The Red Sox bullpen is a mess, and the Red Sox are out of contention in 2015. While that's a downer for a whole lot of reasons, they've made bullpen projects part of their focus for the last two months of the season. Earlier this week, they claimed Jean Machi off waivers from the Giants, and now they've snagged a formerly good reliever from the other Bay Area team, sending cash to the A's in exchange for Ryan Cook.
Cook was an All-Star in 2012, and had a three-year run with the A's in which he produced a 2.60 ERA while striking out over a batter per inning and 2.7 times as many hitters as he walked. His numbers seemed legit enough, too, with a 2.96 FIP and a 149 ERA+ that adjusts for pitcher-friendly O.co Coliseum. In 2015, though, he's been a mess, pitching just 4-1/3 innings in the majors, and 33 uninspiring ones in the minors.
The strikeouts seem to be gone, with just seven per nine against Triple-A competition -- not what you expect from a formerly capable big-league reliever who is all of 28 years old. It could be a command issue finally catching up to him, or maybe velocity -- though we don't have much to go on in that regard given he's thrown fewer than five frames in the bigs this season. What we do know, though, is that all he cost is cash, and the Red Sox have a place for him in their bullpen.
Do the Red Sox have anything in Jean Machi?
His numbers look bad, and he's certainly broken. But if the Red Sox can figure out how to fix him, Jean Machi could be a big help in 2016.
This is, after all, a pen that was just using Tommy Layne regularly on purpose, and even against the right-handers whom he should never face. It's one that only recently found a reliable arm in Robbie Ross -- a project reliever acquired this past winter -- and has needed to get to the eighth and ninth innings, to Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara, for anything worthwhile to happen for much of the season. There is room in that bullpen for Cook, and for Machi, another formerly good reliever. If the Sox manage to get one of them figured out all over again, then they have an inexpensive solution to what could be an expensive problem to fix.
Cook isn't a free agent until 2019 -- he was on optional assignment for much of this year, not accruing service time according to Athletics Nations' Jeremy Koo -- and made just $1.4 million in his first season of arbitration this year -- unless the Sox can fix him in a hurry, that figure probably isn't going up much, if at all. He's not a huge deadline haul, but he's the kind of pitcher the Sox can take a chance on at this late stage of the game, where Boston is essentially auditioning for 2016 roles and hoping to clear temporary pieces like Craig Breslow out of the pen with an August waiver trade.
If he works out, great! He only cost the Sox cash, he's under team control, not particularly expensive, and it's one fewer hole that needs plugging. If he doesn't work out, he'll be costing them meaningless games, which means in the end that all he really cost was cash.