Building a Bullpen, 2019 edition

BornToRun

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My first thought for a reliever who fell off a cliff around age 30 was Eric Gagne. But he had an injury at that time (not to mention a likely loss of PEDs compared to his heyday).
Seems as though there is a high number of closers who proved that 30, or even 35, was not an insurmountable barrier: Rivera, Hoffman, Reardon, Smith, Sutter
Billy Wagner was a flamethrower who was dominant into his late 30’s as well. His last year, 2010, was one of his career bests at 38 years old.
 

moondog80

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The money quote is “He’s a Hall of Fame reliever, but we have not anticipated having a large expenditure for a closer.”

But what is a "large expenditure"? Does an Andrew Miller/David Robertson deal count? One year at the QO rate?
 

Plympton91

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I choose to believe this is posturing because otherwise I might cry. That said, I fully support the “Matt Barnes: Elite Closer” experience if that is the road we go down.
Do you support the “Ryan Brasier, top set up man” experience? They have to sign two back end arms, or we’re in danger of being the 2013 Tigers.
 

Dewey'sCannon

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I suspect they may go for some of the "cheaper chicken" alternatives like Brad Brach, or Cody Allen.

And I think DD's statements still leave a little wiggle room. He said they "have not anticipated having a large expenditure on a closer." I interpret this as meaning that once Kimbrel turned down the QO, they did not plan on going after him or any of the other "closers" looking for large, multi-year deals. But plans can change, and events can be unanticipated. So maybe if a shorter-term deal for Kimbrel fell in their lap, they'd take it, but they still don't (and probably shouldn't) anticipate that happening. And maybe Ottavino doesn't meet their definition of a "closer," so could still be in play (though I doubt it, unless his price drops).

So for the time being I think we're shopping in the bargain bin. They seem comfortable with taking this approach, and waiting to see if something unanticipated presents itself. They can always try to get some of these Tier 2 or 3 guys and go into the season and see what they have and upgrade in-season, if necessary. As we know, bullpens tend to be volatile, so you almost always have to be ready to adjust on the fly anyway. Although the Yankees do seem to be doing their best to fortify their assets such that they are covered, albeit at a significant cost. But I'd still rather have our overall pitching staff, given the strength of our starters.
 

Savin Hillbilly

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The wrong side of the bridge....
Do you support the “Ryan Brasier, top set up man” experience? They have to sign two back end arms, or we’re in danger of being the 2013 Tigers.
The 2013 Tigers came within two wins of making the World Series. That's a danger I think I could live with in a pinch.

And really, Ryan Brasier as top setup man does not seem like such a horrible fate, based on what we saw this year.

I agree they should add at least one more reliever, if only for depth, but the inadequacy of the current contingent is being exaggerated a bit.
 

charlieoscar

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IF Carson Smith and/or Tyler Thornburg return to somewhere near their potential then perhaps the club won't need to add to their 25-man roster.
 

Plympton91

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The 2013 Tigers came within two wins of making the World Series. That's a danger I think I could live with in a pinch.

And really, Ryan Brasier as top setup man does not seem like such a horrible fate, based on what we saw this year.

I agree they should add at least one more reliever, if only for depth, but the inadequacy of the current contingent is being exaggerated a bit.
Chapman, Betances, Britton, Green.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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IF Carson Smith and/or Tyler Thornburg return to somewhere near their potential then perhaps the club won't need to add to their 25-man roster.
Well, Smith's not even on the 40-man at the moment, so he'd technically be an addition.

If either of those guys can contribute in a positive way, that'd be great, but I don't think it's something that should be counted on. I'd look at either of them being contributors in the same way I viewed guys like Brasier and Poyner a year ago. In other words, I don't expect anything. If they contribute as much as those guys did in 2018, it would be a major win.

I've said all along that I think they're okay without splashing the free agent market this winter. My expectation is that Dombrowski is going to be quiet on this front until February and then he may snap up a bargain or two from whomever remains available. Perhaps that bargain is Kimbrel on a 2-3 year deal. Perhaps it's a second/third tier guy.
 

