Who will Farrell turn to as closer in the home stretch of the season?
Even though the Red Sox have the best record in the American League and are second in the MLB in run differential at +83, they still have their holes, as all contending teams do. They could still use a right-handed power bat with Johnny Gomes still struggling, and a utility infielder wouldn't be out of the question with Stephen Drew ailing and Will Middlebrooks struggling. The obvious need, however, is help in the bullpen.
Although during spring training the bullpen looked as if it would be deep and strong throughout the year, injuries and inconsistent play has crippled the back end and Boston could be in the market for a closer or setup man. Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, and Andrew Miller have been spectacular all season, but the brilliance stops there. Craig Breslow has been decent, but his 2/1 K/BB ratio is concerning. Andrew Bailey's velocity has been encouraging, but his recent games show he is nowhere near ready to return to the closers role.
I doubt the Sox will be looking to make a huge splash before the deadline, but I do expect them to make small moves that will strengthen there team for a strong playoff push. Here are 5 relievers that could be targets for Boston in the next month:
Steve Cishek (Mia): Cishek has been average all season, but the Marlins have made it clear that pretty much everyone except Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez is available via trade, and Cishek is a young reliever who could bolster the back end of the pen.
Jessie Crain (Chi): Crain has been lights out all season with an ERA under 1.00 through 36 innings of work for the lowly White Sox. Chicago looks like they will be having a complete firesale aside from Chris Sale, and Crain looks like he could have many teams vying for his services. Although he has no closing experience, he is a veteran reliever who could be great in a setup role if Uehara sticks as closer.
Glenn Perkins (Minn): The Twins remain in striking distance of Cleveland (barely) so they might not be sellers unless they go on a monthlong skid, but Perkins would be a viable pickup for any team looking for a closer. After being inconsistent early in his career, his passed 3 years, including this one, he has maintained an ERA around 2.50, and is even lower this year at 2.05. Perkins possesses great K/BB numbers with a 186/44 ratio over the last 3 seasons. He would be in instant closer candidate if acquired and John Farrell wants to move Uehara back to a setup role.
Francisco Rodriguez (Mil): Rodriguez would bring experience to the back end of the bullpen with his 300 career saves. Although inconsistent since his record breaking 62 save performance in 2008, Rodriguez has been nearly dominant this year with an ERA and WHIP both below 1.00
Jose Veras (Hou): Veras, along with Jose Altuve, has been a lone bright spot this year for the Astros. In his first season as a closer, Veras has converted 16 of 19 save opportunities. Although he is on his 6th team in 5 years, Veras could also be a veteran at the back end of the pen for Boston.
The Red Sox definitely need bullpen help, and Ben Cerington has acknowledged that in recent interviews. Those 5 names certainly are not the only ones Boston will be considering making a deal for at the deadline, but they could be ones to keep an eye on in the coming weeks.