The Red Sox are going to trade for bullpen help at some point between now and the trade deadline. Dave Dombrowski has not quite completed his vision of an extremely talented on-field product with very little long-term sustainability, but he’s getting closer. Trading away prospects is what he’s always done and what he will continue to do.
There is, however, a bullpen-boosting trade out there that doesn’t involve Rafael Devers or Jackie Bradley Jr in Baltimore: old friend Brad Ziegler!
Ziegler, as you surely remember, pitched — and well! — for the Red Sox over about 30 innings in 2016. He posted a 1.52 ERA, 2.71 FIP and a career-best 16.1 percent strikeout-to-walk ratio while with Boston. He left for Miami that offseason (can’t really fault him there) and it hasn’t gone as well since. In the last two years, Ziegler’s posted 5.06 ERA, 4.22 FIP and a 6.5 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Maybe the best news of this hypothetical trade is that it’d cost the Red Sox next to nothing. Ziegler’s a tier or two down from the top and it’s quite the buyer’s market this year — Kelvin Herrera went to Washington for their 10th- and 11th-best prospects.
A reunion would immediately bring the Red Sox something their bullpen is mightily lacking with — a ground ball guy. Ziegler’s getting grounders at a 72 percent clip, which ranks 2nd of all qualified relievers. The Red Sox best ground ball pitcher is currently Matt Barnes, who gets them at a 55 percent clip.
If you’re worried about some of his other peripherals, I don’t blame you. The amount of hard contact he’s allowing skyrocketed from 28 percent last year to nearly 42 percent. He’s already allowed a career-high six home runs this year. There are some red flags.
The good news is that of late, he’s been better. This piece on his resurgence breaks it down nicely – Ziegler’s suffered from some bad luck and worse defense. Since being taken out of the closer’s role, Ziegler has collected seven holds and allowed only two runs in 21 innings pitched.
That’s great news for the Red Sox, who clearly don’t need a closer. I’d hear an argument that they don’t really need a set-up guy this season either, regardless of what my eyes and heart and last three years of evidence tell me. The back-end of the bullpen can be terrifying at times, but it’s worked so far. Brad Hand or Zach Britton would be awesome, sure, but having a not-barren farm system is awesome as well.
The team doesn’t need Ziegler to save or anchor the bullpen, unlike in Miami where he’s spent time as both the set-up guy and the closer. His stellar performance since returning to a middle-innings guy is encouraging, and the idea of the Red Sox having another strong mid-innings guy with an elite ground ball rate is a tantalizing one.