It’s no secret that Dave Dombrowski has been in search of bullpen help as the August trade deadline fast approaches. Last night (or early this morning) the Red Sox acquired 36 year old righty Brad Ziegler from Arizona for prospects Jose Almonte and Luis Alejandro Basabe. Ziegler will immediately help to stabilize a bullpen that has been teetering on the brink of implosion for months. Koji Uehara, while certainly effective at various times throughout the year, has been something of a “choose your own adventure” on the bump this season. You never know if you’re getting the dominant Koji we remember from 2013 who helped lead the Sox to a World Series title, or if you’re getting the guy we saw last night, giving up monster yabos to a less-than-stellar Rays lineup and nearly blowing a game that the Sox seemed to have in the bag. Junichi Tazawa, who has been an extremely valuable bullpen piece for the Sox over the past several seasons, has completely fallen off the rails this year. His ERA has ballooned since a solid start to the season, and he simply can no longer be relied upon in high leverage situations. Add in the fact that Carson Smith was lost earlier this year to Tommy John, and you begin to see why this move was imminent.
Ziegler will help to spell Sox closer Craig Kimbrel, who has been dealing with some knee soreness in recent weeks. While Kimbrel certainly hasn’t been the dominant closer we all expected coming over from Atlanta in the offseason, he’s still the best relief pitcher on this staff by a wide margin. Dave Dombrowski didn’t bring Brad Ziegler in to take Craig Kimbrel’s job. The move is more of an “insurance policy” of sorts. Ziegler does an excellent job of pitching to contact, and he is a veteran reliever who is comfortable pitching in almost any situation. One of the biggest knocks on Kimbrel this year has been his inability to perform in non-save situations. Ziegler should help to remedy that issue, in addition to taking over the eighth inning role for Koji.
What really gets me excited about the Sox recent acquisitions is the idea that Red Sox front office is gearing up for bigger, better moves as the trade deadline draws closer. Getting a guy like Aaron Hill, who has been a terrific hitter at Fenway throughout his career (.308) to play third against lefties and give Pedroia the occasional day off at second was the first of what feels like many moves on the horizon for Dave Dombrowski and the Sox. Then Ziegler today, instantly fills another void.
In order to make the “big splashes” on the trade market, a savvy GM first must take care of the leaks and crevices. Getting a big name pitcher the likes of Jose Fernandez of Chris Sale is of no value to the Sox if their bullpen is just going to give up the lead in the 7th or 8th. It’s now clear that the Sox are in it for the long haul, and that Dave Dombrowski has a few more tricks up his sleeve before the August 1st deadline.