BOSTON -- Even Dave Dombrowski's dad could see the Boston Red Sox needed another relief pitcher.
A few weeks ago, during the All-Star break, Dombrowski's parents visited Boston from their suburban Chicago home. Over lunch one day, Ron Dombrowski, a retired parts department manager at a car dealership, thought he would talk a little shop with his son, the Boston Red Sox's president of baseball operations.
"My dad's a big baseball fan, he follows us, and he said, 'Gosh, it looks like you really need a setup guy, right?'" Dave Dombrowski said recently. "And I said, 'I'm not sure why we need a setup man.' I said, 'Dad, Joe Kelly hasn't given up a run in 2 1/2 months.'"
As always, fathers know best.
Since that conversation, Kelly went on the disabled list with a strained hamstring, Matt Barnes couldn't hold a two-run lead in the eighth inning Sunday, and a bullpen that largely overachieved in the season's first half began to spring a few leaks. And so, hours before the trade deadline Monday, Dombrowski made a deal, acquiring veteran right-hander Addison Reed from the New York Mets for three minor league relievers.
"We liked a lot of [available relievers]. We did. And we really inquired about a lot of the guys," Dombrowski said, pulling a sheet of paper from his blazer and counting 20 right-handed relievers. "As we came through and had conversations, with some guys we didn’t match up as well. [Reed] has been an established eighth-inning guy."
The Red Sox had considerable interest in right-hander Pat Neshek, too, but the Philadelphia Phillies dealt him to the Colorado Rockies last week. Like Neshek, Reed is eligible for free agency after the season and wasn’t going to command as many prospects in return as, say, lefty Justin Wilson, who wound up getting traded from the Detroit Tigers to the Chicago Cubs on Sunday night.
Reed, 28, has filled in for injured Mets closer Jeurys Familia for most of the season, posting a 2.57 ERA, 48 strikeouts and only six walks in 49 innings and going 19-for-21 in save opportunities. He also has experience closing for the Chicago White Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks, racking up 101 saves from 2012 to 2014.
With the Red Sox, Reed will take over the eighth-inning duties and serve as a more reliable ninth-inning option on days when Craig Kimbrel is unavailable to pitch. His presence also will push Barnes and Kelly, when healthy, back to the seventh inning.
“I think our bullpen is very good,” Barnes said Sunday amid rumors that the Sox were closing in on a deal for Reed. “I think it may have had some scuffles here and there, but I think predominantly through the entirety of the year that we’ve been a pretty good bullpen. More times than not, we’ve gotten the job done. But in terms of welcoming an arm, anybody and everybody that can help this team, I don’t think you’ll find a guy in here that will say they don’t want to get better.”
Reed is owed approximately $2.6 million this year and can become a free agent at season's end. As such, the Red Sox didn't have to part with any of their top-15 prospects, as they might have done to pry Justin Wilson from the Detroit Tigers or fellow left-hander Brad Hand from the San Diego Padres. Wilson and Hand are controllable beyond this season.
In giving up Triple-A right-hander Jamie Callahan and Class A righties Stephen Nogosek and Gerson Bautista, the Red Sox dealt from a deep pool of relievers in the minors. It's possible all three will eventually reach the big leagues, but the Red Sox also were faced with possibly losing Callahan and Bautista in the Rule 5 draft if they weren't added to the 40-man roster in the offseason.
The Red Sox scouted Reed, Wilson, Pat Neshek and several other veteran relievers over the past few weeks. Primarily a fastball-slider pitcher, Reed has been as consistent as almost any reliever in baseball since 2015. During that time, he ranks 12th in the majors in appearances (183) and tied for 16th in ERA (2.56).
Mostly, though, Reed is an extreme strike-thrower. He's tied for the seventh-best walk percentage (5.1) and has thrown 69 percent of his pitches for strikes, trailing only Los Angeles Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen (73 percent), Neshek (71 percent) and Washington Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle (70 percent).
The Red Sox have other needs, including another middle-of-the-order hitter to boost an inconsistent offense that lacks power. But after strip-mining the farm system in trades for Kimbrel and starters Drew Pomeranz and Chris Sale, the Red Sox are determined to hold tight to top prospect Rafael Devers, 18-year-old lefty Jason Groome, first baseman Sam Travis and their other remaining minor league gems.
As one American League talent evaluator put it, the Red Sox "shopped at Saks and got a possible Cy Young guy [Sale], but you have to shop at Target also."
If a 5-for-12, two-homer weekend against the Royals is any indication, Nunez will help diversify the offense by playing regularly at multiple positions. And with Kimbrel, Reed, Barnes, Kelly, Heath Hembree and emerging Brandon Workman, the Sox hope they have a bullpen that can match up with the New York Yankees' group of Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle and Adam Warren.
It might just satisfy Dombrowski's father, too.