Get used to this stance, Red Sox fans. Craig Kimbrel is your new closer.
Since arriving in Boston, Dave Dombrowski has repeatedly told the media that his first priority, to the surprise of many, was to bolster the bullpen. But here we are at the onset of the offseason, and it was a surprise to few to see rumors of the Red Sox trying to go after big name closers.
The Red Sox and Dombrowski ultimately opted to trade for Craig Kimbrel, acquiring him last Friday from the San Diego Padres. In return, the Padres received 4 Red Sox prospects, including the sought-after speedy OF Manuel Margot.
Only 27, Kimbrel is a proven closer and 4-time all-star with the ability to touch the high 90s with his fastball. The Red Sox now have their long-term closer in Kimbrel, who is under team control through the 2017 season with a $13 million team option and $1 million buyout for 2018. The Red Sox also are less reliant on 41 year old Koji Uehara, who assumes the role of set-up man in the pen.
The acquisition of Kimbrel, also solidifies their set-up man, and seventh inning guy. Koji Uehara assumes the role of set-up man. Koji was able to gain 25 saves, and posted a respectable 2.25 ERA as a closer last year. In a less-pressure role, the Red Sox are expecting Koji to post a similar output to 2015. And if things go south for Koji, and injuries continue to plague the 41 year-old, last year’s setup man Junichi Tazawa, presumably slides back into the set-up man role.
WIth the acquisition of Kimbrel, Koji Uehara slides into the set-up man role in 2016.
Dombrowski may not be done with the bullpen additions. The Red Sox have a need for a lefty specialist out of the bullpen that needs to be addressed. As of now, Robbie Ross Jr. is the only left handed reliever in the bullpen.
The Red Sox are also actively looking for an “ace” starting pitcher this offseason. Assuming they get one through free agency, they may find themselves with an extra starting pitcher, since their rotation from 2015 is under contract for the next year. if the front office does not trade a pitcher away in the offseason, maybe someone like Joe Kelly gets added into the mix. Kelly, who can also reach upper 90s as a starter, would make sense to add to the bullpen as well.
It’s still early in the offseason, and Dombrowski has some tricks up his sleeve. It will be interesting to see how the bullpen progresses and what other pieces he will get his hands on. But Dombrowski is guy that stays true to his word-if he has intentions of building a strong bullpen, he’ll do it. Kimbrel is a pretty significant building block for it.