The Boston Red Sox bullpen has desperately needed reinforcements all season long. Red Sox relievers have lost the team way too many games and now have 17 blown saves after Friday’s loss to the Chicago Cubs, Hansel Robles having six of them. Thankfully, Boston’s starting pitching has done so well that Alex Cora has avoided overexposing a bullpen with only three pitchers that can be relied upon consistently and in big spots. Then the latest trip to Toronto happened. What a wake-up call. I will not go on and on about Tanner Houck; all there is to say is that Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom left Boston unprepared. But no one is blameless. All there is left to do for the Red Sox is to be active at the trade deadline and fix the team’s weakest link. This team is too good to stay with the status quo.

Red Sox Trade Deadline Target: David Robertson

David Robertson is a must get for the Red Sox at the Trade Deadline.

David Robertson, 37, will be a priority trade target for many teams come the trade deadline on August 2nd. The Cubs should, rightfully, ask for a lot in return. Robertson missed most of the 2019 season and had Tommy John surgery that August. He missed all of 2020 after hitting a setback in his recovery and most of the 2021 season. The Rays signed him last August, and in 12 innings for the Rays last season, Robertson had a 4.50 ERA/3.67 FIP with a 32 percent strikeout rate and eight percent walk rate. Opposing batters hit .239 against him. 

David Robertson Having a Stellar 2022 Season

Despite missing nine days in May for an undisclosed injury, the 37-year-old reliever is having a great year. He has a 1.86 ERA/2.77 xERA/3.34 FIP/229 ERA+ over 29 innings with the Cubs. He has struck out 33.6 percent (94th percentile) of batters faced, has held opposing hitters to a .139 batting average and .498 OPS, and has stranded 93 percent of the runners that reach base against him. Batters aren’t hitting him well, with just a 33 percent hard-hit rate (85th percentile), 87 mph average exit velocity (82nd percentile), and 6.5 percent barrel rate (65th percentile).

They’re swinging and missing 35 percent of the time against him (95th percentile), and he has allowed only three home runs. However, when batters make contact, they typically hit groundballs (54 percent groundball rate). Robertson’s one flaw is allowing a ton of walks, with an 11 percent walk rate (15th percentile) this season. 

Among all qualified pitchers in 2022, the current Cubs closer ranks eighth in runners stranded, 21st in ERA, sixth in BAA, tied 18th in WHIP (.93), seventh in called strike rate (21.3 percent), tied 27th in sweet spot rate (27.4 percent), 21st in hard-hit per swing rate (10 percent), and 25th in barrels per plate appearance (3.4). 

Robertson’s Dominant Curveball/Slider Pitch Mix

Robertson relies on a cutter, curveball, and a slider, the latter of which are, by far, his best pitches.

His curveball generates whiffs 46 percent of the time (eighth among curveballs), strikeouts 51.4 percent of the time (third among curveballs), and hard hits only 29.4 percent of the time. He’s holding batters to a .131 xBA/.217 xSLG/.146 xwOBA (sixth among curveballs) on the pitch. His slider has a .176 xBA/.352 xSLG/.316 xwOBA against, and hitters are whiffing at a 45 percent clip and have a hard-hit rate of only nine percent.

His cutter has a 28 percent strikeout rate against (20th among cutters), a whiff rate of only 21.6 percent, and hitters have a .214 xBA/.407 xSLG/.341 xwOBA against it. The pitch gets hit hard 42.4 percent of the time. 

Though he is a rental, David Robertson must be the Red Sox’ number one target at the trade deadline. It will take a lot to get him. Though it may not cost as much given his age, still, the Cubs won’t take just anything in return. Now is the time to go in on a player of Robertson’s caliber. 

Red Sox Trade Deadline Target: Michael Fulmer

Michael Fulmer would be a good backup plan for the Red Sox if they miss out on better arms at the Trade Deadline

Another intriguing name, and another rental player, that may not be on many people’s radar is Tigers closer, Michael Fulmer. In 28.1 innings, Fulmer has a 1.91 ERA/2.16 xERA/3.09 FIP/204 ERA+, with a 25 percent strikeout rate (65th percentile) and 11.6 percent walk rate. He has allowed one home run and an opponent batting average of .143 and .466 OPS. Hitters are generating an average exit velocity of 88 mph (63rd percentile), a 33 percent hard-hit rate (83rd percentile), and only one barrel against him. And he is getting hitters to whiff 31 percent of the time (81st percentile). Moreover, he is stranding 79 percent of runners that reach base against him. 

