BOSTON (CBS) — With a powerful offense and solid starting rotation, the Red Sox have a great shot to repeat as World Series champs in 2019. Looking up and down their roster, there is really only one hole heading into the new season: A closer.
The team is not going to make the big-money investment on Craig Kimbrel, whose contract demands remain high despite the lack of interest on the free agent market. Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier are the likeliest in-house candidates to take over for Kimbrel, who locked down 42 games for Boston last season, but no one has been given the official title just yet. But with just two career saves to their name (both by Barnes), the ninth inning could be the biggest issue for the defending champs in the new season.
While the Red Sox likely won’t dust off the “closer by committee” approach, both Steve Buckley of The Athletic and WBZ-TV’s Dan Roche would like to see the team add a veteran to the mix before the season begins.
“I believe they need to get a big guy out there, the guy you point to to come in,” Buckley said on Sunday night’s Sports Final on WBZ-TV. “I have battle scars from the 2003 bullpen by committee. Opening Day, Tropicana Field, the Chad Fox and Carl Crawford walk-off. That was the end of your bullpen by committee, and I don’t want to revisit that.”
Rochie notes that the 2013 Red Sox struggled to find a closer for much of the season before finally settling on Koji Uehara — their fourth option — so these things can sometimes work themselves out. But he would still like to see someone with a proven record of getting the final three outs join the staff before games start to count.
“I would say in Boston, you need a proven closer. It could be Barnes and it could be Brasier within that group, but they have to determine it pretty quickly,” he said, adding that Alex Cora and his coaching staff have been working long and hard with all of their young options this spring. “I want a proven vet out of the shoot, because this team has a chance to repeat.”
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