Like it or not, Koji Uehara is going to be one of the Boston Red Sox‘ most valuable trade chips if they become sellers at the trade deadline. Having another stellar season, Uehara is sporting a 1.19 ERA to go with 18 saves. If the Red Sox aren’t going to make the playoffs this year and Uehara is dealt, who could close for the team?
Uehara is set to be a free agent come season end, and he’ll be highly coveted. One of the most dominating closers in all of baseball, Uehara has racked up 39 saves since his time with the Red Sox last season and hasn’t looked back since. Even though he’s getting up there in age, being 39, Uehara seems like he saved his best stuff for the last part of his career.
Since that free agent status looms over head, the Red Sox could be inclined to deal their star closer, even more so if they don’t plan on re-signing him after the season ends. Any team in contention would love to have Uehara in their bullpen. Even if he wouldn’t be slated to close, he would be a dominating setup man, which is what he was signed for when he first came to the Red Sox.
If the Red Sox were to deal Uehara, they have a couple of options in the bullpen who could take over. The first name that comes to my head is Andrew Miller. Fully healthy, Miller is quietly putting together another great season for the Red Sox. With a 2.53 ERA in 38 appearances, I think the team would trust Miller coming out in the ninth inning — even more so if the games mean basically nothing.
Another option could be Junichi Tazawa. I’m honestly surprised that Tazawa hasn’t been given more of a chance to close, seeing how he’s had great success in the majors. At 27 years old, Tazawa has a 3.20 career ERA spanning over five years. He has had some experience closing in the minors, converting four of seven chances, and I think he could be someone who could step up to close out those meaningless games for the Red Sox.
Of course, this all hinges on if the Red Sox are out of contention or not. If they remain in it, they won’t dare touch Uehara. He’s been one of the best closers for the Red Sox in over 10 years. It just depends if the Red Sox are willing to take a gamble on what could be a lost season.