Red Sox's main Deadline focus is bullpen (source)

July 30th, 2019

A week ago, there were rumblings that the Red Sox might become sellers if their week against the Rays and Yankees went poorly. A 5-2 week – which included three wins in four games against the Yankees – has had the reverse effect, turning Dave Dombrowski into a buyer as the Trade Deadline approaches.

The starting rotation remains a concern for Boston, but according to a source, the team’s focus over the next two days is the bullpen, an area that has been a problem for the Red Sox all season. Other teams looking to add bullpen help include the Cubs, Nationals and Dodgers, so Boston will have plenty of competition in that area.

Dombrowski is expected to add a reliever – possibly two – by 4 p.m. ET Wednesday, bolstering a bullpen that hasn’t figured out how to replace departed free agents Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly from last year’s World Series championship team.

The Red Sox have no plans to deal Triston Casas, their top prospect according to MLB Pipeline, while No. 2 prospect Bobby Dalbec might be difficult to pry away. Anybody else can likely be had for the right player, though Boston’s desire to stay below the $246 million luxury tax threshold, which would cost it both money and a 10-spot drop in next June’s Draft, remains a factor in any deal.

Here’s a look at some of the relievers Boston figures to discuss:

Edwin Diaz, Mets

Diaz is the ideal candidate for the Red Sox, who, according to a source, have already had conversations with the Mets about the closer. Diaz is having a tough season, so the Mets would seemingly be selling low after acquiring him as the centerpiece of last winter’s mega-deal with Seattle (though’s Mike Petriello noted the reasons teams might choose to ignore his 2019 stats). But Red Sox manager Alex Cora loves Diaz, whom he chose to pitch for Puerto Rico’s team in the World Baseball Classic, and his $607,425 salary would fit nicely with Boston’s desire to stay under the threshold. The Mets would demand a big haul to trade Diaz, but Michael Chavis could be a good start to a potential package.

Rasiel Iglesias, Reds

Iglesias hasn’t been as good as he was the past two seasons, but the right-hander has a track record as a closer that nobody on the Red Sox roster possesses. He’s owed about $2 million for the rest of 2019 and is signed for two more years and $18.125 million, which would solve Boston’s ninth-inning problem for the next couple years. Cincinnati would likely demand a strong prospect package from Boston given Iglesias’ club control.

Shane Greene, Tigers

The right-hander is owed about $1.3 million for the rest of this season, a modest price for a closer with a 1.22 ERA and 22 saves in 25 opportunities. Greene is arbitration-eligible for one more season, so he would help the Red Sox next season, too.

Will Smith/Sam Dyson, Giants

The Giants’ bullpen duo might not be available, though many executives believe one can be pried away from San Francisco even if Farhan Zaidi chooses to hang on to most of his roster for a Wild Card run. Smith is an impending free agent and the best of the bunch, while Dyson is arbitration-eligible for the final time next winter. Neither Dyson ($1.7 million) nor Smith ($1.4 million) is making enough money to dissuade the Red Sox from pursuing them, and neither would command the same type of prospects as the preceding three pitchers.

Ken Giles/Daniel Hudson, Blue Jays

The Blue Jays began their fire sale on Sunday, sending Marcus Stroman to the Mets and Eric Sogard to the Rays. Giles (owed $2.1 million in 2019, arbitration-eligible for the final time in 2020) and Hudson (owed $500,000 this season, after which he’ll be a free agent) are among the players Toronto continues to shop, and the Red Sox are certainly familiar with both, having seen Giles eight times this season and Hudson five times. Giles is dealing with elbow inflammation, which could complicate his trade status this week.

Mychal Givens, Orioles

Givens struggled through the first two months of the season, but he’s turned things around of late, posting a 2.84 ERA and .140/.229/.302 opposing slash line since June 20. The Orioles are in the beginning stage of their rebuild, and although Givens is owed only $710,000 for the rest of this season, he’s arbitration-eligible for the next three years, presenting the Red Sox with an opportunity to acquire a very controllable asset.

Francisco Liriano/Keone Kela, Pirates

Pittsburgh has a pair of affordable relievers seemingly available at a reasonable cost. Liriano, a free agent after the season, will earn about $600,000 over the final two months, while Kela – who is under club control through 2020 – will make a little more than $1 million. Even at 35, Liriano has pitched well this season (3.06 ERA in 48 appearances), and he’s pitched in the postseason twice in the past three years, winning a World Series ring with the Astros.

Elsewhere around the Majors …

• Marcus Stroman’s trade to the Mets threw a wrench into the entire starting pitching market, which two executives described Monday with the same word: “Chaos.”

“That came out of nowhere,” one NL executive said. “The result has been some chaos in terms of buying and selling for a few teams.”

With Stroman going to the Mets, none of the other contenders in search of rotation help – the Yankees, Astros, Twins, Brewers and Braves among them – added an arm despite one of the best being removed from the list of available pitchers. (Milwaukee did get a starting pitcher on Monday, reacquiring Jordan Lyles from the Pirates.)

“It’s complicated the market,” said an AL exec.

Talent evaluators around the league are still scratching their heads about the Stroman trade, though not only because the Mets were the team to land him.

Toronto’s return – pitching prospects Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods-Richardson – has been widely considered to be lighter than expected. Three executives from competing clubs said that the Blue Jays’ asking price for Stroman from their clubs was considerably higher than the one they ultimately received from the Mets. 

One even wondered why Toronto would have settled on this deal on Sunday rather than waiting until Tuesday or Wednesday, when pitching-starved contenders might have been more desperate to add an arm of Stroman’s caliber.

“It’s hard for me to understand,” the NL executive said. “Every team values players differently. Maybe moving the money was key and other teams weren’t willing to take it all. Or possibly he wasn’t tops on any other team’s list, so Toronto felt like they should capitalize to make sure they didn’t miss out altogether.”

• The Mets are shopping Noah Syndergaard and Diaz, while the Indians continue to talk with teams about Trevor Bauer. There are seemingly big names out there to be had, but some executives are skeptical that any of the big-name, controllable players will be moved by Wednesday.

“I’ve heard a lot of the names that are out there,” one GM said. “I question how sincere teams are about trading them.”

Instead, another executive suggested, teams could simply be gauging the trade value for these players as they prepare to shop them this offseason, when more teams could potentially be in the mix.

One GM believes both Syndergaard and Bauer will be traded by Wednesday afternoon, tabbing the Yankees and Astros as the two front-runners for Bauer.