Relief pitching isn't the Boston Red Sox' primary need ahead of Friday's MLB trade deadline, but contending teams can never have enough bullpen depth heading into the postseason.
With a first-place spot in the American League East and a real shot to make some noise in the playoffs, the Red Sox could look to add another reliable late-inning arm alongside All-Star closer Matt Barnes and right-hander Adam Ottavino. Doing so would take pressure of the starting rotation while giving manager Alex Cora another option to lean on in pressure situations.
The question is, which relievers would be the best fit?
Here are a few intriguing relief pitchers the Red Sox could target:
Craig Kimbrel, RHP, Chicago Cubs
Let's get the biggest name -- and the least realistic option for Boston -- out of the way. Kimbrel almost certainly will be part of the Cubs' fire sale this week, but he'll be costly. The eight-time All-Star has been lights out this season with a dazzling 0.49 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, and 64 strikeouts in 36 2/3 innings pitched. He's also under team control through 2022.
There's no denying Kimbrel, a World Series champion with the Red Sox in 2018, would be a tremendous addition. We can't rule out a potential deal given Kimbrel's familiarity with the organization and his status as one of the top closers in baseball. But given the current state of Boston's bullpen, it's more likely Chaim Bloom trades for a lesser reliever rather than making a big splash. The below options are much more practical.
Richard Rodriguez, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Rodriguez is quietly enjoying another outstanding season for the cellar-dwelling Pirates.The 31-year-old has posted a 2.82 ERA and 0.83 WHIP in 37 appearances this season (38 1/3 innings).
Set to be a free agent after 2021, Rodriguez obviously would be a much cheaper option Kimbrel and other big names on the market. He'd be a rock-solid addition even if Boston's bullpen is a bit right-hander heavy.
Ian Kennedy, RHP, Texas Rangers
Kennedy is in the midst of a bounce-back season at age 36. The 15-year veteran has a 2.59 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 31 1/3 innings pitched for Texas. His walk rate is the lowest its been in his entire MLB career.
The right-hander probably would cost the least out of any of the relievers on this list. He signed a minor league contract this past offseason and will be a free agent after this season.
Taylor Rogers, LHP, Minnesota Twins
Now let's move on to the southpaws, which the Red Sox certainly could use. The only left-handers currently in Boston's bullpen are Darwinzon Hernandez and Josh Taylor.
Rogers is under team control through 2022 and is making $6 million this season. The 30-year-old, who earned his first All-Star nod this season, has a 3.35 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 40 appearances (40 1/3 innings).
The asking price might be too much for Bloom to budge, but Rogers makes plenty of sense as a fit for Boston's 'pen in the second half of this season and beyond.
Brad Hand, LHP, Washington Nationals
Hand has been one of the better relievers in the game for the last five years. He's coming off two rocky outings that raised his ERA from 2.63 to 3.67, but don't let that fool you. A three-time All-Star, Hand would be an asset to any bullpen at this year's deadline. The 31-year-old southpaw is a free agent after this season.
It's worth noting Hand's teammate, right-hander Daniel Hudson, as another potential option for Boston. The 34-year-old veteran is garnering plenty of attention ahead of the deadline, and it's easy to see why. Hudson has a 2.20 ERA and 0.92 WHIP in 31 appearances.