Red Sox Off-Season Profiles: Craig Kimbrel and the Bullpen
Boston, MA - What was the Achilles heel of the Boston Red Sox during the majority of their 2018 regular season quickly became one of its biggest assets as the team ventured into the post-season. Thanks to some tinkering from Alex Cora, including a willingness to call upon starting pitchers to close out leads or hold onto the narrow ones, and a lights out performance from Joe Kelly to begin the playoffs, the bullpen was saved in time for the Red Sox to cruise to a World Series champion. Now, Kelly has joined the Los Angeles Dodgers, elite closer Craig Kimbrel remains unsigned, and the Red Sox are looking at another season where the only apparent weakness they have is the bullpen. If you can even call it a weakness, that is. (The New York Yankees, the Houston Astros, and the Dodgers might hesitate to do so, as well.)
As it stands now, the Red Sox bullpen consists of Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Brandon Workman, Heath Hembree, Hector Velazquez, Bobby Poyner, Tyler Thornburg, and Brian Johnson. That means currently, the Red Sox are without a lights out long man, especially not one of the caliber of Kelly, and without their generational closer, Kimbrel. If they fail to re-sign Kimbrel, the Red Sox will have a lot of questions to answer about the bullpen. (He recorded forty-eight saves in 2018, including the post-season. So yeah, they want Kimbrel back.)
At least, Boston has Barnes, who has proven to be a reliable set-up and eighth inning relieve during his time with the Sox and he rebounded nicely from an injury last year. Brasier, too, has proven himself worthy of a perennial spot in the bullpen after emerging from the shadows to become Boston's best reliever for the late months of the season.
The questions remain in the rest of the slapped together crew. Workman and Hembree were hardly trusted during the playoffs by Cora, which is especially troubling considering Workman's World Series experience. Velazquez and Johnson have also shown flashes of brilliance, but they're nowhere near where they need to be yet. And Poyner and Thornburg are two unproven pitchers.
With just two lefties in the bullpen, Dave Dombrowski's big project for 2019 will be putting together a bullpen in Boston.
The above image was adapted from an image that was originally posted to Flickr by Keith Allison at https://flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/33847580110