Once the lockout officially ended and the transaction market started to open back up, it was clear for the Red Sox that the bullpen would have to be a priority. In need of both depth and top-end talent, it seems likely that multiple moves are coming on this front, and we got our first one Sunday afternoon. According to a report from Robert Murray, Boston has signed left-handed reliever Matt Strahm to a one-year deal pending a physical. Jon Heyman reports the deal is worth $3 million.
Strahm, who will be in his age-30 season in 2022, was a 21st round pick by the Royals back in 2012, and after two years in the majors with Kansas City was traded to the Padres, where he has stayed through last season. The southpaw has pitched as both a starter and a reliever in his career, but has performed better in the bullpen and presumably will be used in that role for Boston. Over his career he’s shown flashes, most notably in 2018 when he threw 61 1⁄3 innings with a 2.05 ERA and a 3.36 FIP.
But more recently, he’s struggled with consistency and health. Strahm threw only 6 2⁄3 innings last season (six runs on 15 hits and a walk with four strikeouts), missing big chunks of time with knee issues after undergoing surgery the previous offseason. That knee has given him issues before, too, as he missed a combined 134 games between 2017 and 2018 due to a knee issue. The lefty also underwent elbow surgery back in 2016. That injury history makes the “pending physical” part of this report particularly notable, as these kind of deals can fall apart after the doctors take a look.
That said, assuming he passes the Red Sox do get some upside in this deal. Over his career, Strahm has been able to miss bats at an above-average rate, particularly while pitching out of the bullpen. He has been a five-pitch pitcher in recent years, with a four-seam fastball, a two-seam, a slider, a curveball, and a changeup. He’s likely to serve as a multi-inning reliever for the Red Sox, which could be particularly important after this shortened spring training likely leads to shorter starts in the beginning of the season.
He is the fourth left-handed reliever for Boston on the 40-man roster, joining Josh Taylor, Darwinzon Hernandez, and Austin Davis. For his career, Strahm has been better against lefties, but not to a dramatic degree. Left-handed opponents have put up a .297 wOBA against the former Padre compared to a .315 mark for righties. With their 40-man roster standing at 39 before the signing, there is no corresponding move needed if/when this becomes official.
Statistics in this post from FanGraphs, pitch data from Baseball Savant, and injury history from Baseball Prospectus.