BaseballJones

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Chapman, Betances, Britton, Green.
Well nothing the Sox do at this point is going to be able to match that, so that can't be the objective. The objective has to be to simply create the best bullpen right now (1) within whatever financial constraints are placed on him by JH and (2) with the long view in mind; they don't want current bullpen signings to cripple their ability to make important future decisions.

I mean, if those things weren't true as boundaries on DD's actions, they'd have signed a couple of quality guys by now (probably Kelly and someone else). Clearly there are some restraints on DD at the moment of some kind.
 

charlieoscar

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If either of those guys can contribute in a positive way, that'd be great, but I don't think it's something that should be counted on.
IF (which I had capitalized) is what I said. Perhaps Dombrowski, et al., think there is better than a 50-50 chance that one of the two comes back. I didn't say it would happen but it gives them some time into spring training to decide if they need to make another move. Given that the club has several players going into arbitration, at least one of whom (Betts) is going to get sizable raise, spending a lot of money on Kimbrel or similar relievers does not seem to be an attractive idea. Plus, they have some minor-league arms who may a year, year-and-a-half away. Another question mark is Pedroia, and they have eight players who may become free agents after the 2019 season.
 

lexrageorge

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I doubt very much that either Smith or Thornburg are being counted on for very much this season. Both are under team control, and I would assume Thornburg in particular will be given some run in spring training to see what his role may be.

There are financial constraints being imposed by ownership, and DD does have some big ticket free agents on his own team coming up. So blaming Dombrowski here is missing the forest from the trees. I interpret his remarks as basically saying they would resign Kimbrel if the price is right. Given that Kimbrel's opening position was 6/100, and he is still on the market, I cannot disagree with this strategy. A pen anchored by Kimbrel, Barnes, Brasier, and the rest is not really any worse than what the team started out with in 2018.

If Kimbrel falls through, the plan B seems less than ideal, but in that case, they would probably shop for a decent bullpen arm during the season once the trade market develops.
 

Plympton91

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Well nothing the Sox do at this point is going to be able to match that, so that can't be the objective. The objective has to be to simply create the best bullpen right now (1) within whatever financial constraints are placed on him by JH and (2) with the long view in mind; they don't want current bullpen signings to cripple their ability to make important future decisions.

I mean, if those things weren't true as boundaries on DD's actions, they'd have signed a couple of quality guys by now (probably Kelly and someone else). Clearly there are some restraints on DD at the moment of some kind.
I agree with all that, but they’ve got to do better than Barnes, Brasier, Hembree, Workman.

I could see an argument for not going over the second threshold two years in a row, which is what really scares me. They need 2 relievers likely to outperform Hembree and Workman. At least something like Brach and Sipp, and if you do that, you’re probably going over the second threshold anyway, so you might as well play for Ottavino. But if they aren’t going over the threshold, then we may only get one more reliever from the Brach level, and only one of them willing to take $4 or $5 million or less.

That leaves them way short on paper. And paper doesn’t get injured or lose control of its curveball for a few months. Even if you have faith in the ability of Barnes and Brasier, you can’t guarantee their health, and behind them it gets even worse. It’s not just that they lack a relief ace, it’s that they lack good options at #3 and #4 too. Other than Barnes, this is a bullpen full of guys who should be 11th and 12th guys on the staff.
 

crow216

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How did that group do in 2018?

I don't think they put anyone over the top.
No, but that’s because Kelly and the relief corps were throwing lightning bolts while Kimbrel held it together.

Regardless, I think comparing rosters to the prior year is a bit of a fool’s errand. The Sox were able to make it to the postseason with a rested team which allowed them to be incredibly flexible in the bullpen. This isn’t something that can always be counted in, especially in a division that should be more competitive next year.
 

bosockboy

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I doubt very much that either Smith or Thornburg are being counted on for very much this season. Both are under team control, and I would assume Thornburg in particular will be given some run in spring training to see what his role may be.

There are financial constraints being imposed by ownership, and DD does have some big ticket free agents on his own team coming up. So blaming Dombrowski here is missing the forest from the trees. I interpret his remarks as basically saying they would resign Kimbrel if the price is right. Given that Kimbrel's opening position was 6/100, and he is still on the market, I cannot disagree with this strategy. A pen anchored by Kimbrel, Barnes, Brasier, and the rest is not really any worse than what the team started out with in 2018.