Fulmer relies on a slider, sinker, fastball, and changeup and mixes in a curveball 3.5 percent of the time. The slider has a .121 xBA/.193 xSLG/.169 xwOBA against, with an 86 mph average exit velocity, 33 percent whiff rate, and 24 percent strikeout rate. He puts hitters away with the slider at a 30.6 percent clip. On the other hand, the fastball gets whiffs 33.3 percent of the time but has a .267 xBA/.532 xSLG/.415 xwOBA against with a 23.5 percent strikeout rate. His changeup generates high whiff rates (44.4 percent) and has high expected statists against as well. Fuller’s sinker is probably his second-best pitch. He is striking out 26 percent of batters and uses it as a put-away pitch 31.6 percent of the time. It has slightly lower expected statistics against it (.245 xBA/.342/.306 xwOBA). 

Michael Fulmer is a quality target if the Red Sox miss out on other arms at the trade deadline. 

Red Sox Trade Deadline Target: Daniel Bard

Rockies' Daniel Bard is worth acquiring at the trade Deadline for the Red Sox at the right price.

Now for the one player every Red Sox fan would love to see back in a Boston uniform. The journey Daniel Bard, now 37, has taken to get back to Major League Baseball is a remarkable story. Bard made 23 appearances in the COVID pandemic shortened season with a 3.65 ERA/3.64 FIP. 2021 didn’t go as well for him, though. In 65.2 innings, he had a 4.24 xERA with a 26 percent strikeout rate, 12 percent walk rate, and 40 percent hard-hit rate. 

What a Journey It Has Been for Daniel Bard

But, thankfully, Bard is dominating in 2022. Over 29.2 innings, Bard has a 2.12 ERA and 2.02 xERA (98th percentile) with a 30 percent strikeout rate (87th percentile) and 11 percent walk rate. He’s allowed three home runs and has a .144 opponent batting average and .514 OPS against. Hitters are whiffing 29 percent of the time (72nd percentile). Furthermore, Fulmer is also inducing bad contact. Opposing batters have an 86.6 mph average exit velocity (87th percentile), a 37 percent hard-hit rate (61st percentile), and a 4.4 percent barrel rate (87th percentile) against him. Like David Robertson and Michael Fulmer, Daniel Bard is stranding runners that reach base against him at an 81.4 percent clip. 

But because he is pitching in Colorado, expected statistics are more important to mention. So, that said, Bard has a .153 xBA (100th percentile)/.255 xSLG (95th percentile)/.237 xwOBA (98th percentile) line against him. Domination. 

Daniel Bard Is Worth Trying to Bring Back at the Right Price

The current Rockies’ primary closer relies on a sinker/slider pitch mix, both of which he is dominating with. The sinker generates an 86.6 mph average exit velocity and 30 percent strikeout rate (tied ninth among sinkers) against it. And batters have a .174 xBA/.265 xSLG/.231 xwOBA (11th lowest among sinkers) against it. He uses the sinker as a put-away pitch 37 percent of the time. The slider generates an 85 mph average exit velocity, a 35 percent whiff rate, and a 32 percent strikeout rate. And it has a .126 xBA/.237 xSLG/.236 xwOBA line against it. 

In conclusion, though Daniel Bard is also a rental player, it would be a great baseball story if Daniel Bard returned to the Red Sox for the first time in nearly a decade and dominated on the mound at Fenway Park again, like in old times. I don’t know how a potential return to Boston would affect him after everything he has gone through, but Daniel Bard is someone the Red Sox should be targeting at the trade deadline. He’s worth the (likely minor) risk at the right price. 

Stay tuned for another article detailing more potential bullpen targets the Red Sox should consider at the trade deadline. 

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About Author

Cody Bondeson

I've been a Red Sox fan for as long as I can remember, having lived in New England for nearly half of my life. But it wasn't until I was about 12 or 13 years old that I became obsessed with the Red Sox. Though I live and breathe Red Sox 24/7, I am a more reasoned fan (thus a more reasoned writer) than the stereotypical Red Sox fan and not prone to getting caught up in the ups and downs that come with a 162 game MLB season --- Even a great player fails more than he succeeds, after all.

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