Dealin’ Davey has done it again! Last night, around 1:45 AM out here on the east coast, the Red Sox acquired right-handed reliever Brad Ziegler from the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Some acquisitions don’t come together until right before the trade deadline, but with a little more than three weeks until August 1, a move like this couldn’t wait. First of all, you lost Carson Smith for the entire season back in May. Then you add in the fact that Koji Uehara, despite being effective at times, is nothing close to being as reliable as he had been in the three years prior to this. And then you consider that Junichi Tazawa has just completely fallen off the rails with a 1.37 ERA in his first 21 appearances, to having a 7.11 ERA in the 14 appearances since then.
The Red Sox needed help at the back end of their bullpen, and they needed it now, because in addition to all of those issues that I just mentioned, John Farrell added after last night’s game that Craig Kimbrel was experiencing knee soreness prior to the game last night. That’s why we saw Uehara in the ninth inning, and that’s why Kimbrel didn’t start warming up after Uehara gave up a moonshot to make it a one-run game.
Ziegler has been the Dbacks closer over the last two years, and racked up 30 saves with a 1.85 ERA in 66 appearances in 2015. As he admits himself, he’s not much of a strikeout pitcher, punching out just 36 batters in 68 innings last year, but there’s been an uptick in strikeouts this year with 27 strikeouts in 38.1 innings. Something to keep an eye on, though — opponents are hitting .281 with a .724 OPS against Ziegler this year, although he’s been better recently with a 1.89 ERA over his last 17 appearances.
Since the start of last season, Ziegler ranks 13th out of 104 major league relievers with at least 80 appearances with an ERA of 2.20, and he’s second to only Zach Britton of the Baltimore Orioles in ground ball percentage (71.4%). Just to give you an idea of how high that is, the league average since the start of last year is 48.1%.
This deal makes a ton of sense for Boston, given that they were desperate for late inning relief help, and now it sounds like they also needed someone with experience closing out games. Ziegler, while 36 years old, is still an effective reliever, who can close games for you, and he’s a free agent after the year, so it was a minimal cost to acquire the right-hander.
Also, say whatever you want about how the Red Sox have been in the past when they’ve finished in last place in three of the last four seasons prior to 2016, but the Dave Dombrowski Era in Boston has been like night and day. Oh, Hanley Ramirez sucks in left field? Day one, he’s out of there. Oh, you need an ace and a closer? Trade for Craig Kimbrel, sign the best available free agent starter on the market in David Price. Oh, our bench sucks? Boom, here’s an everyday player in Aaron Hill, who’s been hitting the cover off the ball the last month and a half. Wow, our bullpen kinda sucks and our closer’s hurt? Here’s one of the best ground ball pitchers in the game, who is also a closer.
And that’s not even mentioning the other internal moves he’s made to help this team, too. For all the talk about firing managers and pitching coaches, there have been several “firings” so to speak, on a lesser scale. Clay Buchholz, Joe Kelly, and Eduardo Rodriguez were all fired from the rotation, Pablo Sandoval was fired from being their third baseman, and Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez were both fired from being their starting catcher. Gotta read in between the lines here. Dombrowski’s making moves, and this move for Ziegler was much needed.
Speaking of Swihart, he was transferred to the 60-day disabled list to make room for Ziegler on the 40-man roster.