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As the 2009-2010 offseason progressed, it became more and more obvious that there was something missing from the Red Sox — something Theo Epstein hadn't addressed.
The rotation obviously looked fine. Though we may not be seeing the results now, the combination of Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey should have been the best top-three in the game.
The offense, too, was not an issue. Though some said the team needed a "big bat," the addition of three solid hitters in Adrian Beltre, Marco Scutaro and Mike Cameron to the core of Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, J.D. Drew and Victor Martinez made for a fairly imposing lineup.
But where was the bullpen?
With Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito having departed for warmer climates, the Sox were left signing a ragtag group of castaways. Joe Nelson, Scott Atchison, Scott Schoeneweiss, Alan Embree, Boof Bonser, Robert Manuel, Ramon A. Ramirez and Fabio Castro were all signed to small deals—all but Bonser as minor leaguers—in hopes that the back end of a pen could be pieced together from scraps.
This might have been alright had the rest of the pen been reliable, but that was hardly the case. Outside of Jonathan Papelbon and Daniel Bard, no other reliever had really proven reliable over the last half of the season. Between Manny Delcarmen, Hideki Okajima and Ramon Ramirez, not one of them managed to hold opponents under an .800 OPS against — hardly impressive.
Most likely Theo was hoping that with seven good innings out of his starters, the bullpen would be able to rely on just a couple of elite arms, but so far that hasn't been the case. And with Manny Delcarmen, Hideki Okajima and Ramon Ramirez proving just as unreliable as in 2009, there has been no surprise star from the scrapheap.
It's hard to put together a reliable bullpen. Relievers are rarely the most consistent bunch outside of a few stars, and most of the good ones are generally overpaid given the number of innings they throw. But Theo's "throw a bunch of 'em at the wall and see what sticks" approach seems to be a definitive failure, and standing pat with what we had last year was never really an option. Hopefully, with the trade season coming up, Theo will put the work into the bullpen that was needed all along.