Last night, the Boston Red Sox fell 4-3 in 11 innings to the Texas Rangers after they squandered a 2-1 lead in the 9th inning. Matt Barnes could not shut the door on the Rangers blowing his 4th save of the season. In total, the Red Sox have blown 10 saves this season as they sit 8 games back from the first-place Tampa Bay Rays.
The bullpen is the number one issue with this Red Sox team, and it needs to be addressed if they want to defend their World Series crown this October. The one issue for Boston is they may not be able to acquire a big-name closer at the trade deadline. They simply do not have the arsenal to acquire someone like Ken Giles or Shane Greene. If the market value for relief pitchers is low like it was last year, then maybe the Red Sox could make a play for these guys, but without a top 100 prospect, Boston will most likely be outbid by teams like the Houston Astros.
At the start of the season, it looked like the Red Sox could improve from within their system with 3rd round draft pick Durbin Feltman progressing at a rapid rate in the minors, but Feltman has taken a step back in his development this year in AA. He has a 5.24 ERA in Portland this season and has not shown his electric stuff at this higher level. His K/9 has decreased to 8.9 and his BB/9 has jumped to 6.4, so he does not have the same command that he showed in A ball. It is clear that the Red Sox will have to go outside their system if they want to improve their bullpen this year.
Boston may not be able to acquire a solidified closer, but they could acquire a couple of sturdy relievers with high upside who could take over the closer role similar to what Koji Uehara did in 2013. The best bet for the Red Sox is to find guys on expiring contracts as they should cost less. Here are some guys who could be great buy-low options.
Cory Gearrin – Seattle Mariners
The Seattle Mariners have stated that they are open for sale this season, so Cory Gearrin could be one of the guys to leave Seattle this July. Gearrin is not a super attractable option with a 3.86 ERA and 1.36 WHIP, but he would be cheap, which is what the Red Sox needs. He does have an attractive 9.82 K/9, but he follows that with a less desirable 4.91 BB/9 and 7.36 H/9. This would not be a guy who would close games for you, but he would add depth and could potentially handle the 7th inning, which could free up someone like Brandon Workman to work later in the game. The right-handed pitcher is on a 1 year/$1.4 million deal, so adding to the luxury tax would not be a concern for him.
Chris Martin – Texas Rangers
Chris Martin is also fairly cheap with his $2.25 million expiring deal. He is having a good season with the Texas Rangers with a 3.55 ERA as well as a 1.11 WHIP, and he just picked up a save against the Red Sox in last night’s 11-inning affair. Martin is someone who could close games for the Red Sox as shown by his 9.59 K/9 as well as an extremely low 1.07 BB/9. His 8.88 H/9 and 2.13 HR/9 are alarmingly high, but his 9.00 K/BB ratio shows he has great strikeout stuff and could come up clutch for the Red Sox. He gets himself into a little trouble when he gives up contact, but his ability to strike out batters is a huge plus.
Will Smith – San Francisco Giants
With the 6th worst record in the MLB, the Giants will be sellers at the deadline, and one guy who will most likely be available is left-handed pitcher Will Smith. He is having a stellar season in San Francisco with a 2.19 ERA and 0.73 WHIP as well as a 12.77 K/9. He is not letting too many guys on base and is 14-14 on save chances this year, so he could step in as the new closer. Will Smith is a guy who will draw interest around the league, so the Red Sox may be outbid for him, but he could be an undervalued guy at the deadline with Giles and Greene all most likely being available, so the Sox could pick up a steal by acquiring Smith.
Sam Dyson – San Francisco Giants
Sticking in the bay area, Sam Dyson is another potential fit for the Red Sox. He would be a great set-up man but could also step into the role of the closer if they do not acquire anyone else. He has an attractive 2.70 ERA with a 0.97 WHIP. He does not strike out as many guys as Will Smith with an 8.70 K/9, and his H/9 is a little high at 7.50, but he doesn’t give many free passes with his 1.20 BB/9, and he keeps the ball in the park with a 0.60 HR/9. Dyson is not on an expiring deal as he has one more year of arbitration next season, but the Red Sox may be able to acquire him for a decent price.
Jared Hughes – Cincinnati Reds
Almost none of these options are big-name players, but they are buy-low guys who could make an impact in the Red Sox bullpen. The Red Sox are strapped on who they can acquire as they do not have a bountiful farm system, but they could still pick up a player or two with great value.