The Red Sox made headlines on Friday night with their surprising acquisition of Craig Kimbrel from the San Diego Padres, marking Dave Dombrowski’s first significant roster move in Boston. Kimbrel immediately becomes the closer for the Red Sox since he has been one of the most dominant relievers in the history of the game, and provides an enormous upgrade from what the Red Sox had at the back of the bullpen in 2015. In fact, Kimbrel would be an upgrade over just about any closer in the game, so Dombrowski got good value in this trade, even though most people think he gave up too much prospect value. We don’t want to get too into that argument yet, but we can analyze how Kimbrel can improve the Red Sox bullpen aside from a flamethrower-fastball and a wipeout breaking ball. Following is our list of current Red Sox relievers who stand to gain from Kimbrel’s addition to the bullpen, and how they might benefit.
Kimbrel’s acquisition comes with an automatic demotion for Uehara, who has been brilliant for just about his entire Red Sox career, including their World Series run in 2013. But his “demotion” only comes through the fact that Kimbrel is the best closer in the game, not by any fault of his own. Uehara maintained great strikeout (10.49 K/9) and walk (2.01 BB/9) rates into the latest stage of his career, even as his velocity has started to disappear (87.0 average fastball velocity in 2015). If he can manage to sustain his effectiveness even somewhere close to his current level, he will turn out to be an invaluable setup man for the eighth inning, and can combine with Kimbrel to shorten a game to seven innings.