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Red Sox Trade Target: Raisel Iglesias

Event though the Red Sox have been sensational this season, they could still use some upgrades. Iglesias stands out as a perfect fit for what the organization needs this year and beyond.

MLB: Miami Marlins at Cincinnati Reds David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a probelm with the Boston Red Sox’s bullpen. All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel and the career-year of Matt Barnes gives the team lock down options in the last two innings, but the rest of the relieves have fluctuated between excellent and terrible, with a relative lack of depth to show for it. Joe Kelly is in the midst of a major slump. Heath Hembree has been solid, but its unclear if that’s sustainable. Hector Velazquez isn’t getting many chances in high leverage situations. The rest of the group has been a revolving door.

All told, the Red Sox still have one of the best bullpens in baseball, ranking fifth in the majors in reliever fWAR. However, for a contending team that will need a deep and strong bullpen in the cold months of October, adding another arm that isn’t just a call up from the minors or a guy coming off injury (sorry, Tyler Thornburg) should be a priority as the trade deadline nears.

As it happens, there are a number of relievers that are rumored to be available via trade, just as there is every summer. Its a tradition unlike any other. Of the relief options that are out there, the guy that makes the most sense is Raisel Iglesias of the Cincinnati Reds.

Even though the Reds have been playing better lately, going 32-29 since a 7-22 start, this is still a team with very little hope for postseason glory in 2018. Ranking 20th in the majors in run differential and without a particularly effective or reliable starting rotation, the franchise is once again in selling mode as their long rebuild continues. They haven’t gotten to 70 wins since 2014 and have missed the playoffs every year since 2013.

Cincinnati Reds v Chicago Cubs Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Enter Iglesias, who would be a bullpen cornerstone to build around for a team in contention, but the Reds clearly don’t have that luxury. The Red Sox do.

Iglesias is a right-handed hurler who has a sustained track record of success and has shown a consistent ability to pitch more than one inning at a time. He originally came up as a starter, but eventually shifted to the bullpen permanently during the 2016 season. His two-plus years as a reliever have been excellent. He has a career ERA of 2.46 in 133 career relief appearances (168 23 innings) and has struck out 10.2 batters per nine innings in that time. Over the last three years he has never had an ERA+ below 160, including a mark of 165 so far in 2018. He also has 17 saves this year, and had 28 a year ago, so he isn’t afraid of big spots. However, with the Red Sox he would be able to fill multiple roles and could help be that multi-inning reliever that every team seems to need nowadays.

In terms of what he is working with, Iglesias has always had great velocity, with a four-seam fastball that sits in the 96 MPH zone. He matches that with a pretty outstanding slider, which hovers in the mid to high 80s, and an effective changeup. He mixes those three offerings pretty well, with a particularly even distribution of his slider and change. He uses those pitches to get outs and it makes sense, since they are both plus offerings. His slider rates a 3.9 on the wSL scale from Fangraphs while the change is at a respectable 2.3 wCH.

On top of being a great pitcher, Iglesias also presents positives because of his age and contract. Currently 28-yards-old, he won’t turn 29 until next January and he is under team control until 2021 when he would become a free agent. He is owed $4.5 million this season and $5 million in each of the next two seasons.

If you’re looking for the other shoe to drop here, there are a few things to point out. Iglesias’ fastball may still have good velocity, but it has not been as strong a pitch this season. He has recorded only 0.4 fastball runs above average, which pales in comparison to his 8.1 mark a year ago. Additionally, a deeper dive on some his metrics reveals that he has been a bit luckier than usual this season, with a career-low BABIP of .228 and a FIP of 4.11. His home run rate has also spiked, but he has managed to avoid a complete collapse by dancing out of trouble to the tune of a 92.3 percent left on base rate, currently the best mark of his career.

There are certainly some reasons to be hesitant, but the talent and the past track record should assuage any hesitancy Dave Dombrowski may feel in potential trade talks. Of course, as much sense as this move would make for the Red Sox, its unclear how much the Reds would want in a deal for their star reliever. After draining the farm of its top prospects the last few years, the Red Sox are not coming into this deadline with as much to offer, but if they can find a common ground with the Reds, Iglesias is a guy they could really use.