While the Red Sox are at the top of the AL East standings, it doesn’t mean the team can be content.
The Red Sox have one of the best offenses in baseball, but pitching is another story. Going into play Monday, the Red Sox have a team ERA of 4.37, which is good for 22nd in baseball. As a starting rotation they sit at 4.67, 21st in the league and 3.80 as a bullpen, which is 13th, but the bullpen still might be more of a concern.
Although the rotation has struggled, there is optimism it can get better. David Price has an ERA of 4.88, but he’s been much better of late and is lowering it start-by-start. The team is currently going with a four-man rotation until June 18 and then it seems likely Clay Buchholz will return and Joe Kelly will be moved to the bullpen. This gives the Red Sox a rotation of Price, Buchholz, Rick Porcello, Steven Wright and Eduardo Rodriguez.
With what these pitchers are capable of doing, this gives some reason for optimism.
The bullpen is a different story, especially in front of closer Craig Kimbrel. Carson Smith has been lost for the season because of Tommy John surgery. Koji Uehara hasn’t looked anything like himself, as he has a 4.57 ERA and at 41 years old, age could be catching up to him. Junichi Tazawa has been overworked at times and currently has a 3.27 ERA.
Aside from Uehara and Tazawa, Matt Barnes, Robbie Ross Jr., Tommy Layne and Noe Ramirez have all been very inconsistent with not much dependability. In the last 10 days, the bullpen has four losses, which isn’t going to cut it. The bullpen has had major trouble holding leads, which no matter how good the offense is, isn’t going to get it done.
There is no question the Red Sox need to upgrade their bullpen and they should do it sooner rather than later. If they wait until the trade deadline they will surely need to overpay for whomever they acquire and also they could lose a few games before then because of what they have now.
In the rotation, they have options and enough time to see what they have and potentially work itself out. The bullpen doesn’t have that luxury because no one in Triple-A Pawtucket is ready for the big leagues and the track records aren't the same.
From an offensive perspective, the Red Sox certainly have what it takes to make a deep run the postseason, but they will not be able to go anywhere without some changes to their bullpen and instead of waiting, Dave Dombrowski might be better off acquiring players now rather than later.