While the Bronx Bombers have seemingly signed every available closer or former closer to the point that I expect them to sign Sparky Lyle next week, Boston’s old towne team has watched Joe Kelly leave for greener ($$$) pastures in Beverly Hills, while all star closer Craig Kimbrell waits by the phone like a 14 year old boy with bad acne while the Red Sox claim they’re staying in to wash their hair.
At this point news breaking that fictional former Boston heart throb Sam May Day Malone was signing would come as a welcome reprieve from a fairly mundane off season.
The “no designated closer” thing was tried once before, and it went like shit. As any Red blooded Red Sox fan will tell you, they love Mike Timlin and Alan Embree, but in 2003 when they tried not having a closer, the season ended with Tim Wakefield giving up a bomb to Aaron Boone that has resounded so long it got that guy a managerial gig 15 years later. Luckily the winter of 2003 saw the arrival of Keith Foulke, which led to the arrival of the World Series trophy.
To that end I don’t see any reasonable way the team can sell the idea of no closer. What they CAN sell is a no holds barred, old fashion, winner take all throw down!
I remember the last big bullpen throw down when Somerville high LEGEND Paul Williams threw down against Jeff Nelson and Karim Garcia of the Yankees during that fatefull 2003 ALCS. Much like everyone in Red Sox nation I remember where I was when that brawl broke out… sitting on Paul’s couch watching the game.
This fight should be a bit more civil. PROBABLY. Lets examine the guys who barring injury are virtual locks to find place in Boston this year, followed by some contenders for spots, some youngsters on the farm who could find themselves enjoying the sun dresses walking up and down Newberry Street in the summer, and lastly, who is still out there that could be had for pennies on the dollar now that spring training is nearly upon us. Included is the guy I’d put my money on to win the closer’s job.
A SURER BET THAN A KARDASHIAN RUINING AN NBA CAREER:
Matt Barnes – The former first round pick is the popular choice for remaining members to take over the mantel of closer. He’s got a live arm, and was a go to 8th inning guy last year. A role I see him reprising this year.
Heath Hembree – The seemingly embattled right hander is not nearly as bad as Red Sox twitter nation would have one think. A reliable reliever acquired for Jake Peavy back in the day will again be a key member of the pen.
Tyler Thornburg – As soon as people can get over that to acquire Thornburg cost the Sox Travis Shaw, the sooner people can embrace that he was once a piece good enough to warrant giving up Travis Shaw. Another tough right arm.
Branden Workman – The former starter turned bullpen guy is the resident long man to keep around. Capable of performing in short stints as well. He’ll face some competition, but its likely either sticking around, or being traded, I don’t see him headed to Rhode Island.
Ryan Brasier – The man who will be closer. Barnes has the nicer arm, the pedigree, the resume. But Brasier has been to hell and back as far as having a major league career, and to be blunt, he has the balls to take the job. One of, if not the, highlight of the 2018 championship run was Brasier telling Gary Sanchez to get back in the ducking box. While he has a total of ZERO saves at the major league level, he does have 78 in the minors, so he’s not adverse to the job. At 31 years old, he’d take a real balls to the wall approach.
UNDER CONSIDERATION, BUT NOT A SURE THING. EXTENDED SPRING TRAINING OR PAWTUCKET ARE OPTIONS:
Colton Brewer – Acquired from the Padres in the off season, Brewer feels like minor league bullpen depth
Brian Johnson – Considering that he’s a lefty and there are NO lefties in the sure bet category, he may be misplaced here. He can also provide spot start insurance. A post-hype prospect, Johnson is a quality pitcher.
Bobby Poyner – Another lefty who spent time in Boston last year, he doesn’t have the upside of Johnson, but he does stand a chance if the Sox want to keep Johnson in a rotation role.
Hector Velasquez – A spot starter, long reliever guy, he’s really competing with Branden Workman, and Steven Wright. Considering Workman has the better stuff, and Steven Wright’s dry comedy is a hidden treasure, Velasquez feels destined to Pawtucket rotation bound.
Steven Wright – Back in 2016 the knuckleballer started 24 games for the Sox, winning 13. That season also included an all star appearance. But that was 2016, and while his knuckleballing arm has value, he isn’t Tim Wakefield, and he’s competing for a spot.
Carson Smith – Like Tyler Thornburg, Smith is a failed Dombrowksi trade experiment (this year’s version is Colton Brewer by the way, which is why I don’t have much faith in the move). Smith was a stud reliever for the Mariners just a few years ago. He has flopped in Boston more than James Harden does driving the lane. He’s back as a non-roster invitee to spring training. Lets just say I’m not holding my breath.
Jenrry Mejia – The former lights out closer for the Mets has reportedly been throwing gas this winter while attempting to rehab his image and career. The baseball version of Josh Gordon is returning following an indefinite ban from baseball. This is a buy low candidate who could be an all star closer come July. The best compliment I can give Dave Dombrowski for this signing is that it feels like a Theo Epstein move. Most likely, Mejia starts out in extended spring training, and is a HUGE piece of the pitching staff come June.
YOUNG PUPS WHO COULD BE TRYING TO SNEAK THEIR WAY INTO BOSTON CLUBS COME SEPTEMBER:
Darwinzon Hernandez – The young lefty is one of the Sox’ top prospects. Ultimately destined for the rotation (or knowing Dombrowski, destined to be traded away), his live lefty arm could find some spot appearances in September before announcing his presence with authority in the playoffs.
Travis Larkins – Another prospect, Larkins isn’t as highly touted as Hernandez, but will likely be a September call up. It would take a rash of injuries to see him before then, but stranger things have happened.
Josh Taylor – After spending most of the year at Pawtucket, the lefty has a shot at replacing Bobby Poyner as a Sox lefty reliever. Regardless, you can expect a call up when the disabled list comes calling.
RELIEVERS THAT DOMBROWSKI CAN PICK UP IN 2 WEEKS LIKE SOME DAYWORKERS OUT FRONT OF HOME DEPOT:
Craig Kimbrell – The all star closer is still out there. One of the best closers, statistically, in the history of the game. Publicly, the front office has said they’ve moved on, but as long as he is out there, the draw will be there to go get him on the cheap.
Tyler Clippard – The 33 year old righty doesn’t seem likely to beat out the other righties on the squad already, but he has been a quality reliver at the big league level for a while, and will be a contributor for someone in 2019
Adam Warren – Formerly of the Yankees, Cubs, and Mariners, Warren has been a quality reliever and sometimes starter. He’s a better version of Branden Workman
John Axford – The former closer for the Brewers and Rockies, Axford finished last year as part of the Dodger’s bullpen. At 35 years old he doesn’t exactly feel like the long term solution at closer, but he would be a nice, cheap veteran option.
A.J. Ramos – Another former closer, the 32 year old used to man the spot for the Marlins. After spending the year toiling in baseball purgatory with the Mets, he may be intrigued by the chance to close games in Boston’s field of dreams.
Tony Sipp – The 35 year old would instantly be the best lefty reliever in the Sox camp. A bit long in the tooth, he was none the less a key member of the Astros bullpen last year and still has enough in the tank to help the Sox fuel another post season run.
At the end of the day, lets be honest, the Sox aren’t trotting out Aroldis Chapman, Zach Britton, Dellin Betances, and Adam Ottavino. But then again, the Yankees aren’t trotting out Chris Sale, David Price, Ricky Porcello, Nathan Eiovaldi, or Eduardo Rodriguez.
- Written by Jason Sullivan
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