Drellich: Reliever trade all that's left for Sox at deadline


BOSTON — It's been standing by, waiting at his back door all this time. The last question the Red Sox face as the Tuesday’s non-waiver deadlines arrives is also the first one: the bullpen.

Here’s betting Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski doesn’t leave the question open any longer. He’s come this far, built the payroll up this high — really, really high — that it just wouldn’t fit if this deadline passed without the Red Sox adding a reliever. It also wouldn’t make sense, given the franchise’s positioning in the near and long term.

Dombrowski has tackled needs (or wants) that have arisen more recently. He landed a starting pitcher, in Nate Eovaldi. Then, late Monday, the second baseman in Ian Kinsler

The Sox gave up two more pitching prospects, Williams Jerez and Ty Buttrey, to land Kinsler, who brings some stability to a position that has seen very little production without Dustin Pedroia. The Sox also receive about $1.83 million from the Angels, splitting the difference in the salary owed to Kinsler the rest of the season. (The Sox are over the highest luxury tax threshold.)

"He's coming with the idea that he's probably going to be our regular second baseman, at least most of the time,” Dombrowski said. “That's the thought process there. And then it puts us in the spot where Brock [Holt] becomes the utility guy that we really think he plays a very good role, as does [Eduardo] Nunez. He can go out and play all over the field for us.”

But the ‘pen has always been there. Before Pedroia’s 2018 went up in smoke. Before Eduardo Rodriguez was hurt and Steven Wright went back on the disabled list.

When Addison Reed left and the Sox signed no one this winter. When Carson Smith ended his season with a bad mistake and Tyler Thornburg’s rehab took longer than normal. When Joe Kelly started to look human again. 

The Yankees and Astros have all upgraded their bullpens.

The Sox could try to rely on the expected return of Eduardo Rodriguez, or the emergence of Matt Barnes, or the hoped revitalization of Drew Pomeranz, or maybe a transfer of Eovaldi from the rotation to the relief corps. But a postseason bullpen is a different animal than a regular season bullpen. Another injury to a key piece in either the rotation or the ‘pen, and the Sox start to look thin.

Better to plan for no one to step up than for all of them to, or a couple.

Dombrowski didn’t hint whether he was about to make another deal.

“I'm not sure,” he said Monday night. “If I was telling you right now, it probably would come out of the blue more.so. We still have a lot of conversations we've had with clubs, but I wouldn't be surprised if this was the last thing we did. 

“I know a lot of people keep talking about our bullpen, we like a lot of things about our bullpen, it's been pitching well. Again, we're open-minded but we're also in a spot where who's available, who's not available, do they make us better? We'll see. A lot of things come out of the blue the last day.”

This is not out of the blue, or left field. It’s been staring at the Sox for months. For a long time. In a way, it’s been staring at Dombrowski since his Detroit days, when his bullpens often failed him.

All this time, how could he not know? Here's betting he does.


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