If Kimbrel falls through, the plan B seems less than ideal, but in that case, they would probably shop for a decent bullpen arm during the season once the trade market develops.
All great points, but I can see an argument for getting more of this done now when it takes just cash to solve it. Expending trade resources in July empties a reasonably barren farm system that we will need to start filling needs here in the very near future.
 

Plympton91

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And yours isn't? Go look at all the gloom and doom about the 2018 Redsox and their bullpen. We were all arguing to leave Joe Kelly off the playoff roster and now we is a savior.
I don’t think we were “all” arguing to leave Kelly off the playoff roster.

Arguing that the current 2019 bullpen is good enough to get us through the regular season because in the 2018 playoffs David Price, Chris Sale, and Nate Eovaldi became the primary setup men seems strange, as they not going to do that ever in the regular season.

They were so thin last year that they (ab)used tired starters to fill the hole in the playoffs and it worked. They’ve since lost 2 of the 4 relief pitchers they trusted with playoff innings.

But sure, they’ll be fine. Maybe Steven Wright will stay healthy for more than 3 weeks at a time and be the second coming of Hoyt Wilhelm (that’s hyperbole, but Wright playing a successful such role is one lifeboat they have hanging from the current Titanic) You go with that strategy of putting retreaded BJs brand tires on a Porsche.
 
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Plympton91

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You're right. That group of 4 is a World Series Champion lock.
.
This is also an illogical argument.

Given you are effectively conceding the Yankees are very likely to have a much better bullpen, which areas of the Red Sox team vis a vis the Yankees do you think will counterbalance that large advantage?
 

bosox79

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Starters pitching relief in the playoffs isn't something new to the 2018 Redsox.
 

Max Power

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This is also an illogical argument.

Given you are effectively conceding the Yankees are very likely to have a much better bullpen, which areas of the Red Sox team vis a vis the Yankees do you think will counterbalance that large advantage?
Starting rotation, defense, offensive balance, and manager.
 

Lose Remerswaal

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This is also an illogical argument.

Given you are effectively conceding the Yankees are very likely to have a much better bullpen, which areas of the Red Sox team vis a vis the Yankees do you think will counterbalance that large advantage?
Already answered by everybody else.

Expecting different outcomes from identical situations just doesn't make sense.
 

chawson

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P91 is making some hyperbolic statements here but I do agree we need at least one more arm.

I’m also not very concerned about it. Just think about the 15 or so bullpens making additions (NYY, TB, OAK, HOU, CLE, LAD, ATL, PHI, NYM, STL, MIL, COL, CHC, LAA, WAS, CWS, SD). Most of those are already full. Kimbrel and Ottavino have a choice between being a closer in Boston or Atlanta or a 7th inning guy elsewhere. Except for the Rays, there are really no other 8th inning jobs on possible contenders available, let alone 9th inning jobs.

If both of them sign elsewhere, I think one of Madson, Brach, Sipp, Kelley, or Perez signs with the Sox at <$5M/yr (maybe a two-year deal at that amount), and it’s fine. And I think there’s a good shot that Brewer, Putnam, or Smith — maybe two of them — puts up a 3.50 FIP over 50-60 innings. If it comes to it, DD should also be able to trade for an arb guy like Smith, Watson, Bradley, Chafin, Rogers, Hardy, or Greene pretty easily by taking on salary.
 
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Yo La Tengo

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I’m also not very concerned about it. Just think about the 15 or so bullpens making additions (NYY, TB, OAK, HOU, CLE, LAD, ATL, PHI, NYM, STL, MIL, COL, CHC, LAA, WAS, CWS, SD). Most of those are already full. Kimbrel and Ottavino have a choice between being a closer in Boston or Atlanta or a 7th inning guy elsewhere. Except for the Rays, there are really no other 8th inning jobs on possible contenders available, let alone 9th inning jobs.

