We are now just about six hours from the non-waiver trade deadline, meaning the Red Sox (and every other team in baseball) are running out of time to complete a trade easily. Deals can still be done after the deadline passes, and we’ll get into the specifics in a few days, but it gets more complicated. We know that the team has been working to get a reliever for the entire month of July. Or, at least, we know there have been reports of them being interested in just about every reliever available. However, the market has thinned as many of the top options have already come off the board, leaving many to wonder who the Red Sox will end up with, assuming they end up with a new reliever at all. I would be very surprised if we woke up Wednesday and there was not a new reliever on this roster, but as to who it will be, I have no idea.
The growing narrative that the market is completely bare is false, however. There are plenty of good options remaining, and with that in mind I thought it would be useful to take a look at every seller and who they have remaining to trade in their bullpen and a quick word on each candidate.
Sergio Romo (Rental)
The Red Sox and Rays have obviously made a deal already, but this would not be the first time two teams have come together for two separate deals this time of year. Romo represents, in my mind, the best option no one seems to be talking about. The righty misses bats, is hard to square up, has plenty of late-inning experience as well as postseason experience, and he’s a free agent at the end of the year.
Tyler Clippard (Rental)
The Blue Jays and Red Sox have also already made a deal, though it’s been a little while since then. Clippard has been better than most probably think and he has late-inning experience, but he also is an extreme flyball pitcher who falls into bouts of severe command issues. I wouldn’t be wild about this.
Ryan Tepera (Under Control through 2021)
Tepera is one of the more underrated setup men out there and has been a steady force in the back of Toronto’s bullpen for a few years. I think he’ll cost more in a deal than the Red Sox are willing to pay — he’s under control through 2021, though he’s also already 30 — but I’d at least ask about him.
Aaron Loup (Rental)
This would be another disappointing road to take, though there’s some logic to it. Loup has had success as a LOOGY in this division before, and he’d be incredibly cheap. It’s not really something I’d advocate but I could see why they’d do if it was available.
Mychal Givens (Under control through 2021)
Brad Brach was dealt to the Braves for international slot money, leaving Givens as the last piece to trade out of the Orioles bullpen. There are some control issues here and he’s under control through 2021 so the cost may be higher than he’s worth, but Givens has some truly nasty stuff when he’s on and is the type of guy who has always seemed one tweak from taking a massive step forward.
Fernando Rodney (Rental)
Look, I don’t want Rodney either, but it seems the extent to which fans don’t want him has gotten out of control. On the one hand, his command disappears in any given outing and he is a rollercoaster of emotions every time out. On the other hand, he’s been a good late-inning arm for a long time, and that doesn’t happen by accident. I hope they go in another direction, but they could do worse than this.
The White Sox are clear sellers but they don’t have any relievers of interest that seem likely to be traded.
Shane Greene (Under control through 2020)
Greene, like Romo, is someone I’m surprised we haven’t heard more about. The Tigers have their closer-in-waiting with Joe Jimenz, and it seems like they’d want to get Greene out for a decent package as soon as possible. The righty isn’t a gamechanger or anything, but he’s been across-the-board solid for a few years in a row and has shown improved control in 2018. Greene wouldn’t be my first choice, but he’s not a bad fallback option.
Alex Wilson (Under control through 2019)
An old friend could also be up for grabs for the Tigers. I don’t expect he’d be too interesting and would likely be packaged with something else — perhaps even Greene — but Wilson does induce weak contact and has done so consistently for a few years now. He’d be a disappointing get if he was the only one.
Like the White Sox, I just don’t see much of interest here.
Los Angeles Angels
Blake Parker (Under control through 2020)
The Red Sox and Angels obviously already made a move Monday night and while I’d be surprised if they matched up again so quickly — it’s a different scenario than the ones we discussed above with the Rays and Blue Jays — it’s not impossible. Parker has emerged as a legitimate back-end arm over the last couple of years, but he’s shown shakier command in 2018. The numbers are still good, but I worry about his flyball tendencies and how they’d translate to the AL East. In a vacuum he’d be a good addition, but I don’t see the cost being worth it.
Jim Johnson (Rental)
Johnson has quietly been a solid reliever even as he’s entered the back end of his career, though that depends on your metric of choice. By FIP, he’s been good thanks to a low home run rate. By DRA, he has been well below-average. He keeps the ball on the ground which certainly helps, but I don’t think he moves the needle enough to make this worth it.
Jake Diekman (Rental)
Keone Kela has the major target from this bullpen, but he came off the board late Monday night (or technically early Tuesday morning, I guess) in a deal with the Pirates. Diekman is not Kela by a longshot, but he is intriguing. Now, this is another guy who DRA absolutely hates, largely because he’s shown rough control throughout his career. That’s not ideal, but relievers can work around that. Diekman is a lefty, misses bats and gets grounders, and while he wouldn’t be my top choice I could live with this.
Kelvin Herrera (Rental)
The Nationals are the most interesting team in this group and have a fascinating decision to make. The Red Sox missed out on Herrera earlier this year, but they could have another chance. He didn’t go for too much when he was traded to Washington, and with about a month less on his contract he should be even cheaper now. If Herrera does indeed become available, the Red Sox need to be all over it.
Ryan Madson (Rental)
The Nationals would be silly to half-ass selling out of their bullpen, so if Herrera goes then Madson should too. That said, Madson has regressed heavily this year and at 37 years old I wouldn’t want to be the team betting on a bounce-back.
