Clearly, the 9th inning is a problem. Not the bullpen as a whole, but the 9th inning. Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Marcus Walden, Brandon Workman, Heath Hembree, Tyler Thornburg and even Josh Taylor, have all been run out in the final inning of a game this year. The first four of those names have done well in their regular roles, however they’ve all struggled in the 9th. A Closer is a must at this point. If the Red Sox want to contend for a World Series, it’s a must.
It’s a shame there wasn’t an all-star caliber Closer on the market until a couple weeks ago. Since that move wasn’t made for Kimbrel, the Red Sox are forced to look elsewhere. The in-house options haven’t worked, and there’s been too many close games lost in the 9th inning. This team needs a guy that can lock it down. Whether people liked him or not, that’s what Kimbrel was.
There isn’t a whole lot of lockdown Closers left in baseball, and even less available on the market. Felipe Vazquez & Brad Hand are both intriguing options, and I would definitely like either at the right price. Will Smith seems to be the cheapest option, and he would improve the back end of this bullpen.
Yet there’s still one name that I like more than others. That is Nationals closer Sean Doolittle. We’re now approaching July, and Washington is seven games back of the first place Braves. The optimist National fan will point to the fact that they’ve won four straight and eight of ten coming into Saturday. They’re also only a game and a half back of the crowded NL wild card picture.
However, I still believe the price can be met for Doolittle. On the Red Sox side, his contract is in absolute steal, coming into a payroll that needs some relief. He’s making just $6 Million this season, with only about $3 Million left. He also has a bargain of a team option in 2020 for $6.5 Million that will absolutely be picked up, regardless of which team he plays for come this winter.
On the Nationals side of things, the price to get Doolittle should be stiff. With him under control cheap for the next year and a half, and the team still relatively competitive, ownership may not want to sell. Yet with Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg also coming up in trade talks, there’s no reason to believe Doolittle isn’t also available.
Potential Trade Chips
The Sox would have to give up a couple of solid prospects and maybe a younger player in order to acquire the Nats stopper. Jarren Duran, Bryan Mata, Bobby Dalbec, Darwinzon Hernandez and Triston Casas are the top-chip prospects that Boston has to offer. I would think one of them, along with a prospect ranked in our top 20-30, would support a Sam Travis or Tzu-Wei Lin in a potential package.
The Nationals would a get a hitter that could instantly be on their roster with potential upside. They’d also get one of our better prospects, all of whom were listed have the tools to become a pro. Finally, they’d have their pick at any prospect deeper in our system that they may feel good about.
This would seem to be some sort of framework that could appeal to both sides, and definitely the Red Sox. The Nationals might require a little more, but if it ends up being a full blown rebuild and sell for Washington, a package like this could get the deal done for Doolittle.
Boston would be getting a fantastic pitcher, who’s put together a track record for many years and shows no signs of slowing down. I already talked about how team friendly his contract is, and on top of that he’s posted a 2.33 in 108 games since joining the Nats. He’s also 99 of 118 in save tries in his career for an 84% clip. Only Kimbrel, Kenley Jansen and Roberto Osuna rival his career WHIP of 0.92.
Not many guys can say they’re shutdown closers in 2019. A lot of “heart attack Closers” are out there, and they are not fun to watch to say the least.
This Red Sox bullpen trying to close out games has also not been fun. Hopefully a move is coming and I’d like to think something is already in the works. If it’s not Doolittle that’s fine, but the time has come to finally pull the trigger on bringing in a ninth inning stopper to solidify this bullpen.