Today, we move on to the bullpen.
The only obvious name for the team is likely Daniel Bard. He's young, under team control for a long while, and oh yeah, he's really good. Papelbon will probably have left for "greener" lands, while Saito is gone due to age. Hideki Okajima seems to have found a nice fit with the Red Sox so far, and if he continues to perform I don't see why the Sox would let him go. He's not exactly a power pitcher, so it's questionable whether 4 years would hurt him that much, but for now I think I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. Ramon Ramirez and Manny Delcarmen will both come up for free agency at the same time. I would tend to think they sign only one of them, but the pen is often the hardest part of a team to predict on a year-to-year basis. For now, let's say they tire of Delcarmen's consistent inconsistencies, or try to get closer-value for him in the NL, and keep Ramirez.
From there, the Sox farm system is not exactly well stocked in relief arms, but there are some names of note. Alex Wilson, while currently on the path to being a starter, has a lot of signs of being a bullpen arm down the line. With limited secondary pitches except for a slider which, depending on the scout, is either a plus pitch or one which won't get MLB level players out, Wilson's repertoire is not exactly the kind to throw three times through the lineup. Also, Wilson's fastball, once clocked in the upper 90s, is now sitting middle-low post Tommy John Surgery. A relief role could help him reclaim his zip.
Dustin Richardson is a somewhat older lefty (25 in AA) trying to reinvent himself as a reliever, and the early returns have been very good, as his ERA has shrunk from an ugly 6.33 to an impressive 2.31. There are some serious caveats, though. While his K:BB ratio isn't too bad at exactly 2 due to very nice strikeout numbers, at some point enough has to be enough with walks, and at nearly 5.7 per 9 innings, he's likely reached that point. Also, for a pitcher with a 2:1 flyout to groundout ratio, his number of home runs surrendered is suspiciously low. For what it's worth, his peripherals are far superior against lefties, so if nothing else he can likely make it as a LOOGY.
The Sox' ninth round draft pick this year, Kendal Volz, is also a player to watch. Though his numbers during college have been unimpressive, during his 2008 time closing with Team USA he showed he had incredible stuff. If the organization can get him back to his old form (and the $550,000 signing bonus would suggest that they at least think they can), he could be an integral part of the pen for years to come.
Other than that, the names are limited. There's always Javier Lopez trying to get back up from AAA, and countless struggling starters who could see the pen as their best chance to make it big (see: Kris Johnson). And, of course, since not all of the young starters in the system will have a place in the rotation, there will likely be a Justin Masterson type pitching long relief and getting spot starts. I would theorize that the most likely guy to be there in 2013 would be a Stephen Fife, but that's more of a shot in the dark than anything else.
Relief pitchers are by nature difficult commodities to judge. Any given season is a small sample size, they are particularly prone to overuse and massive fluctuations from year-to-year. They're shuttled around in trades as add-on pieces and afterthoughts despite the fact that a good pen can make or break a team. Looking at the Sox' farm system, it seems like the position may have been somewhat overlooked in past years, as the Sox have focused almost entirely on starters pitching-wise. None-the-less, the situation a few years down the line does not look exactly desperate.
2013 Free-Agency Free Red Sox Bullpen:
RHP: Daniel Bard (Closer)
RHP: Alex Wilson (Set up)
RHP: Ramon Ramirez
RHP: Kendal Volz
RHP: Stephen Fife (Long relief)
LHP: Hideki Okajima
LHP: Dustin Richardson