Barring some completely unforeseen circumstance, the Red Sox would seem to be through building their bullpen for the start of the season. And by "building,'' we mean: "crossing their fingers and going with what they have on hand.''
It's a curious and risky strategy. The Red Sox lost set-up man Joe Kelly to free agency, and appear willing to do the same with closer Craig Kimbrel, who remains on the market as pitchers and catchers begin trickling into camp.
Boston's payroll is pushing $240 million, and for the time being, it would appear that the team wishes to remain under the final threshold to avoid the penalties that come with the luxury tax.
For now, they seem content with taking a look at some minor league free agents and hoping someone emerges from the pack, similar to the way Ryan Brasier did a year ago. Brasier was signed to a minor league deal in February, pitched in Pawtucket for the first half and, following a major league call-up in July, became one of three most trusted relievers on the Sox by the end of the year.
"Ryan opened our eyes,'' said Alex Cora recently. "There are guys out there who can do the job. You just have to identify them.''
For a rebuilding team, one which had no hope of contending in 2019, such a plan would be understandable. But the Sox have invested plenty in the rest of their roster -- they have the game's highest payroll for the second straight year -- and are intent on successfully defending their World Series title.
Having an unproven closer -- either Brasier or Matt Barnes -- is an unusual tact for a team that's otherwise all-in.
With that in mind, we surveyed a handful of evaluators -- scouts and executives -- for their take on the Sox' bullpen plans.