We’ve known for a few weeks now that the Red Sox were hoping to upgrade their bullpen and their right-handed hitting depth ahead of the July 31 trade deadline. They accomplished the latter when they traded for Steve Pearce last week, and now the focus shifts to relief. That need has only become more apparent recently as Joe Kelly continues to struggle as one of the top three relievers in the bullpen. It’s clear that they could use another high-end arm to bridge the game to Craig Kimbrel, even with Matt Barnes being outstanding for essentially the entire season. There is no shortage of relievers that are expected to be available on the open market, and it seems the Red Sox have contacted at least one team about their available relief arms. That team, according to MLB.com’s Jon Morosi, is the Miami Marlins.
Looking at this in one way, it’s not all that surprising. Miami is as clear a rebuilder as there is in baseball with Derek Jeter and company stripping their roster for parts over the offseason. They have no choice but to keep stripping away now. They also have at least three intriguing relievers, and possibly more than that depending on how you feel about someone like Brad Ziegler at this point in his career.
In another way, however, this is a bit surprising. One of the presumptions many (myself included) have made about the Red Sox has been that, given their weak farm system, they’d be focusing on the rental market. Beyond Ziegler, however, the Marlins boast relievers with multiple years of control. This could be better for the Red Sox what with Kimbrel’s unknown status after this season. It’s also going to be more expensive.
Either way, Dave Dombrowski and company clearly believe they can afford the price of whoever it is in Miami they are specifically targeting. Speaking of which, here are the three main potential targets.
- Kyle Barraclough is the biggest name in the bullpen right now. The righty has big-time stuff and has proven almost impossible to square up in recent years. On the more negative side, however, his strikeout rate has declined each year in the league and he’s had consistent control issues over his career. Still, despite the flaws he has a 0.99 ERA on the year and has never posted a DRA worse than 28 percent better than league-average.
- Drew Steckenrider emerged as a legitimate late-inning arm last season, showing off huge strikeout stuff that was able to mask some command issues. This season, it seems the league has figured out the 27-year-old at least a little bit. The strikeout rate is still solid and he’s improved both his walk and home run rates, but the overall package is much less enticing when he’s not striking out 14 batters per nine innings.
- Adam Conley has been a breakout this season after a few years as a middling back-end starter. The lefty has converted to relief in 2018 and has broken out in his new role. On the one hand, he has only made 17 appearances for a total of 17 1⁄3 innings and this could very well be a fluke. On the other hand, Conley would not be the first failed starter to turn into an elite reliever, and that’s what he’s been this year. With a 1.56 ERA, a 3.21 FIP and a 2.97 DRA, he’s been nothing but impressive this year.
All in all, the Marlins have intriguing but flawed candidates. I’d likely prefer they look elsewhere at higher-end players even if they aren’t controlled beyond this season, but these aren’t bad targets either. Conley in particular intrigues me, though I’ll admit I have no idea how to value someone with his track record. Regardless, it’s trade rumor season and you can expect about one million more of these in the coming weeks.