clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The 2017-2018 offseason relief pitching market

A look at the relievers available this winter.

League Championship Series - Los Angeles Dodgers v Chicago Cubs - Game Four Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Although most of the focus for the Red Sox this winter should and will be on the lineup, you can expect them to at least consider making a move or multiple moves to add to the bullpen. In theory, they could be all set here, but that would require all of their pitchers performing to their ceiling. That’s obviously far from a guarantee for guys like Tyler Thornburg who are returning from injury and Joe Kelly who has been forever inconsistent. In my opinion, they could use one more back-end arm and one more left-handed reliever, and in an ideal world they’d kill two birds with one stones. Of course, that’s easier said than done. Either way, they have approximately one million options available this winter.

The Top Tier

Wade Davis, Greg Holland, Addison Reed, Mike Minor, Brandon Kintzler, Seung-hwan Oh, Luke Gregerson, Pat Neshek, Juan Nicasio, Brandon Morrow, Jake McGee, Bud Norris, Joe Smith

There aren’t a lot of truly elite relievers like last year when Kenley Jansen, Aroldis Chapman and Mark Melancon were all available, but the top tier of the free agent class this winter is actually a bit underrated in this writer’s opinion. Davis is a great reliever who showed he is healthy again, and he’ll get a massive deal for that. The same can be said for Holland, though he’s a slight step below Davis. Reed, as we know, is a step below elite but someone who teams can be comfortable having in the back of their bullpen, perhaps even closing. Those three represent the true top tier of this class.

Taking a slight step down, Minor is that kind of left-handed, back-end reliever I spoke of before. The former Braves starter came back to the majors for the first time since 2014 and was outstanding out of the bullpen. It didn’t appear to be a fluke, though there is obviously some risk involved here. Kintzler isn’t your prototypical back-end reliever in 2017, but he induces a ton of ground balls and weak contact in general. Oh and Gregerson are coming off down years, but both have proven they have legitimate talent and could be steals for whoever signs them. Of course, they could also simply be over the hill. As long as Neshek is keeping the ball in the yard, he’s one of the most underrated relievers in baseball, and he was able to keep the ball in the yard with both Philadelphia and Colorado last year. Nicasio, Morrow and Norris are converted starters who showed that they can shine in short stints. McGee is a former closer who throws from the left side but also one who has some command issues. Smith has been as solid a reliever as this league has seen over the last few years.

Colorado Rockies v Kansas City Royals Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

My Pick: There are two lefties in this group, and Minor would be the best fit for the Red Sox. There is clear risk that is 2017 is a fluke, but if they want a high-end lefty he has the best chance of being that kind of near-elite arm. If they are looking for a righty, anyone from the Neshek/Nicasio/Morrow would be ideal to me.

The Middle Tier

Fernando Rodney, Tony Watson, Koji Uehara, Yusmiero Petit, Trevor Rosenthal, David Hernandez, Anthony Swarzak, Sergio Romo, Steve Cishek, Matt Belisle, Brian Duensing, Boone Logan

This is another really big tier with a lot of different types of pitchers. Rodney is one of the faces of those late-00’s Rays teams, and that’s a non-starter for me. Get out of here, Fernando. Watson has been a bit of a roller coaster of late, but when he’s on he’s an outstanding lefty who can induce plenty of weak contact. Uehara is getting up there, but he’s one of the best relievers in recent team history and a reunion could be fun. Petit is a really interesting swingman type who can start in a pinch but is best utilized as a multi-inning reliever.

Rosenthal is perhaps the most interesting name on this list as he would require a two-year deal with no production in year one after undergoing Tommy John. If he came back healthy, the Red Sox would have an absolute steal for that second year, though. Hernandez has long been one of my favorite underrated relievers, though he keeps finding ways to hold himself back from being truly elite. Swarzak took a major step forward for two teams in 2017. Romo and Cishek both excelled after mid-season trades to Tampa Bay last year. Belisle has always been solid, though he’s getting older. Duensing and Logan are two lefties who are potentially better than Robby Scott but not really back-end arms.

My Pick: I would say Rosenthal is the best pick here because the reward would far outweigh the risk, but it’s also really easy for me to say without being the one taking the risk. In the non-Rosenthal division, Petit is someone who has always interested me and I think he could be a great fit for the Red Sox as a guy who can help limit starters’ workloads while also stepping in to the rotation here and there if needed.

The Bottom Tier

Fernando Abad, Matt Albers, John Axford, Blaine Boyer, Tyler Clippard, Neftali Feliz, Jeanmar Gomez, Dillon Gee, Jason Grilli, Tommy Hunter, Chad Qualls, Francisco Rodriguez, Craig Breslow, Jorge De La Rosa, Zach Duke, Josh Edgin, Oliver Perez, Kevin Siegrist

This tier is just enormous and I’m sure I left some players out, so I’m not even going to go through the names here. I will just tell you my pick is Siegrist or Perez, both of whom have been strong lefties in recent years but are coming off some rough stretches.

The Trade Market

Kelvin Herrera, Dellin Betances, Brad Hand, Nate Jones, Arodys Vizcaino, Jim Johnson, Raisel Iglesias, Brad Ziegler, Hector Neris, Alex Colomé, Blake Treinen, Joakim Soria

As always, the trade market in the bullpen is going to be massive and this list only scratches the surface. There are some truly elite relievers on this list, though. Betances is someone who will pop up in rumors after having some issues with the Yankees last year and them having an incredibly deep group in the back. Herrera and Hand are both high-end but will both cost a ton in a deal, with Hand in particular being too expensive for my blood despite being a great fit for the Red Sox. Jones is coming off an injury-plagued year, but if he’s healthy he’s as good a setup man as anyone. Vizcaino has long been one of my favorites and is a stud when he throws strikes. Johnson has quietly been phenomenal in Atlanta over the last few years.

I’m skeptical that Iglesias is actually available for trade, but if he is he could be that great multi-inning reliever that everyone has been searching for. Ziegler and Neris have both had success in different ways and shouldn’t cost too much in a deal. Colomé led the league in saves last year and is completely filthy when he’s on. Treinen can also say that last part, though he’s not “on” as often.

My Pick: If the Red Sox were to go in on the high-end trade market for relievers (I don’t think I would and I don’t think they will), I would go for Iglesias. I mentioned the reasons why above for Petit, and Iglesias is a younger and better version of that.