As they look to improve a roster that has performed at a high level this year, the Red Sox are interested in adding impact in their late-inning relief mix, according to a report from Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com. We heard yesterday that the team has interest in Orioles southpaw Zach Britton (see here and here), but he’s certainly not the only potential target.
At the moment, it is not clear if the Boston organization has any particular pitcher in mind. Crasnick indicates that the team is “blanketing the relief market,” so it appears that there are still quite a few possibilities.
It’s not surprising, of course, to learn that a clear contender wants to improve its bullpen. That’s almost a given in this day and age, when the ability to deploy a variety of quality relief arms in optimal fashion can make all the difference in high-leverage situations in critical games.
The key takeaway, though, is that the Sox aren’t just looking to add another solid set-up option. Rather, the report indicates that the organization wishes to obtain a high-end, difference-making arm. Notably, Crasnick suggests that the pending free agency of elite closer Craig Kimbrel is a factor, perhaps indicating that the Red Sox will be particularly interested in a controllable player.
The Red Sox did just welcome Tyler Thornburg into the fold after a lengthy rehab process. He has worked in the 93 to 94 mph range in his first two outings, below but also in sight of his most recent levels. But the club really can’t know quite what to expect yet from him.
One interesting element to consider here is the fact that the Red Sox depth chart exhibits an obvious weakness from the left side. The just-recalled Jalen Beeks is currently the only southpaw in the pen, though perhaps Drew Pomeranz could ultimately be utilized in relief once he’s back to health.
Clearly, a power lefty would make particular sense, which helps explain the look at Britton. And there are other premium late-inning southpaws that could be available — though none at a low price. Brad Hand of the Padres and Felipe Vazquez of the Pirates are perhaps intriguing speculative targets, but they will require a massive haul to pry loose given that both recently inked high-value extensions.
There ought to be other potential hurlers to consider on the left side, of course. Zach Duke of the Twins has been excellent and is an affordable rental player. The Marlins’ Adam Conley is showing that his stuff can play up from the pen. Despite a thin track record of late, he comes with cheap control, meaning the ask will likely be fairly high. Other possible options include Jake Diekman (Rangers), Jerry Blevins (Mets), Aaron Loup (Blue Jays), and Luis Avilan (White Sox).
It seems, though, that the need for a southpaw will not necessarily drive the team’s approach when it comes to installing a high-end arm. Per Crasnick, the Red Sox have taken a scouting look at Kyle Barraclough of the Marlins and even “checked in” to see if the Rockies might be interested in parting with veterans Wade Davis or Adam Ottavino. (Crasnick added mention of Ottavino in a follow-up tweet.) All of those hurlers throw from the right side, of course. And they are in quite different contract situations, with Barraclough on the cusp of arbitration eligibility, Ottavino set to hit the open market, and Davis still in the first season of his three-year, $52MM contract.
Davis, in particular, appears to be rather an unlikely player to move, as Crasnick notes. But the fact that the team has even considered that pursuit seems telling. There really aren’t all that many excellent late-inning rental relievers likely to be made available — Jeurys Familia is probably the best among them — but there are quite a few quality pitchers with lengthy control rights that could perhaps be had. Raisel Iglesias of the Reds, Kirby Yates of the Padres, Nate Jones of the White Sox, and Keone Kela of the Rangers are all pitchers that could at least conceivably interest the Red Sox. All are in the same essential situation as that of Barraclough, though: with multiple seasons of affordable control remaining, their teams don’t have to make a move.
As things stand, then, the possibilities still seem rather open-ended. That only makes it all the more interesting to see how talks shape up over the next twenty days.