Much of the conversation surrounding the Red Sox in 2020 was about their starting pitching. Rightfully so.
After the team traded David Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers, then lost Chris Sale (to injury) and Eduardo Rodriguez (to COVID-19 complications) for the season, the team endured a long, lost 60-game season. The Red Sox ran out what was arguably the worst group of starters in baseball and they pitched like it.
Red Sox starters compiled a 5.34 ERA, sixth worst in MLB, and they were tied for the fourth-most homers allowed over nine innings (1.79). The underwhelming performances were criticizedall year, but somehow the relievers went mostly unscathed, even though the bullpen might have been worse.
The Red Sox bullpen compiled a woeful 5.79 ERA (fourth-highest in MLB) and a 1.64 WHIP (third-worst). To be fair, the bullpen probably was overworked because of the starters’ poor outings, tossing an MLB-high 278 innings. The team was without lefthanders Darwinzon Hernandez and Josh Taylor for a good chunk of the season after they contracted COVID-19 before summer camp. When they returned in August, both struggled to gain their footing.
Taking that into consideration, the bullpen was heavily flawed. With a free agent market that seems flooded with talented relievers, here are some options the Red Sox might want to consider for 2021:
Brad Hand — When the Red Sox traded Brandon Workman to the Phillies just before the trade deadline in 2020, Matt Barnes said he would gladly welcome the opportunity to be the team’s closer. But 2020 wasn’t kind to Barnes, who had a 4.30 ERA in 23 innings. So it’s clear the Sox are in need of a closer. Hand, who was placed on outright waivers by the Indians and made it through unclaimed, wouldn’t be a bad choice. Hand led the American League with 16 saves this season along with a 2.05 ERA and 0.77 WHIP.
Blake Treinen — Treinen was the best closer in the game in 2018 with the A’s (0.78 ERA, 0.834 WHIP). He finished sixth in the AL Cy Young voting that year thanks to his devastating sinker that he consistently threw into the upper-90s. Two subpar seasons have diminished his value, and the Dodgers kept him out of high-leverage situations in 2020, but his power arm may intrigue the Red Sox at the right price.
Liam Hendriks — It’s hard to believe the A’s designated Hendriks for assignment in 2018, then brought him back in September of that year as their opener. He regained his fastball when he returned and hasn’t looked back. Hendriks was the 2020 AL Reliever of the Year after he posted a 1.78 ERA and an eye-catching 13.14 strikeouts per nine innings mark. After two solid seasons as the A’s closer he might warrant the Sox opening their wallet.
Sean Doolittle — Doolittle has struggled the past two seasons, but was dealing with injuries in 2020. However, at age 34 he still could regain his 2018 form with the Nationals when he had a 1.60 ERA and 25 saves in 45 innings. He also would provide a much-needed lefthanded option.
Brandon Kintzler — Kintzler played a large part in the Marlins gaining their first playoff berth since 2003. In 24 games, Kintzler had 12 saves with a 2.22 ERA in 24⅓ innings. Despite those numbers, the Marlins declined his $4 million option.
Trevor May — May’s average fastball velocity last season for the Twins was 96.7 miles per hour, the highest of his career. He posted a pedestrian 3.86 ERA last season, but he struck out 38 batters in 23⅓ innings and registered a whopping 18.5 percent swinging strike percentage.
Greg Holland — Holland had a 1.91 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in 28⅓ innings for the Royals.
Jeremy Jeffress — Jeffress had a 1.54 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP in 23⅓ innings for the Cubs last season. Jeffress made just $850,000 in 2020 and could be a steal.
Mark Melancon — Melancon, who had a miserable 41-game stint with the Red Sox in 2012, was the linchpin to the Braves bullpen, collecting 11 saves in tossing 22⅔ innings.
Shane Greene — Greene pitched 27⅔ innings for the Braves with a 2.60 ERA and 1.12 WHIP. Greene has experience as a closer from his time with the Detroit Tigers and, if need be, that may be a role he could fill with the Sox.