Where do the Red Sox turn now for a closer? David Robertson, Joakim Soria, Joe Kelly and Andrew Miller were all candidates who signed elsewhere. Now, however, crunch time begins for the Red Sox, with relievers flying off the board left, right and center.
It’s not yet time for panic or concern, but the budding problem regarding the closer is the only pressing ‘issue’ remaining. Nathan Eovaldi and Steve Pearce are back, so is Eduardo Nunez, with Joe Kelly and Ian Kinsler having gone their separate ways. So, let’s finish the offseason off smoothly by finding ourselves a closer, okay?
Browsing the Free Agent Market
As far as free agent candidates that remain, there’s only one guy that I love.
Adam Ottavino was a certified stud last year. He looked great even in a tough pitching environment in the altitude of Coors Field. His off-speed stuff is unquestionably filthy and dominant. I think if you give him a contract, it gives you the option to pitch him whenever you want, but it would make him the early favorite to close games.
Other attractive options come from a couple of other guys, who may not have been first choice closers for Boston, but after some in-depth analysis, might be worth a look. Both Brad Brach and Kelvin Herrera have pitched in big moments before, and have both been closers at times. Is their stuff a little diminished? Probably. However, a short-term deal for either of the two could provide them a veteran stopper at the end of the bullpen who is still good for 30+ saves.
Bring Craig Home?
Obviously, this section shouldn’t technically include Craig Kimbrel, but he was ours last year, so for argument’s sake let’s say he’s still an in-house option.
Kimbrel was thought to be long gone, his return a pipe dream, on the basis that he simply wanted too much money for too many years.
Now we sit here, first week of January, and Craig Kimbrel doesn’t have a deal. Not only that, we haven’t heard of much interest in the esteemed closer, especially not at his asking price. That breeds the questions, could Kimbrel come home? Who really wouldn’t want four more years of a sub-2.50 ERA?
People can say he’s been shaky. Or that his velocity has dropped. Or that he’s become a ‘heart attack closer’, but come on people. This guy is dominant, he is one of the best closers in the league, if not THE best. Who else would you take over Kimbrel?
The Sox have other internal options, such as Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier. Both of whom wouldn’t be my first choice for the ninth, but believe it or not I do actually think they’d both succeed. We need to see more from Brasier to prove last season wasn’t a fluke. Matt Barnes home run and control issues can at times be frustrating, but they are both cheap and viable candidates.
One final name I know people love to discuss is Durbin Feltman. Feltman was a third rounder just a year ago for the Sox, and he was one of the top college closers in the country coming out of TCU. He looked good in his stints in 2018, and will likely progress to at least Portland to begin the season, with Pawtucket and Boston surely on the horizon. He won’t start the season as the closer, but if whatever experiment the Red Sox use in the 9th doesn’t work AND Feltman progresses well, he could get this job a lot sooner than he originally thought.