As the 2010 trade deadline grew near, it was clear that the Red Sox were in desperate need of some bullpen help. With that in mind, I took a look at the options on the market in anticipation that maybe, possibly, they'd pick someone up.
Well, we know that didn't happen. The Sox generally packed it up, shipping out relievers instead of bringing them in, and the bullpen stayed its miserable self.
Now, with Theo Epstein resolved to fix the bullpen over the offseason, let's try again and take another look at who the Sox might pick up, this time in free agency, starting with the righties.
Grant Balfour - You know how Theo doesn't like spending money on FA relievers because they're inconsistent? Meet the poster boy. With a pattern that reminds you of Beckett's even-odd issues, Balfour just can't seem to be relied on in any given year. With only a few straight MLB seasons in his pocket, a high fly ball rate, some really worrying xFIPs, and type-A designation, Balfour just doesn't scream "smart buy".
Joaquin Benoit - If Balfour looks inconsistent, then Benoit looks straight-up flukey. Picked up as a minor league free agent, Benoit took his failing career and turned it around with an absolutely dominant season of relief. A K/9 over 11? A BB/9 over 2? Those are some incredible numbers, and they're even held up a bit by the fact that Benoit was improving in the last few years in his peripherals before his disastrous 2009. It depends on what he expects to get, but if other teams don't jump on Benoit's 2010 numbers and pay him big, he could be one of the higher-reward risks on the market.
Jose Contreras - Contreras put up some pretty decent numbers in his first year as a pure reliever, with decent peripherals to go with. But a 39-year-old making the late-career transfer to relieving in the NL...In this decently relief-rich market, the Red Sox can probably do better. On the bright side, he'd definitely be a 1-year deal.
Jesse Crain - Just your typical guy getting lucky in a contract year. A good year, but not good enough to warrant benoit-level attention.
Jason Frasor - Frasor strikes me as the guy who has built a reputation of being great while only really earning "good". And he is certainly good. But is he really great with his xFIPs floating in the mid-high 3's? Sure, relievers can sometimes have lower HR/FB rates, but I just think he's going to cost too much for too little, and the Type-A really pushes me over the edge.
Matt Guerrier - Consecutive years with BABIPs under .240? Let someone else make this mistake. Next!
J. J. Putz - Putz is coming off a resurgent 2010, making his situation a lot like Benoit's, just better. With his good track record, Putz would seem a safer signing for a multi-year deal. With increased ground ball rates and good peripherals, Putz just seems like a guy who's gotten used to his slightly decreased velocity. Still, that doesn't mean give the guy a Papelbon-sized fortune. For that matter, don't give Papelbon a Papelbon-sized fortune.
John Rauch - A good stint as the Twins' closer doesn't change the fact that he's never been consistently impressive. He's like a less-extreme Balfour on both sides of things.
Takashi Saito - Yeah, yeah, we got this one wrong. But that doesn't mean the Sox should spring for a 41-year-old type-A.
Koji Uehara - He's kind of like Benoit with even less of a track record, but that lack of a track record actually makes his season look less like a fluke, and more like a matter of adjusting to the MLB and A.L. East. His flyball rates might not play so well in Fenway, however.