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Red Sox bullpen leaves a lot of questions

November 14, 2016

If this were a puzzle, there probably wouldn’t be enough edge pieces but some extra pieces for the middle.

Looking at the Boston Red Sox bullpen for next year brings some thoughts: a lot of confusion, in fact. Plenty of pieces, but still a need for more and a wonder of what they will do with certain guys. Here’s an effort to break it down simply.

Craig Kimbrel will be back to close out the ninth inning. And while you might hate him, consider the Red Sox lucky. The price of closers this offseason is a lot more than it was last season, so having a closer now is huge for them.

Joe Kelly pitched great in relief last year, so he is a lock to come back. Heath Hembree can’t be sent back down to the minors next year because he’s out of options. But his 2.65 ERA in 38 games along with holding righties to a .201 batting average is enough to be a big leaguer. Again, out of options, he could become a trade candidate if there is too many arms.

Matt Barnes pitched more than any Red Sox reliever last year, so there is no doubt he returns.

Robbie Ross Jr. is the only lefty reliever who spent the entire 2016 season on the big league roster, so he shall return. The Red Sox are also keeping Fernando Abad around it seems, albeit they left him off the postseason roster because he pitched like garbage (6.39 ERA in 18 outings) down the stretch. But hey, lefties hit just .130 off the guy in Boston, so one could argue he was grossly misused and he could be a very effective pitcher in a limited role.

The Red Sox are also keeping Fernando Abad around it seems, albeit they left him off the postseason roster because he pitched like garbage (6.39 ERA in 18 outings) down the stretch. But hey, lefties hit just .130 off the guy in Boston, so one could argue he was grossly misused and he could be a very effective pitcher in a limited role.

Even so, the Red Sox are said to be in the market for a setup man and they might want a lefty reliever too. That’s fine. But, they have six starting pitchers. One of those guys will have to go to the bullpen if they keep all of them around.

Not sure exactly what will happen here, but assume it has something to do with Clay Buchholz. He could be a trade candidate or go back to his bullpen role. Or how about Steven Wright as a long reliever? That could be interesting. Might be best to work to keep them all around just so there’s good starting pitching depth. Otherwise you’ll be watching Henry Owens like this.

Oh, and Carson Smith, who was supposed to be a high-leverage arm, will likely come off the disabled list in June.

Brad Ziegler, Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa are free agents. The Red Sox have enough to worry about internally, so they might be goners — with Koji being the most likely return.

Not even factoring in Brandon Workman here because he was terrible in relief with the exception of the 2013 postseason.

 


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