With less than a week left until opening day, the Red Sox roster is beginning to look more and more set in stone by the day. The Lineup looks good, the rotation is solid, everything’s coming up Milhouse for defending champions.
Well, almost everything.
Yes, for seemingly the 30th year in a row, the Red Sox bullpen looks shakier than a paper boat in a hurricane. Sox fans are used to “bend don’t break” backends, but this year is different. The Red Sox bullpen has been filled with a hodgepodge of arms for the last three years, but the team has been able to make it work for one reason and one reason only. Craig Kimbrel was the anchor that the Red Sox literally needed to make the whole thing work. Say what you will about his performance in last years postseason, but Kimbrel was as lockdown as they came during the regular season for three consecutive years. A 2.44 ERA, 0.906 WHIP, 36 saves per year, and 15 K/9 made Kimbrel one of the best, if not the best closer in all of baseball during his time in Boston. It didn’t matter who or how got the ball to Kimbrel, but as long as you gave him the ball in the 9th with a lead, you felt comfortable.
2019 will be different, though. Dirty Craig is still a free agent, and, by all accounts, is not going to be returning to Boston. The only guaranteed clean inning in the Red Sox bullpen is now gone. And there’s no replacement. And opening day is next week.
This is a problem.
As of this moment, it looks that either Matt Barnes will be the closer, or it will be closer-by-committee. Listen, I like Matt Barnes, probably more than most. He has electric stuff and is coming off of his best season statistically, striking out 14 batters per 9 and sporting a FIP of 2.71, but to assume that one year of above average production will translate into a closer role is a WILD leap in logic. I hope it works out, and I think there’s a chance that Barnes could turn out to be A lights out fireman, but I don’t like the decision at this moment. Outside of Barnes, you have Ryan Brasier, a 31-year-old who is fresh off his first “full” major league season. While he was admittedly great in the 33 innings he threw last year, he’s still fairly unproven and is the second option as the teams closer after Barnes. Not ideal.
From there it’s the usual suspects: Heath Hembree, Brandon Workman, Colten Brewer, Brian Johnson, and either Hector Velasquez or Tyler Thornburg.
I know it’s not taboo to say that I’m nervous about this group of arms, but I think people have yet to realize how much Craig Kimbrel’s presence is going to be missed, and how much the front office botched getting an established reliever. BRAD BRACH SIGNED A ONE YEAR, $3 MILLION CONTRACT! WE DON’T HAVE $3 MIL LYING AROUND, DAVE?!?!?!
I’m sorry about that.
I, for one, am eagerly awaiting Durbin Feltman and Travis Lakins being called up in mid-May and straight up dominating, but until then we can only dream.
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