The Red Sox are getting in on the bullpen market, and specifically the left-handed reliever market, here on Sunday. Earlier this morning, Boston inked their first post-lockout signing, reportedly signing Matt Strahm to a one-year deal pending a physical. Now, they are reportedly finishing up another deal for a different southpaw. This comes according to a report from Chris Cotillo, who says the Red Sox are signing left-handed veteran reliever Jake Diekman. Though the specifics are not yet known, Cotillo reports it will be a multi-year deal.
Diekman, who is entering his age-35 season, has bounced around the league throughout his career, most recently pitching out of the Oakland Athletics bullpen. The southpaw comes equipped with big-time strikeout stuff, setting down batters at a 33 percent clip since the start of the 2020 season. Last season, Diekman tossed 60 2⁄3 innings, finishing with a 3.86 ERA and a 4.46 FIP while striking out 32 percent of his opponents with a 13 percent walk rate.
It’s that control that sets back his ceiling a bit, as he has not finished a season with a walk rate below 12.8 percent since 2016. (League-average typically sits in the eight to nine percent range.) Still, even with the rough control he has been able to put up strong numbers thanks to the big swing and miss stuff. Diekman mostly leans on a mid-90s fastball and a slider that induced whiffs on 47 percent of swings last season, per Baseball Savant. He also is just as good against righties as compared to lefties, actually coming in with slight reverse splits both in 2021 and for his career.
Diekman now joins Strahm, Josh Taylor, Darwinzon Hernandez, and Austin Davis as lefties on the 40-man roster, and should end up the highest on the depth chart to start the season. Given all of the questions in the Red Sox bullpen, Diekman should currently slot in as one of, if not the, best relievers in the bullpen. Between him and Strahm, the team will have to make one move to open up 40-man space when the deals become official. Presumably that move will be to transfer James Paxton to the 60-day injured list.
We’ll update this post when more specifics on the contract come out and when the move becomes official.
Statistics from this post from FanGraphs and Baseball Savant.