Brandon Kintzler (Under control through 2019) (Team Option for 2019)
Kintzler is essentially a rental in my eyes as there is a team option for $10 million in 2019 as well as a player option for $5. I’m not sure either side takes that. Kintzler is like Hughes in that he induces weak contact and has done so consistently for years. However, he’ll cost much more than Hughes. If the Red Sox want a guy like this, just get Hughes.
Kyle Barraclough (Under control through 2021)
In terms of cost, Barraclough is among the most expensive (in terms of trade value) targets to whom the Red Sox have been credibly connected. The righty is fine and has shown flashes of being more than that, but the control scares me too much for a guy who the Marlins are seemingly valuing similarly to Brad Hand.
Drew Steckenrider (Under control through 2023)
I like Steckenrider a bit more than Barraclough, but most of what I said above applies here. Either one of these two would improve the bullpen, and I generally believe overpaying by a bit is fine to get clear upgrades, but I think the overpay would be too much here.
Adam Conley (Under control through 2021)
Conley is a converted starter in his first season as a reliever, and he’s looked good. There are some command issues and I worry about him regressing as teams get more used to him in this role, but he’s a solid left-handed option. If the cost was right I’d be fine with it, but I have no sense of how Miami will value him.
Brad Ziegler (Rental)
Another old friend here, Ziegler has already served as an impact deadline acquisition for the Red Sox, coming to Boston from Arizona in 2016. He’s a few years older now and clearly almost done, but he has been on a roll of late and I could see him having another strong three-month run in him. Assuming this would cost next to nothing — and it should — I’d be okay with this as, like, a Plan D or something. Reports do indicate the Red Sox may be interested.
Anthony Swarzak (Under control through 2019)
I was interested in Swarzak as a free agent this past winter, but he’s been hurt and/or bad pretty much all season. His control has fallen off completely, but it’s also only been 19 innings. There’s some good buy-low opportunity here and he’d likely cost next to nothing, but he is owed $8.5 million next year. I’m not confident enough in a bounce-back to take on that salary.
Raisel Iglesias (Under control through 2021)
Iglesias is one of my favorite relievers in all of baseball, and I’d love him on the Red Sox. He’s a legitimately elite arm who can pitch late in games and can also record more than three outs when you need it. Unfortunately, after seeing what Brad Hand cost (I know Adam Cimber was in the deal too and he’s not nothing, but Hand was the headliner) I don’t think the Red Sox realistically have what it takes to pull this off. If they can, I hope they do.
Jared Hughes (Under control through 2020) (Guaranteed in 2019; Team option in 2020)
Iglesias is the headliner in the Reds’ bullpen, but there are other interesting and cheap options. Hughes hardly misses any bats but he is incredible at inducing weak contact and is a groundball machine. He’s always been a sneaky interesting target, at least on the discount bin.
Amir Garrett (Under control through 2023)
Garrett has been thrown out by many in speculation, though I’m not sure how motivated the Reds are to actually deal the young lefty. I suppose I’d throw my hat in the wring if I ran the Red Sox and Garrett was available, but I think his youth and control would drive the price up more than I’d want to pay.
David Hernandez (Under control through 2019)
I’ve always thought Hernandez was a bit underrated and he’s put forth another solid year in 2018, but there’s also nothing about him that really stands out. He’s someone I’d look to add in August off waivers perhaps, but not a big difference-maker here.
Kirby Yates (Under control through 2020)
Yates may be my favorite target on this list. He’ll cost a little more than the rentals, but I don’t think the price will be as exorbitant as others anticipate. He has always missed bats and this year he’s adding ground balls to the repertoire. His home run rate would rise coming to Boston from San Diego, but he’d still be a legitimate upgrade.
Craig Stammen (Under control through 2019)
Stammen is very similar to Yates, except he doesn’t strike out quite as many batters and he’s always gotten ground balls. Like Yates, I think the performance would suffer a bit in the move but it would still be a worthy acquisition.
Matt Strahm (Under control through 2022)
Strahm is an intriguing young lefty with plenty of control. In a vacuum I’d dig this, but the Padres are acting like a team on the cusp and so they are going to ask the world for players under control this long. I don’t think Strahm will be worth what they ask, and ultimately I’d be surprised if he’s moved.
The Cardinals and Giants aren’t indicating that they’re sellers, but they could change their tune at the last second so I’ll include them here.
Bud Norris (Rental)
The Cardinals are close enough that I’d be surprised if they sold, but Norris has been rumored to be available. If he is, he’s an interesting target. On the one hand, rumors came out about him being a dick in the clubhouse, and I don’t really want that. On the other hand, the Red Sox clubhouse is strong enough to handle that and Norris has been good. If the price is right I’d be fine with this, but again I don’t think the Cardinals will sell.
Will Smith (Under control through 2019)
The Giants probably should sell, but they’ve shown no indication they will. If they do, they have a couple of interesting lefties. I’ve always been enamored with Smith, but I think the cost would be a little too rich for my blood.
Tony Watson (Under control through 2019) (Player option for 2020)
Watson was one of the guys I really wanted this winter, as did a lot of Red Sox fans. If he became available again, I suspect interest would ratchet up again among fans. He’s a lefty, which is obviously a plus, and I think would be cheaper than Smith. I’d be on board.
Okay, so there are a lot of interesting names here, and some other not-so-interesting ones. The main takeaway is that there are a lot of roads the Red Sox can take over the next day and a half. If I had to choose a top three I’d probably go Kelvin Herrera, Sergio Romo and Kirby Yates. What say you?