The Red Sox made headlines early in the offseason with their blockbuster acquisition of All-World closer Craig Kimbrel, who basically makes a ninth inning lead an automatic win. There is no question that Kimbrel immediately stabilized what was one of the worst relief corps in the Majors last season, but another trade for a reliever could be just as important for the Red Sox. Sending Wade Miley and Jonathan Aro to Seattle for Carson Smith and Roenis Elias will likely be almost as beneficial to the Red Sox bullpen as acquiring Kimbrel in an effort to shorten games.
It might have been easy to miss Smith’s brilliance on the West Coast last season, but he dominated from wire to wire and ended up closing games for the Mariners. He only ended up saving 13 games, but every other statistic was outstanding for Smith: strikeout rate (11.83 K/9), walk rate (2.83 BB/9), homerun rate (0.26 HR/9), average against (.192), ground ball rate (64.8%), ERA (2.31), FIP (2.12), and xFIP (2.36). All of this success occurred without a blazing fastball (90.5 average fastball, 92.5 average sinker), which lessens his reliance on the strikeout to be effective. Further, those numbers were achieved without any help in luck-based stats like BABIP allowed (.292) or strand rate (78.5%). This suggests that Smith’s outstanding performance in 2015 is repeatable, and that he can be a versatile setup ace in front of Kimbrel and Koji Uehara.