The Relievers the Red Sox Should and Should Not Trade For
(Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com (Aug. 8, 2017 – Source: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images North America))
After the Red Sox committed their 16th blown save of the year on Wednesday, everyone behind the keyboards were enraged, and rightfully so. The Red Sox bullpen has not been trustworthy, and that issue has not been more prominent than it has as of late. Part of this has been due to the subtraction of Craig Kimbrel; the man who had a 2.44 ERA, 14.9 K/9, and who was 108/119 in save opportunities in his three years with the team.
Lots of fans are suggesting the Red Sox get a closer; someone who can come in during the 9th inning and slam the door shut. But, I think that the idea of getting a closer is a little tricky. The Red Sox farm system is already whittled down, and I am not sure that the Red Sox organization should commit to the 2019 club so much that they ship off a valuable future asset. If the team wants future success, though, they will definitely need more bullpen depth. Whether that be some middle-inning arms or a back-end stopper is up for Dave Dombrowski to decide. I put some relievers who are likely to be traded in different subcategories to make things simpler.
*All stats are through June 28th, 2019
*Hard-hit percentage is used from Statcast
*Asterisks attached to stats have hyperlinks to the stat definitions
High Talent, High Price
Will Smith (Giants)
Ranked #1 on MLB Trade Rumors’ Top 50 Trade Candidates (as of June 17th), Will Smith is the best bullpen option available on the trade market. He’s a free agent after this year, and he has posted a 2.16 ERA and 6.4 K/BB ratio through 33.1 innings, and has been a perfect 21/21 in save opportunities. But, the Red Sox would have to give up multiple top prospects for him, so looking at his Baseball Reference page is like looking at a $10 million apartment you’ll never buy.
Greg Holland (Diamondbacks)
After a rough 2018, Greg Holland has been a great closer at a low price for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He has a 2.08 ERA through 26.0 innings and is 11/13 in save opportunities. Some may look at the underlying numbers and get worried. He has a 3.88 FIP* and a .179 BABIP against*. But, I would still not consider his BABIP against lucky, as his hard-hit%* against is 27.1, which is significantly lower than the average hard-hit% of 36.9. When you add his 10.4 K/9, I think he is a pretty safe bet… for a team with good prospects to give.
Kirby Yates (Padres)
If you ask me, this particular closer likely isn’t going anywhere. Kirby Yates is under control through 2020, and I would say that the Padres have the assets to compete next year, and maybe even this year. But if the Padres wanted to make some type of deal, they could get a solid return. He has a 1.31 ERA, 1.26 FIP, and 6.2 K/BB ratio through 34.1 innings. He is also 27/28 in save opportunities. But, the most likely time for the Red Sox to acquire him would be after 2020 when he becomes a free agent.
Not Worth the High Price At All
Shane Greene (Tigers)
If you are looking at closers and just looking at run prevention, you might see Shane Greene as the best option. He is on the long-lost Tigers, under control through 2020, and most importantly, has a 0.90 ERA through 30.0 innings. But, I am afraid a rude awakening is coming for this closer. Due to a relatively normal K/BB ratio (3.33) and HR/9 (0.9), he only has a 3.48 FIP. He also has a .184 BABIP against, which seems to be more due to luck than to missing barrels. His hard-hit% against is 37.2, and his barrel percentage is 8.9*; both of which are above average (the average barrel percentage is 7.7). I would stay away from Shane Greene completely, unless the asking price was very low. The numbers suggest that he is getting lucky, and it is hard to sustain that for an entire season.
Safe and Affordable
David Hernandez (Reds)
This 34-year-old would be a very good depth option. Relying on Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier and Brandon Workman will not be sustainable, and we are seeing it already with Barnes. He is tired. His “oblique” might be barking soon to put him on the IL for 10 days. Hernandez has a 4.33 ERA, but his 4.1 K/BB ratio and 0.5 HR/9 translate to a 2.39 FIP. It seems that he has run into bad luck, as his hard-hit% is 31.4, which is below the average of 36.9. I think the Red Sox could get him at a low price to add depth.
Craig Stammen (Padres)
When one looks at Craig Stammen’s 2019 season, they might be alarmed by his 4.39 ERA and 2.0 HR/9. I would say that one bad appearance may have spoiled those numbers. On June 9th, he gave up back-to-back-to-back-to-back home runs to the Nationals. Without that appearance, he would have a 3.57 ERA and 1.1 HR/9. His 4.6 K/BB ratio is very encouraging, as well as his 33.1% hard-hit rate. This would be another low-buy situation to give the rest of bullpen some rest.
Perfect Mix of Affordable and Talented
Sam Dyson (Giants)
This is my favorite trade option out of all the relievers. He has a 2.61 ERA and 5.5 K/BB ratio through 38.0 innings. His opponents’ exit velocity is in the top 7% (meaning lower velocity) and his barrel% and hard-hit% are below the average. To add to that, he is a sinker-baller that gets a 57.3% ground ball rate, which is far above the average rate of 42.9%. Not only that, but he has closing experience. In 2016, he was 38/43 in save opportunities with Texas. He is not currently a closer, but he has a billion times more 9th inning experience than anyone else on the team. I feel like Davey D could get him for a prospect outside of the organizational top 5, which would be a great deal.
Francisco Liriano (Pirates)
Liriano has been a pleasant surprise as a primary reliever for the Pirates. He has a 2.79 ERA through 38.2 innings. His 2.0 K/BB ratio and 4.16 FIP are a little underwhelming, but his opponents’ exit velocity is in the top 3% of the league. His hard-hit percentage (25.7) is in fact in the top 2% of the league. He is someone who can pitch to contact well, like Dyson and the next reliever to be mentioned.
Jared Hughes (Reds)
The 6’7″ righty has a 2.91 ERA through 34.0 innings, and is another proponent of the ground ball. He has a ground ball rate of 63.0%, which is because of the sinker that he throws 77.5% of the time. His hard-hit rate is top 10% in the league at 29.2%, and his barrel rate is top 5% in the league at 3.2%. He does not have very much 9th inning experience at all, so he would mostly be a piece to add depth and use in the 7th and 8th innings.
Tony Watson (Giants)
I added this lefty after listening to this past week’s edition of the Red Sox Unfiltered Podcast when he was suggested in a possible trade scenario. He is similar to everyone in this subcategory in that he does not strike out the world, but gets soft contact and gets outs. He has a 2.48 ERA and a 6.0 K/BB ratio through 32.2 innings. Watson is great at getting soft contact too, as his opponents’ exit velocity and barrel rate are both top 7% in the league. His hard-hit rate is also at a low 29.8%. Watson or Liriano would not only add bullpen depth, but would bring another necessary lefty.
And that is most of the reliever market right there. I would suggest Dave Dombrowski make some moves now, but I don’t need him using WhatsApp to make trades right now.