The Red Sox have been searching for a way to add another right-hander to their bullpen while also looking for some major-league starting pitching depth that could keep them from dipping into their prospects too soon in 2015. They appear to have found both of those things with one pitcher, as Ken Rosenthal reports that Boston has agreed to a one-year, $1.5 million major-league deal with former Rangers pitcher Alexi Ogando. There are another $1.5 million in incentives for Ogando as well, so this could end up being his highest-earning season.
It's a one-year deal, but Ogando is actually only in his second year of arbitration eligibility, so the Sox have him under control for 2016 as well, at an as of now undetermined price. That extra year could end up being significant, too, as Ogando was a high-quality pitcher before 2014, when injuries and ineffectiveness brought him to a 6.84 ERA in just 25 innings. In the four seasons and 381 innings before that, however, Ogando struck out 2.6 times as many batters as he walked while posting a 139 ERA+. Like with former Rangers teammate Robbie Ross, who is also on the Red Sox now, Ogando could be a difference maker if he's healthy and can recapture his past glories.
Ogando misses more bats in relief, with 8.6 career strikeouts per nine in his 135 relief appearances, and just 6.5 per nine over 48 starts. He is a fly ball oriented pitcher, and he's had some issues with the long ball in the past, but it's not like Fenway is an amazing place for homers.
The 30-year-old Ogando missed 104 games with a sprained UCL in his pitching elbow in 2014, which likely accounts for his sudden hittability and lack of control. If the elbow is fine in 2015 -- and it checked out during offseason workouts, in which he was pitching with his usual velocity -- then the Red Sox will have themselves the swingman and righty relief piece they've been hoping for. And if he's healthy and someone like Joe Kelly struggles in a full season against AL lineups, or Justin Masterson or Clay Buchholz just aren't right, Ogando is there to fill in as necessary.
It should be said that last bit about starting is a maybe: it's possible Ogando's prior elbow trouble will keep the Sox from even attempting to stretch him out, and will instead just use him as a vital relief piece. This of course all assumes that his elbow is good to go for anything.
The Red Sox have a full 40-man roster, so a corresponding move needed to be made to open up a space for Ogando. Drake Britton was designated for assignment to clear that space, and it makes sense. He struggled at Triple-A Pawtucket in 2014 even though he had previous success in the majors, and he's out of options and was a candidate to receive a DFA when Opening Day rosters were finalized, anyway. Britton could sneak through waivers given his struggles and his lack of options, but he's a lefty, he's only 26, and the free agent market for southpaws is seriously lacking, so don't be surprised if someone gives him a shot.
The other thing that could come of this is Brandon Workman heading back to Triple-A to work out of the bullpen. Of course, if the Red Sox make another trade and send a reliever out -- say, Edward Mujica -- then there is room for Workman once more in Boston. That, or room for Burke Badenhop, who is still a free agent at this late junction despite his 2014 success with the Sox.