On to 2020: Red Sox Reliever Targets


Bullpen this, bullpen that. The bullpen “got lucky” when they won, or they are terrible when they blow a lead.

No matter what your opinion is of the Boston Red Sox bullpen as a whole, it’s definitely obvious that this can’t be the bullpen in 2020 if the Red Sox want any chance of reclaiming the glory they tasted in 2018.

While Brandon Workman has been phenomenal as a closer in recent weeks, is this his position on this team? Can the Red Sox be among the best teams in the MLB with Workman as their full-time closer?


Possibly. Especially given the asking prices of closers around the league –– whether by trade or via free agency. The Red Sox, given their luxury tax position, might need to opt for relatively cheaper options and hope that someone can step up and become a legit closer.

But who would make sense for Dave Dombrowski to target in the winter?


Collin McHugh – RHP – Houston Astros

2019 stats*: 2.67 ERA, 3.43 FIP, .279 wOBA, 28.2 percent K-rate

McHugh is an interesting case. The right-hander broke out in 2012 with the New York Mets. At the time, he was a starter, a role he maintained to some success through the 2017 season.

However, injuries forced McHugh to join the Astros bullpen –– and he has made just eight starts in his 93 appearances since the start of 2018. Since that switch, the right-hander has posted a 2.21 ERA, a 2.94 FIP, and a .255 wOBA against.

He’s far from overpowering –– just 90.8 MPH on his average fastball –– but the 32-year-old has been able to keep hitters off-balance with a pitch mix that features a cutter, a slider, and a changeup that all hold hitters to an expected batting average of .233 or worse in 2019.


(* = stats as a reliever)


Steve Cishek – RHP – Chicago Cubs

2019 stats: 3.10 ERA, 4.32 FIP, .279 wOBA, 22.8 percent K-rate

Cishek has become one of those guys who is always consistent but never gets talked about. Kind of like Chad Bradford was in the early-2000s.

Over his career, the now 33-year-old right-hander has posted an ERA of 2.70, to go along with his 3.18 FIP and 3.59 xFIP over the span of 10 MLB seasons.

The “weird” thing about Cishek is his throwing motion. It’s a sidearm-style arm slot from the right-hand side. But the funky delivery makes it so that his 90.5 MPH average fastball can deceive hitters.

He’s also had three seasons with 25 or more saves in his career, so the ninth inning is far from unfamiliar territory for the Falmouth, Massachusetts native.


Brandon Kintzler – RHP – Chicago Cubs

2019 stats: 2.65 ERA, 3.65 FIP, .253 wOBA, 21.7 percent K-rate

Kintzler has become one of baseball’s most consistent arms in recent seasons. He, much like the other pitchers listed, doesn’t have eye-popping numbers. Nowadays, when you think of elite relievers, you think electric fastball and a ton of missed bats.

Kintzler isn’t that type of guy. In fact, among relievers with a minimum of 50 innings pitched this season, the Cubs right-hander ranks 91st at just 7.59 K/9. However, using that same sample size, Kintzler is 18th in ERA and 17th in left-on-base percentage (83.3).

He’s not the best of the best, but he’s been very steady in a Cubs bullpen that has been far from sharp in 2019. And at 35, he could be one of the cheaper options on the market for Dave Dombrowski.


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