The Red Sox continue to monitor the market for left-handed reliever Brian Fuentes. (AP)
Of course Brian Fuentes would make a nice addition to the Red Sox bullpen. If the free agent were to sign with Boston, he would give the Sox something they do not currently have: An experienced left-handed reliever with a long history of dominating lefties (while also remaining reasonably effective against righties).
Both Daniel Bard and Bobby Jenks were very good against left-handed hitters in 2010. But Fuentes was in another category from the two right-handers.
While pitching for the Angels and Twins in 2010, the 35-year-old held left-handed hitters to an anemic line of .128/.222/.149/.371 in 55 plate appearances (right-handed hitters had a .203/.293/.403/.696 line). He was so good against them that opposing managers would simply turn to their bench (sending up 21 pinch-hitters, 20 of them right-handed) rather than have a left-handed hitter step to the plate against Fuentes.
If the Sox were to have a perfect design for their 2011 team, it might well include Fuentes — or a pitcher like him — in the bullpen.
However, while the Sox do have interest in the left-hander (as has been reported by, among others, Jon Heyman of SI.com (via twitter) and Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com), their interest is of a very defined type. Specifically, at a time when the team has committed $142 million to Carl Crawford, is likely to commit in excess of $150 million to Adrian Gonzalez, passed $12 million in the direction of right-handed reliever Jenks and another $3 million to fellow righty Dan Wheeler, the Sox, according to a major league source, are “not in a position to pay a premium” for another reliever.
The Sox, according to multiple team sources, are open to what they would perceive as a good value signing — likely meaning less years and average annual value than what Fuentes is reportedly seeking. (Rosenthal said that the 35-year-old wants a multi-year deal for in excess of $5 million a year.) While there may be such a deal down the road, depending on what the market for Fuentes ultimately looks like, the pitcher’s asking price and what the team is willing to offer do not currently match up.
One other consideration that could work against Fuentes’ interest in the Red Sox: If he is to take what would be perceived as a good deal, the presence of closer Jonathan Papelbon as well as a pair of setup men who are capable of closing (Jenks and Daniel Bard) could diminish Fuentes’ interest in the Sox. Whereas a player like Adrian Beltre had an incentive to come to the Sox on a one-year deal to build his value, Fuentes might find that other teams would permit him a greater opportunity to showcase his talents for his next deal. For instance, the St. Petersburg Times is reporting that the Rays are pursuing the veteran — who led the American League in saves in 2009 — as a closer.
All of that is to suggest that, while the idea of Fuentes coming to Boston cannot be dismissed, and the Sox’ interest in adding him is genuine, the likelihood of the Sox adding him to their rebuilt bullpen seems fairly low at this moment.