With the Red Sox seemingly undecided in their approach to the 2020 season, it’s been tough to tell whether they want to buy or sell this offseason. It’s nearly impossible to determine which free agents Chaim Bloom is pursuing, but it’s fair to say they will be staying away from any higher priced guys to attempt to avoid the luxury tax. An interesting, low-cost reliever that has the potential to bolster a lackluster Red Sox bullpen is former Chicago Cub Pedro Strop.
Strop first came onto the scene in 2009 as a reliever for the Texas Rangers. After unimpressive years with the Rangers and Orioles, he really found his footing following a trade to the Cubs in 2013. He became one of the most reliable relievers in baseball, posting large strikeout numbers and an ERA under 3.00 in every year up until 2018. Throughout this stretch, he was in the top 15 in the majors in GB%, K%, and ERA. Pretty outstanding.
However, in 2019, Strop struggled significantly, with a career worst 4.97 ERA and a 4.53 FIP. Part of this can be attributed to multiple stints on the IL due to neck and hamstring injuries. In addition, though, he’s messed with his pitch mix quite a bit over the past couple of seasons, and perhaps this has caused some regression. After dominating with his split finger in 2017 (thrown 15.8% of the time), he has completely phased it out of his mix (down to 1.8% the next year). Instead, Strop has thrown his fastball more than ever, and it has been crushed, with a .386 wOBA against. Strop’s slider has been his best pitch for most of his career, and it has traditionally been the pitch he throws the most. In my opinion, for a more successful 2020, Strop should bring back his splitter, lower his fastball usage dramatically, and continue to rely on his exceptional slider.
Pedro Strop’s poor 2019 may end up playing into the Red Sox’ hands. At 34 years old and coming off a bad year, Strop should come pretty cheap, and may be looking for a ‘prove-it’ deal to show that he still has it. MLBTR estimates a contract around one year and $5 million, which is definitely affordable for the Sox. Strop’s previous consistency with the Cubs and cheap price tag make this signing extremely low-risk.
If Bloom decides to keep both Mookie Betts and David Price around, a reliever like Pedro Strop would be perfect to establish a consistent, veteran presence in the bullpen.