The 2019 Boston Red Sox project to be a good team with an extra strong rotation. While they may not be 108-win worthy again, they will still be a force to be reckoned with. Their offense is still top of the line, though due for some minor regression (no high .330s). Their rotation is still excellent on paper (led by David Price, Chris Sale and Rick Porcello). However, their bullpen is the definition of a mess. Rather than invest in Craig Kimbrel, Dave Dombrowski went with in house options. This could be their Achilles heel.
The Boston Red Sox decided that Craig Kimbrel’s costs would be too high for a team that blasted through the luxury tax in 2018. At the start of the offseason it seemed likely that Kimbrel would get deals closer to what Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen got. However, it is now March 13 and Craig Kimbrel is still a free agent. It is more than likely that no matter who he signs with, the closer will not be able to start the season in the bullpen due to a lack of Spring Training. With every day that passes, his value continues to drop. If he enters the season as a free agent, his value is done.
Roster-Resource.com and Jason Martinez project the closer role with the Red Sox to be a mix of Ryan Braiser, a 31-year-old junior year player, and Red Sox stalwart Matt Barnes. Brasier had a 1.60 ERA in 34 games in 2018. Baseball-Reference has Braiser projected for a 3.43 ERA in 42 innings pitch. This would be a drastic jump from his 2018 numbers, but not out of line. However, are we ready to pencil Brasier in as a 31 year old closer? That is a major risk. Matt Barnes himself is entering his sixth season as a Red Sox pitcher. He is projected to have a 3.86 ERA in 63 innings at age 29. Barnes seems like a reasonable mid-season closer. He projects better as a setup man or middle relief.
Heath Hembree is listed as the setup man for Braiser/Barnes. Hembree had a lackluster 2018, becoming the butt of many jokes by Yankees fans. Hembree had a 4.20 ERA in 67 games. He is projected for a 3.98 ERA in 2019 in 61 innings. Brandon Workman is next, and his velocity has been missing in Spring Training. The former starter, now a reliever, has a projected 3.78 ERA in 50 innings. While his numbers have been better in the bullpen, he’s not a lights out player. He fits better in middle relief.
The Red Sox are putting a lot of stock in Tyler Thornburg. The reliever they acquired in the Travis Shaw deal will be part of a good bullpen. He did look a little rusty in 2018 after a return from various injuries. Right now Thornburg projects to a 4.14 ERA. However, the Red Sox would be unwise to declare him as a closer.
The problem is this. The Red Sox invested in Nathan Eovaldi for 4 years and $68 million. This would probably been better in money invested in returning Craig Kimbrel to the bullpen. We do not know how much Kimbrel asked from the Red Sox. However, the Red Sox have a much stronger rotation than they do in the bullpen, even without Eovaldi in the rotation. Kimbrel would help them. Starters will not go nine innings every game anymore. They need a bullpen in this day and age.
The Red Sox should forget about the luxury tax and bring Craig Kimbrel back. If they do not, then they will be really sorry.
Gambling this season? Want to try it just to see what it feels like? Go to MyBookie.ag and use promo code ARMCHAIR25 at checkout. They will match your deposit dollar for dollar. Putting in $100? You’ll now have $200.