I see the Sox, Angels, Twins, and Braves as teams that could spend money on a closer. I think the Nationals and Cubs (Cardinals?) have too much money spent already but could jump in when prices drop, and I don't think the Mariners, Rays, Diamondbacks, Marlins, or Tigers will spend the money but they could be in the market for some of the remaining names.
 

chawson

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I see the Sox, Angels, Twins, and Braves as teams that could spend money on a closer. I think the Nationals and Cubs (Cardinals?) have too much money spent already but could jump in when prices drop, and I don't think the Mariners, Rays, Diamondbacks, Marlins, or Tigers will spend the money but they could be in the market for some of the remaining names.
The Angels could but I don’t see the Twins committing to someone for more than a year. I could see them getting Holland or Norris or someone with the intent to flip, but even that might not be worth the cost.
 

Plympton91

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P91 is making some hyperbolic statements here but I do agree we need at least one more arm.
What is hyperbolic about my statements? The Red Sox used starters as set up men, and ultimately to close out the World Series, in the playoffs last year because their bullpen sucked. They’ve since lost (or will lose) two of the four relievers they did feel comfortable using in the playoffs. Everyone in the pen other than Barnes and Brasier is a spare part. Brandon Workman would have been nontendered by the Yankees, he’s currently 3rd on the Red Sox bullpen depth chart.

I’ve seen this movie before. It doesn’t end well.
 

chawson

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What is hyperbolic about my statements? The Red Sox used starters as set up men, and ultimately to close out the World Series, in the playoffs last year because their bullpen sucked. They’ve since lost (or will lose) two of the four relievers they did feel comfortable using in the playoffs. Everyone in the pen other than Barnes and Brasier is a spare part. Brandon Workman would have been nontendered by the Yankees, he’s currently 3rd on the Red Sox bullpen depth chart.

I’ve seen this movie before. It doesn’t end well.
You’re mostly right. I think that Hembree is less useless than you do, but your overall point is good. The Red Sox do not have enough qualified relievers on the major league roster.

But they’re nowhere near done. Because everything is a mess, there’s a glut of qualified FA relievers trying to fit onto just a few teams. The Sox pen has a serious squeeze of out-of-options pitchers coming that hasn’t happened yet because the relief market is so slow. I think maybe two of Thornburg/Johnson/Workman/Hembree/Wright are on the team by mid-May, and there’s already a deceptive amount of bullpen depth if you count Putnam, Brewer, and Smith (and Erasmo, who I have less hope for).

I think we still got a good shot at Ottavino or Kimbrel, but if they go elsewhere, the Sox could sign Perez at $1M, sign Nick Vincent to a minor league deal, and trade something like Hembree/Travis for Chafin and the bullpen would look really good.
 
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joe dokes

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What is hyperbolic about my statements? The Red Sox used starters as set up men, and ultimately to close out the World Series, in the playoffs last year because their bullpen sucked. They’ve since lost (or will lose) two of the four relievers they did feel comfortable using in the playoffs. Everyone in the pen other than Barnes and Brasier is a spare part. Brandon Workman would have been nontendered by the Yankees, he’s currently 3rd on the Red Sox bullpen depth chart.

I’ve seen this movie before. It doesn’t end well.
At this time last year Barnes was wearing a black hat in that movie as everybody's whipping boy and Brasier wasn't in the cast.
One of those two relievers they relied on in the playoffs was radioactive for the second half of the season.
You didn't see the movie. You read the CliffNotes and you're guessing at what the sequel will be.
 

Adrian's Dome

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What is hyperbolic about my statements? The Red Sox used starters as set up men, and ultimately to close out the World Series, in the playoffs last year because their bullpen sucked. They’ve since lost (or will lose) two of the four relievers they did feel comfortable using in the playoffs. Everyone in the pen other than Barnes and Brasier is a spare part. Brandon Workman would have been nontendered by the Yankees, he’s currently 3rd on the Red Sox bullpen depth chart.

I’ve seen this movie before. It doesn’t end well.
They didn't do that "because their bullpen sucked." They did it because starters are typically your best pitchers and you use your best pitchers as often as possible when it's win or go home. Yes, in a random game in June you're going to put Hembree or Worknan out there with a 1-run lead and see what happens, in October, you use Chris Sale.

