After the Red Sox traded for Eduardo Nuñez to help stabilize their third base situation and their infield as a whole, all eyes turned towards the bullpen. This was the next clear need on the roster. Although Matt Barnes, Joe Kelly and the rest of the crew are solid enough, Boston didn’t really have anyone that fit well in the eighth inning right behind Craig Kimbrel on the depth chart. Enter: Addison Reed. On Monday morning, Dave Dombrowski swung a deal with the Mets to land their closer in return for three interesting relief-only prospects. We’ve already broken down the basics of the deal here and the prospects here. Now, it’s time to get to know what Reed will be bringing to the table.
We’ll start with the basics. Reed is a 28-year-old right-handed pitcher who was drafted by the White Sox in the third round of the 2010 draft. He made his way through the minors quickly and made his major-league debut towards the end of the following year. After spending the next two seasons as Chicago’s closer, Reed was traded to the Diamondbacks. He struggled a bit in his year-and-a-half in Arizona before being sent to the Mets in August of 2015.
Since getting to New York, Reed has gotten back on track and has been one of the very best relievers in all of baseball. In fact, if fWAR is your kind of thing he has been the sixth-best reliever in the league since the start of the 2016 season. Last year in particular was impressive as he pitched to a 1.97 ERA over 77 2⁄3 innings with a 2.01 FIP and a 2.90 DRA. He also struck out over ten batters per nine innings while walking fewer than two. This year hasn’t been quite as good, but he’s still been pretty damn effective. Over the 49 innings he has pitched this year he has a 2.57 ERA with a 3.15 FIP and 48 strikeouts to go along with only 6 walks. Interestingly enough, however, DRA is not a fan of his season as he has a 5.09 mark.
Part of the reason may be that he’s given up a lot more fly balls this year and that’s led to a higher home run total. Reed has already allowed two more homers than he did all of last season. Additionally, his strikeout rate has fallen although it’s still good. Judging by his increasing home run rate as well as an increase in batting average on balls in play (.307 this year compared to .286 in 2016), it seems as if hitters are finding it a bit easier to square up Reed’s pitches this season. His plate discipline numbers also paint a picture of a pitcher batters are having an easier time figuring out as well, as they’ve been much more aggressive against him. Opponents’ swing rate against Reed has risen by five percentage points up to 56 percent this year (per Baseball Prospectus). More to the point, the entirety of that increase has come on pitches in the zone, and of course swings on pitches in the zone are more likely to lead to better quality of contact.
So, there are some concerns with Reed. That uptick in hard contact along with his flyball tendencies have the potential to mean bad news in the American League East, particularly for a pitcher who has had his recent success in the National League. In addition to that issue, Reed has thrown a lot of innings over the last two years. Over the last two years, in fact, only six relievers have thrown more innings than the new Red Sox setup man.
Those concerns certainly shouldn’t define this acquisition for the Red Sox. For one thing, the shift from the National League to the American League is less dramatic for relievers since they are very rarely facing opposing pitchers. Furthermore, while there is a possibility Reed could see some fatigue down the stretch it’s not something we should necessarily expect as he hasn’t seen any drop off in velocity as this year has gone on. Plus, Andrew Miller is right in front of Reed on the innings pitched leaderboard — and logged many more innings last fall in the postseason — but no one is expecting him to fall off.
In terms of what Reed will look like on the mound, the righty is essentially a two-pitch pitcher with a fastball and a slider. The heater is the one he leans on most heavily, throwing it almost 70 percent of the time this year. It averages a velocity of about 93 mph. The slider is a sharp one that is thrown in the mid-to-high 80s. You can see an example of Reed getting a strikeout with the breaking ball here. Both pitches are effective for the righty as he induces whiffs on over 12 percent of the time he throws each offering and over 20 percent of the time an opponent swings.
In the end, while there are some concerns with Reed, the positives definitely outweigh the negatives as he represents a clear upgrade over what they have now. He hasn’t put up the strikeout numbers that Barnes has this season, but he’s done so in the past and has much better control. Additionally, he’s proven that he can perform in high-leverage situations, which is where Barnes has struggled mightily this year and really over his entire career. The control is also an upgrade over Kelly and he’s also someone who the Red Sox will feel comfortable throwing for two days in a row. He also hasn’t shown any sort of platoon splits in either of the last two years. We’ll get to know Reed much better over the next two (hopefully three) months. For now we know the Red Sox got a pitcher who has been outstanding over the last couple of seasons and will boost the likelihood of keeping late game leads before Kimbrel gets a chance to take the mound.