Red Sox

Doolittle, Smith among closers Red Sox could pursue as MLB trade season begins

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Doolittle, Smith among closers Red Sox could pursue as MLB trade season begins

We know this much about Dave Dombrowski -- when he diagnoses a problem, he acts.

He made one of the most consequential moves of last season in late June, acquiring right-handed slugger Steve Pearce from the Blue Jays to address a deficiency against left-handed pitching. The acquisition barely merited mention outside of the transactions agate, but all Pearce went on to do was win World Series MVP.

June doesn't arrive until next week, but Dombrowski is already in fix-it mode. He typically gives his teams 40 games to sort out what's working and what isn't, and we passed that mark two weeks ago. With the Red Sox still trying to extricate themselves from a poor start — they're 5.5 games out of first place and a game and a half up on the Indians for the second wild card spot — a clear need has emerged in their bullpen.

The stats show the Red Sox with the most wins (15) and the sixth-lowest bullpen ERA in baseball (3.76), but don't let the numbers fool you. They are an arm short.

Matt Barnes could be an All-Star, Brandon Workman has been borderline unhittable, and veteran rookie Marcus Walden qualifies as a revelation, but they need help.

Ryan Brasier has not maintained last year's success, particularly against left-handed hitters. Heath Hembree has a propensity to allow home runs. Tyler Thornburg and Colten Brewer have been varying degrees of disastrous.

We've already argued that the next target should be a pitcher with closing experience, which would make the ninth inning less fraught after Barnes takes on the heart of the order in the seventh or eighth. But who will be out there? Here are three names.

Start with Sean Doolittle. The Nationals left-hander is a two-time All-Star, including last year, and has closed for parts of four seasons. He was having a tremendous season until imploding in his last outing and allowing four runs while doubling his ERA in a loss to the Mets. He's still 3-1 with a 3.43 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 21 innings.

The Nationals are once again grossly underachieving — only a game and a half ahead of the Marlins, who aren't even trying — and it's a foregone conclusion that they will be sellers come July. The 32-year-old Doolittle represents a prime trade asset. He's making $6 million this year and has a $6.5 million team option for 2020.

He'd solve two problems for the Red Sox, being able to close and also providing a left-handed power arm. He lives almost exclusively on a 93-95 mph four-seam fastball, and he's experienced. Add a quirky personality — he has made it his mission to patronize an independent bookstore in every road city, and he hosted Syrian refugees for Thanksgiving — and he'd liven up the Red Sox clubhouse.

Another left-hander to consider is Giants closer Will Smith. The 6-foot-5, 248-pounder is 1-0 with a 2.75 ERA and 12 saves, with 27 strikeouts in 19.2 innings. The impending free agent has limited opponents to a .164 batting average with his fastball/slider mix, and he's particularly tough on left-handers, who own just three singles against him.

The 21-28 Giants have a zero percent chance of reaching the postseason, per baseball-reference, and GM Farhan Zaidi is expected to make virtually everyone available, including ace Madison Bumgarner. Smith will certainly be on that list.

Shifting to the American League, Tigers closer Shane Greene, a former swingman with the Yankees, owns a league-leading 15 saves and a miniscule 1.29 ERA, though his peripherals (3.80 FIP) aren't as strong. The 30-year-old right-hander has struck out 24 in 21 innings. He's limiting opponents to a .156 average, including .083 on his sinker, which is his bread and butter.

The Tigers just went 0-9 on a homestand, including a sweep by the Marlins that concluded with Greene blowing his first save of the season after a pair of errors, including on what should've been a game-ending double play, produced five unearned runs.

With the Tigers in free fall, Greene figures to be a hot commodity. Whether Dombrowski would deal with his former team is another story. The Red Sox haven't made a trade with Detroit since acquiring Rick Porcello in 2014, before Dombrowski took the reins, and there were some hard feelings in 2016 when the Tigers declined to change a 1 p.m. start time in Detroit after the Red Sox had played the previous night in Baltimore.

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Diamondbacks hire long-time Red Sox scout Gary Hughes

Diamondbacks hire long-time Red Sox scout Gary Hughes

The Red Sox are working toward cleaning out their front office by firing Dave Dombrowski and letting go of executive Frank Wren and scout Eddie Bane, and now it appears they've lost a long-time scout to Arizona. 

According to Bob Nightengale, the Diamondbacks have hired veteran scout Gary Hughes to work with Mike Hazen and the Arizona front office.

Hazen is a part of Theo Epstein's tree of baseball executives, and Nightengale notes that much of the Diamondbacks' staff has Boston ties and raves about Hughes' scouting ability. 

