The Red Sox have been surprisingly silent on the bullpen market this winter despite the fact that Joe Kelly has left for the Dodgers and Craig Kimbrel remains unsigned — seemingly likely to land with another organization as well, based on comments from Boston president of baseball ops Dave Dombrowski. ESPN.com’s Buster Olney writes (subscription required), however, that the Sox are confident in a number of internal options. Recent draftees Travis Lakins (sixth round, 2015) and Durbin Feltman (third round, 2018) could both emerge at the MLB level in 2019, while many in the Red Sox’ analytics department are intrigued by trade pickup Colten Brewer (whom the Sox tried to acquire last summer as well, Olney notes). Tyler Thornburg represents a notable bounceback option, as well. It’s nonetheless jarring to see the Sox take a passive approach to rounding out the ’pen on the heels of a World Series championship. Perhaps there’s yet another move in store with several relievers still available (MLBTR Free Agent Tracker link), but it seems likely that the Boston ’pen will have to prove its share of naysayers wrong in 2019.
Here’s more from the division…
- Orioles southpaw Richard Bleier tells Rich Dubroff of BaltimoreBaseball.com that he believes he’ll be ready to roll for the start of the 2019 season. That’s great news for the O’s, as Bleier had been a revelatory hurler before suffering a major injury to his lat. Already 31 years of age, Bleier certainly qualifies as a late bloomer. He’s also an outlier, having now made it through 119 MLB innings with a sub-2.00 ERA despite averaging just 4.1 strikeouts per nine. A big 63.3% groundball rate and low 1.6 BB/9 walk rate go a long way toward explaining the results. Before he can get back to disproving those who question the sustainability of that success, Bleier will need to show he’s back to full health. For the O’s, it would help quite a bit if he can do so. After all, Bleier could be quite a nice trade asset this summer or in the winter to come, especially since he’s still shy of reaching arbitration eligibility.
- The Blue Jays’ signing of Freddy Galvis this week was tied to the club’s uncertainty about the glovework of Lourdes Gurriel Jr., writes Shi Davidi of Sportsnet. As Davidi explores at length, the Jays are wary of poor infield defense at a time when they’re developing numerous young pitchers and when rotation holdovers Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez are heavy ground-ball pitchers. Gurriel has more offensive upside than Galvis but could be squeezed for playing time with Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Brandon Drury and Devon Travis all still factoring into the infield mix. There have been suggestions that Gurriel could land in the outfield eventually, but as Davidi outlines, that already crowded mix is further muddied with the now-out-of-options Dalton Pompey surprisingly still on the roster. It’s a comprehensive look at a crowded roster, though surely injuries and Spring Training roster moves could eventually impact how things play out. It’s also worth noting that Gurriel still has a minor league option remaining.
- Juan Toribio of MLB.com tackles a number of questions on the Rays’ roster in his latest Inbox column, highlighting several battles for Opening Day roster spots while also writing that the Rays look unlikely to add another free-agent reliever this offseason. That, he notes, could open the door for Triple-A standout Colin Poche to crack the big league roster either out of camp or early in the season. The Rays, as Toribio notes, are rife with infield depth both on the 25-man roster and in the upper minors but are also cognizant that their projected group of 2019 infielders is lacking experience. So while players such as Christian Arroyo and Kean Wong don’t have clear paths to the Majors at the moment, Tampa Bay is likely to hang onto its depth. Arroyo, once a top prospect with the Giants and the key player received in last winter’s Evan Longoria trade, struggled through a lost season in 2018 and still has a minor league option remaining.