The mass exodus of veteran players on the Boston Red Sox appears to be in full swing, and it looks like quite a few players who were in the clubhouse in the aftermath of the 4-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays will not be in the clubhouse on Friday when they open a three-game series with the New York Yankees.
But one player who will be walking through that door Friday afternoon will be closer Koji Uehara. The best closer in baseball since being handed the ninth inning role in June 2013, Uehara’s is having another spectacular season in 2014. In 46 appearances, he’s allowed just eight runs on 30 hits, and has given up just six walks to 63 strikeouts over 47.2 IP. He’s converted 21 of 23 save opportunities.
Uehara could be the piece that puts a contending team over the top like Jon Lester, Andrew Miller or John Lackey. The Sox would get good value for the Japanese reliever if they decided to deal him, but doing so will be something they decide against, as he’s a player who can be brought back in 2015 on a contract the Red Sox front office prefers.
Set to celebrate his 40th birthday, the long-term contract in the neighborhood of thoses handed out to Jonathan Papelbon (four years, $50 million), Craig Kimbrel (four years, $42 million) and Glen Perkins (four years, $22.2 million) won’t be on the table. Had Uehara been 10 years younger, there could very well be a four-year deal in the neighborhood of $55-60 million awaiting his John Hancock. Fortunately for the Red Sox, that’s not the case.
This team is looking to compete in 2015, and there should be a retooling similar to what went on prior to 2013. Not dealing Uehara and giving him a short-term deal at around $8-10 million per year, which would double his 2014 salary of $4.25 million, would be the start to that retooling that the Red Sox will need going into next season.
Uehara isn’t in the circumstances of Lester or Miller, two pitchers set for big paydays that Red Sox brass isn’t willing to hand out. It’s a pitcher whose value is so high but the price is so low, it’s as if he’s a Bentley in used car lot.
The Red Sox have been beneficiaries of arguably the best run ever seen from a closer in the modern era of the role. They might as well keep riding it out until it burns out, then cut their losses and find another option when it does.