The Red Sox hired Hughes in 2012 and he's been with the club ever since. He also had past stops with the Cubs, Yankees, Expos, Marlins, Rockies and Reds. Losing him will surely hurt the Red Sox moving forward. 

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How did World Series champions who missed the subsequent postseason respond the year after?

How did World Series champions who missed the subsequent postseason respond the year after?

With a loss to the Rays and an Indians win over the Phillies, the Red Sox were officially eliminated from playoff contention in a season following their World Series championship. 

Boston has won 4 titles in the last 15 years, a mark no other team has matched in the same time frame. But the last two times the Red Sox have won it all, they failed to make it past September the following season. 

After winning the World Series in 2013 with a magical bearded run following the Boston Marathon bombings, the Red Sox finished with a 71-91 record, which was good for last place in the AL East. They followed up 2004's championship with a first-round sweep to the eventual champion White Sox and then fell to the Rays in Game 7 of the ALCS in 2008. 

Fortunately for the Red Sox, it's become pretty common for a World Series hangover to last an entire season after the fact. Boston is now the 10th team since 2000 to miss the postseason after hoisting that World Series trophy. 

Of course, we know what those teams did after they won it all, but what happened the year after they failed to get back? How many bounced back vs completely faded away?

2004 ANGELS

The Angels followed up their first championship in franchise history with a letdown year in 2003. They finished 77-85 and finished third in their division. However, they returned to form in 2004 and took back the AL West crown. The addition of Vladimir Guerrero certainly helped. The 29-year-old superstar won the AL MVP in his first season with the Angels, hitting .337 with 39 home runs and 126 RBI. The Angels would eventually get swept in the ALDS by the eventual champion Red Sox.

2005 MARLINS

The Marlins shocked the world by beating the Yankees in the 2003 Fall Classic, but finished third in the NL East the season after. Things didn't get much better for them in 2005 either. Sure, they had a better record, but they once again fell to third place and would eventually trade Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to Detroit and send ace Josh Beckett to the Red Sox. This is probably the path the Red Sox want to avoid. The Marlins have been one of baseball's worst over the last 10 years. 

2007 WHITE SOX

After winning the World Series in 2005, Chicago went 90-72 the following season. A strong showing, but the AL Central was a powerhouse that year. The Tigers and Twins made the postseason over them. The year following, the White Sox went 72-90 and haven't been a real threat in the American League since. 

2008 CARDINALS

St. Louis won its first championship since 1967 in 2006, but missed the playoffs the next two seasons after. Cardinals fans wouldn't be disappointed for long though, as they won another title in 2011 in an epic series with the Rangers. 

2012 GIANTS

Ah, the Giants. Kings of winning a World Series, missing the playoffs and then bouncing back to win another. The Giants missed the postseason after winning it all in 2010, but then came back the following year to beat the Tigers in the World Series. Few will forget Sergio Romo striking out Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera to close out the series for San Francisco. 

2014 GIANTS

Look who it is! It's the Giants yet again! The 2014 run was how Madison Bumgarner became one of the best big-game pitchers of all time. He carried the Giants staff on an incredible workload to lift the Giants to their third championship in five years. They're the only team close to the Red Sox' level of success since the turn of the century. 

2015 RED SOX

The Red Sox were terrible in 2014, and while they weren't as bad in 2015, they still finished last in the AL East and below .500. Fortunately they would win the next three straight division titles to go with a World Series in 2018, but sometimes the reload takes a bit longer than you'd want from a team that was able to reach the pinnacle of their profession. Age most certainly played a factor for Boston here. 

2016 GIANTS

Everyone assumed the Giants would bounce back for the fourth time and win another World Series after missing the playoffs in an odd-numbered year. Alas, it wasn't meant to be, and the Giants would miss the playoffs for the second straight season. They have not been back to the postseason since. 

2017 ROYALS

The Royals took down the Mets in 2015 to finally get their World Series championship after falling to the Giants in 2014. The next two season would not be kind to the Royals, where they missed the playoffs both seasons with a record around .500. Kansas City is now one of the worst teams in baseball, but at least they got one. 

2020 RED SOX?

The Red Sox have a lot of questions to answer regarding their roster with Dave Dombrowski officially out as President of Baseball Operations. J.D. Martinez can opt-out of his current deal for a pay raise, and Mookie Betts' extension weighs over the franchise's head too. After a season like 2019, Boston needs to upgrade their pitching staff, but they might not be able to if they want to commit resources to their best players. Boston could be in trouble moving forward. 

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