
Robertson has had an impressive career. Red Sox fans know him well from his time on the other side of the rivalry. In 2017/2018 he wasn’t primarily the closer, as that role was held by Aroldis Chapman. When Robertson did make a few ninth inning appearances, it was met with mixed results.
Still the free agent reliever suggested he would favor teams closer to his Rhode Island home, so that should be a tip off to the Red Sox to at least kick the tires on that potential option.
Robertson might be my least favorite on this list, but he’s absolutely viable for any big market team seeking a closer. I would have confidence seeing him play a key part out of the Boston bullpen.
It’s time to come back home to the AL East for this veteran stud. Spending time with Boston, Baltimore, and eventually New York, Miller was eventually traded to Cleveland where he was truly dominant for 2016-2017. Unfortunately that dominance is behind him as he took a step back for much of 2018 due to multiple stints on the disabled list, and was not quite as effective as many expected.
For a reliever whose value was sky high just a few months ago, he limps into free agency seeking a new home for his fourteenth season. Still though, behind those injuries is a slider that’s one of the game’s best. Miller hasn’t served as a closer since 2015 with the Yankees. Francona prefered to use Miller as a high leverage reliever whenever it was necessary. Rest assured he still has the experience both in either role, as well as pitching at Fenway.
You have never heard of him, and that’s fine. What you presently need to know is that this guy is the youngest out of the bunch. Meaning that there’s more reason to pursue if Boston plans on trying to keep some semblance of a core together beyond after this supposed window shuts.
The Red Sox actually have a history with Kikuchi. They met with him back in 2009 when he was considering skipping the Japanese league altogether to play baseball in the U.S., immediately after high school. He opted to stick around his home country, and despite some injuries has proven to be an extremely effective pitcher.
That isn’t to say the Japanese lefty isn’t without faults. He is a two-pitch pitcher with a fastball that sits in the low-low nineties. Something that hasn’t common for a dominant MLB reliever about a decade. Except for possibly Koji Uehara.
Kikuchi’s injury history could still be a deterrent, as well as the Posting system Japan has for getting players to the U.S. might make him the most expensive of the above listed free agent.
He would also convert from starter to reliever, play in a completely different country, and be asked perform effectively in one of baseball’s toughest markets. On top of that being expected to perform a key role in one of the biggest rivalries in American sports.
If Kikuchi was looking for a challenge, I don’t think believe he will find a bigger one. This player is entirely a wildcard, but it’s best to keep every possible option available as we look to see who will take the mound in the ninth in 2019. Whatever they decide, I don’t expect it will be a disaster.
I just hope they can get the most value for the least money spent.
ICYMI: BENNY & THE BETTS PODCAST EP 105
YANKEES TRADING SANCHEZ? KLUBER TO METS OR DODGERS? WHERE DOES GOLDSCHMIDT LAND?
**Audio issues between minutes 43-48 only***
Also avail on #itunes #spotify #stitcher