The most surprising news from Deadline Day on the Sox front was that they did not acquire a relief pitcher to bolster their bullpen. The second most surprising news is that they picked up Ken Griffey, Jr.
I was so sure Ken Williams was going to trade for a quality, late-inning reliever this afternoon, I would have bet the farm. After Nick Masset went to the Reds, I thought it became even more of a certainty.
I know-if the market isn't there, there's nothing Williams can do. But I am utterly shocked he didn't create some kind of market for any relief pitcher. Forget the over-hyped Brian Fuentes or George Sherrill, or even Huston Street, whom the Sox were known to covet. I was expecting a middle tier guy like Rafael Betancourt, Scott Downs, John Grabow, Jason Frasor, Cla Meredith or Heath Bell.
Williams didn't fail for lack of effort, that's for sure. The price tags on those seemingly secondary middle relievers must have been through the roof. With the exception of Arthur Rhodes, who was dealt from the Mariners to the Marlins, no major league relievers were traded today, and everyone needs pitching. So what does that tell you?
The same is true of starting pitching, but the market there was expected to be more prohibitive from the start. With Jose Contreras coming back soon and Clayton Richard filling in admirably, the Sox really didn't have a need for a fringe number five starter; they only targeted guys with high ceilings. It was going to be Roy Halladay or bust. (Maybe Justin Duchscherer.) They busted.
And that's fine. They're in a slump now, but the Sox rotation still stacks up with the best of 'em. It's the bullpen that is currently in shambles. The complete implosion of Boone Logan (insane 11.25 ERA, 2.13 WHIP, .385 BAA in July) and the inconsistency of Matt Thornton have burned the Sox in the middle innings, and any notion of specific roles went out the window when Scott Linebrink got hurt.
With Linebrink still several weeks away from returning (and even then there's a chance he could go Dustin Hermanson on the Sox), some kind of action needs to be taken. There are three possible solutions.
- Make a waiver trade. Not likely.
- Move Contreras into the bullpen full time as a one-inning reliever. If his arm isn't healthy enough to be a starter, maybe his stuff would be sharper as a reliever. He could be lights out, but how much weaker would the rotation be with Clayton Richard?
- Call up one or two of the organization's excelling minor league relievers. This is probably the way to go right now. With one of the weakest farm systems in all of baseball, the Sox only have depth in two areas in the minors: second basemen and bullpen arms. Jon Link (28 saves, 1.69 ERA, 1.10 WHIP) or hard throwing Aaron Poreda (currently a starter) could get the call from Double-A Birmingham and provide something close to a 2005 Bobby Jenks-like boost. At least they've got to be better than what Ozzie's running out there right now.
What about keeping Contreras in the rotation with Richard? Even though the idea of a 6-man rotation is always shot down, you have to think really hard about it right now to keep each starter fresh and reduce the innings of Danks and Floyd, neither of whom has ever pitched a full season.
One thing is for sure: I would have Link and possibly even Poreda on the next plane to Kansas City.
How about a bullpen that shakes down like this:
8th Inning: Dotel
High Leverage Set Up: Link, Carrasco
LOOGY/Long Relief: Poreda
Mop Up: Wassermann, Thornton.