We’ve been waiting for something, anything, about the Red Sox in free agency pursuing help in the bullpen. We all have different opinions about who or at least what kind of reliever they should be targeting, but the list of potential targets has been shrinking by the day. One by one, the top couple of tiers of the reliever market has dwindled to the point where only Craig Kimbrel remains, and the Red Sox remain steadfast that they are not going to spend that much money on a closer. If not him, then who?
We may have a better idea now. According to a report from Masslive’s Chris Cotillo, the Red Sox are focusing on relievers in the $2-$3 million range, presumably for just one year. That same report mentions Shawn Kelley as one name with whom they’ve been in discussions, but Cotillo notes there are multiple relievers involved. There are a couple of other notes worth getting into, and we will below, but right now I want to focus on the crux of the report.
If you’ve been keeping up with us over this winter, I think you’ll know where I stand on this. I’m still of the belief that the best move for the team is to re-sign Kimbrel, luxury tax be damned. There’s no other way to replace his production, which has become wildly underrated due to his horrendous run through the postseason. I am not in charge, though, and regardless of what ownership may say it seems clear the luxury tax is a consideration. There’s no other reason to limit themselves to a market of $2-$3 million relievers. For what it’s worth, I have them between $2 and $3 million away from the $246 mark that would bump them to the highest tax bracket and move their draft pick ten slots back. They’d create some more wiggle room by trading one of their catchers, too.
The way I see it, they are almost certainly going to exceed this threshold whether they like it or not. Obviously we can’t really complain about last season, but if you’ll recall they were trying to avoid this threshold at this point last year as well. They failed, and it would have been better to just blow by it in the offseason than mess around and then squeak by with a midseason trade. So, if I was them I would either just go for it now or just do nothing and save the wiggle room they do have for a midseason acquisition. Remember, Dombrowski has done well in his Red Sox tenure at addressing needs in the summer.
This isn’t even to say they have to sign Kimbrel or someone of that ilk. There is an argument to be made that they should just sign a one-year deal and worry about the luxury tax again for next year. I can see that, but even then there’s no reason to limit yourself to such a small sum of money. As part of Cotillo’s report, he all but rules out the team signing Sergio Romo or Adam Warren, two of the better one-year options still out there. There’s just not a lot of logic to limiting yourselves to the Shawn Kelleys of the world. Kelley has had success a few years ago, and had a good run with the A’s last year, but that was only 16 innings and he’s had major command issues in recent years. Anyone who signs for this low amount is going to have some flaw, and the Red Sox already have a whole lot of flawed-but-intriguing righties.
Anyway, at this point it’s too early in the process to really be upset — or even happy — about anything. I’m writing this on January 21, still weeks from pitchers and catchers and months from Opening Day. The reality is we have no idea what the bullpen is going to look like and there’s little reason to really freak out when there’s plenty of time for things to change. Plus, Cotillo does also say that a larger expenditure is indeed possible. We can only go off what we know, though, and right now the signs are pointing towards me disagreeing with their ultimate decision here.