This winter for the Red Sox will be all about the team signing David Price, and for good reason, but the job new president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowki has done with the bullpen deserves just as much credit.
Last season the Red Sox' bullpen had an ERA of 4.24, which was 26th in baseball, and it seemed the team gave everyone who started the year in Triple-A Pawtucket a shot at the big league level. None of those players took advantage of the opportunity.
Aside from Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa, the Red Sox had no bullpen options certain to return for 2016, so Dombrowski and his team went to work.
It started when the Sox acquired Craig Kimbrel in a trade with the Padres for prospects. This trade not only gave the Red Sox one of the best closers in the game, but also in moving Uehara to the eighth inning, perhaps now they will have one of the best setup men in the game as well.
Kimbrel has had at least 39 saves in five straight seasons and he alone would give the Sox a solid bullpen, but Dombrowski wasn’t done there.
On Monday, the Red Sox traded Wade Miley along with minor league pitcher Jonathan Aro to the Mariners for right-hander Carson Smith and left-hander Roenis Elias. With the access of starting pitching, this could be a steal for the Red Sox.
Smith has emerged as one of the best up-and-coming set up men in baseball and will likely be used in both the seventh and eighth innings with Boston. Elias could be a lefty-specialist, as the team doesn’t have any lefties in the bullpen besides Tommy Layne and Robbie Ross Jr.
On paper, the Red Sox bullpen has the potential to be one of the best in baseball. Kimbrel is lights out in the ninth and any combination of Uehara, Smith and Tazawa in the seventh and eighth, it’s hard to imagine the Red Sox blowing many leads. It’s also worth noting getting Smith is a major plus for Tazawa, as he will certainly help limit his innings, as Tazawa has been over used in recent years.
As it relates to the team, the bullpen can also help the starters out by saving innings. Instead of the starter gutting out another inning, no longer will that be much of a consideration when looking to go to the bullpen from the seventh inning on.
Kansas City has shown just how valuable a dominant bullpen can be of late, and while the Red Sox' bullpen may not be as strong as what the Royals have, it is relatively strong. The bullpen, along with a solid rotation, could be the foundation the potential for a special 2016 season.