The Boston Red Sox have added another quality arm to their suddenly formidable bullpen.
While they were waiting for Bobby Jenks to take his physical, the Red Sox signed Rhode Island native Dan Wheeler to a one-year, $3 million contract with a vesting option for a second year. The option is for $3 million, and will be triggered if Wheeler makes 65 appearances out of the bullpen in 2011. The option will be worth $3.25 million if he makes 75 appearances.
Wheeler has pitched out of the Tampa Bay bullpen for the last three and a half seasons. He was traded to the Rays in 2007. Wheeler struggled getting used to pitching in the American League East at first, posting a 5.76 ERA in 25 appearances for the Rays in 2007.
In 2008, he adjusted.
Over the last three seasons, Wheeler has been one of the most consistently good relief pitchers in baseball. From 2008 to 2010, Wheeler made 203 appearances out of the Tampa bullpen. During that time Wheeler is 11-15 with 18 saves, a 3.24 ERA, and a very good 0.975 WHIP.
He will likely be the primary middle relief pitcher for the Red Sox.
The Red Sox could still use a proven left handed option in the bullpen, but what Theo has done with the bullpen thus far is nothing short of amazing.
Last season, when Daisuke Matsuzaka threw 130 pitches in five innings, Terry Francona and the Red Sox had to get through the sixth and seventh innings using guys like Manny Delcarmen, Michael Bowden, Ramon Ramirez, Scott Schoeneweis, Scott Atchison, and Hideki Okajima.
In 2011, it’ll be far simpler.
Terry Francona can march Dan Wheeler out for the sixth inning, Bobby Jenks for the seventh, Daniel Bard for the eighth, and then Jonathan Papelbon for the ninth.
How many other teams can bring in quality arm after quality out of their bullpen like that?
As presently constituted, the only real weakness will be their lack of proven left handed relievers. The Red Sox believe that Felix Doubront can be the primary lefty out of their bullpen, but they’d definitely prefer to back him up with a proven veteran.
The Red Sox have shown interest in Brian Fuentes, but he’s probably a little too pricey for the Red Sox. It’s worth their time to stay involved however, just in case the bottom falls out of his market and he needs a place to land. But that’s not likely to happen.
Even if they don’t land a left-handed relief pitcher, their bullpen will still be pretty good. Jenks, Bard, and Papelbon all have done pretty well historically against left-handed hitting. And they can always make a move at the trade deadline should Doubront not work out and it becomes a problem.
The Red Sox have had themselves quite an offseason.