Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Behind the Seams: The Red Sox Don't Just Need a Setup Man, They Need Craig Kimbrel's Long-Term Replacement

By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub

Today, on a morning after the Red Sox negotiated their way through the final innings that felt more like a minefield, let’s be clear: what the Red Sox need more than anything else is a talented reliever who can set up now - and close later.

What they need is someone like Cincinnati Reds right-hander Raisel Iglesias, who is signed for two seasons beyond this one at an extremely modest salary.

The question, once again, is whether the Red Sox have the prospects necessary to acquire him.

Let’s back up here for a second. Maybe you’ve heard of Iglesias and maybe you haven’t, maybe you like him and maybe you don’t. None of that is relevant. What is relevant is the profile, which is to say that Iglesias checks all the boxes. Iglesias is 28 years old – in Caribbean years, albeit – and is signed for two more seasons as part of a seven-year, $27 million contract. He is due to earn $5 million each in 2019 and 2020. He strikes people out and has good control. And he pitches for a wretched team that needs a closer the way a bad NFL team needs a good kicker.

Which is to say that he's really not needed in Cincinnati at all.

Here is a look at Iglesias' career statistics, courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com:

(Courtesy: Baseball-Reference.com)

And here is a look at his contract, courtesy of spotrac.com:

(Courtesy Spotrac)

Do the math here, Sox fans. Craig Kimbrel will be a free agent at the end of the season, and the Red Sox aren’t likely to pay out the nose to keep him. At least not at the moment. (Kimbrel is currently earning $13 million and will make more on the open market.) The problem is that the Red Sox don’t have anyone to replace him – not really – and that they will have to pay for a replacement one way or another.

During his time in Boston, to his credit, Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has often been unafraid to take on players with multiple years remaining on a contract. He did with Drew Pomeranz, for example, and he effectively did it with both Carson Smith and Tyler Thornburg, who came to the Sox with multiple years of team control. The Red Sox don’t have much in the way of pitching in their minor-league system and everybody knows it, including the Red Sox.

As for the Red Sox' current stock of big-league relievers, it is debatable as to whether any of them are legitimate eighth-inning relievers, let alone closers. Matt Barnes once again teetered with his control last night and Thornburg, who will be activated any moment, hasn’t pitched in the majors and nearly two years and recently struggled in the minors. Joe Kelly (who is a free agent at the end of the year) gave up a home run to Bryce Harper that landed somewhere in Chesapeake Bay.

As things stand, of course, the Sox don’t have a ton of artillery to make a deal. Dombrowski recently acquired the right-handed-hitting Steve Pearce in a small deal – and a decent one at that – but he has to pick his spots carefully. And when it comes to pieces the Sox absolutely, positively must have entering August, September and October, a bullpen arm is at the top of the list.

And make no mistake: it’s near the top of the list for the short term and the long.

You can hear Mazz weekdays from 2-6 p.m. EST on the Felger & Massarotti program, and from 6-7 p.m. on The Baseball Reporters. Follow him on Twitter @TonyMassarotti.


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