Your hyperbole is unwarranted, and frankly, it sucks. I remember all the defeatists last year who thought we didn't stand a chance in hell when the Yankees got Stanton, all of them then are no different than you now.
 

Plympton91

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1. “Not a chance in hell” is not compatible with baseball’s inherent randomness. A manager who pinch hits Sandy Leon for Mookie Betts still has a 20% chance of getting a good outcome.

2. It is not “defeatism” to point out an area of glaring weakness. It is also not “pessimism.” It is entirely possible for a glaring weakness to turn into a strength either because someone takes a leap forward (Lakins) or their advanced approach to pitching creates chicken salad from chicken shit (another Brasier). PLANNING on such outcomes when your closest competitor was probably the second best team in baseball (after the Red Sox) in 2018, has improved markedly on several fronts, and still have $250 million burning a hole in their pocket, seems imprudent.

3. The discussion is as much about whether the Red Sox are constrained by a reasonably justified unwillingness to exceed the upper tax threshold 2 years in a row, due to its potential effect on future competitiveness, as it is about the bullpen per se. if they’re willing to blow through the cap, there’s plenty of talent left on the board. If they aren’t willing to exceed the cap, then in all likelihood, what you see is what you got.

4. They have a great deal of depth in 10th, 11th, and 12th relievers. That is a very good thing. It provides a great floor on expectations. They do not have anyone as good as the 4th best reliever in the Yankees pen. That is a bad thing.
 
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Dewey'sCannon

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Mark Feinsand was on MLBN this morning speculating that Kimbrel would go back to the Sox on a one year deal for around $18m. He noted that unlike this year, not a lot of high-end relievers expected on the FA market next year. This fits with what I think DD wants, to avoid committing big money on a closer for 2020 and especially 2021.
 

moondog80

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Mark Feinsand was on MLBN this morning speculating that Kimbrel would go back to the Sox on a one year deal for around $18m. He noted that unlike this year, not a lot of high-end relievers expected on the FA market next year. This fits with what I think DD wants, to avoid committing big money on a closer for 2020 and especially 2021.
If the choice is Kimbrel for one year and 18 mil or Ottavino and one of Madson/Allen/Brach for 36 mil and two years, what do we want? Factor in the fact that the latter also nets us a compensation pick (and a bit more draft money).
 

bosockboy

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If the choice is Kimbrel for one year and 18 mil or Ottavino and one of Madson/Allen/Brach for 36 mil and two years, what do we want? Factor in the fact that the latter also nets us a compensation pick (and a bit more draft money).
Very tough call considering the alternative is Ottavino going to the Yankees. Have to figure that into equation. But with Kimbrel at 1/18 we could still add a Brach also.

I suspect Kimbrel is waiting on Harper to sign; if the Nats miss out they may overspend elsewhere.
 

Savin Hillbilly

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The wrong side of the bridge....
Very tough call considering the alternative is Ottavino going to the Yankees.
You really think that's likely now that they've signed Britton? They already have arguably the best and deepest bullpen in MLB, and they're already spending almost $40M on three relievers between Chapman, Britton and Betances. And Ottavino would be at best the #2, and could even end up as the #4, in that group, so it's not necessarily clear what's in it for him, either (aside from a pretty decent shot at a ring).
 

bosockboy

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You really think that's likely now that they've signed Britton? They already have arguably the best and deepest bullpen in MLB, and they're already spending almost $40M on three relievers between Chapman, Britton and Betances. And Ottavino would be at best the #2, and could even end up as the #4, in that group, so it's not necessarily clear what's in it for him, either (aside from a pretty decent shot at a ring).
Well they haven’t replaced Robertson. I think its very possible.
 

chawson

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Well they haven’t replaced Robertson. I think its very possible.
I may be wrong, but I don’t see it. Green is out of options and is basically Robertson’s replacement, and I think Kahnle is too, so he has to stay on the major league roster as well (same for Domingo German).

The Yankees have enough young arms coming up that they probably don’t wanna block with guys on multi-year major-league contracts. They’ve got five major league starters and at least five bullpen guys they can’t send down. Signing another like Ottavino would mean incurring serious opportunity cost for their young guys (who they may prefer to trade). Plus at a certain point, there’s just not enough high leverage innings to go around.