When the Boston Red Sox revamped their team at the trade deadline, one asset they chose to retain was closer Koji Uehara.
While many thought Uehara would also be gone by 4 p.m. on July 31, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington has since explained that they see Uehara as too valuable to trade, and at age 39, they plan on him being their go-to guy for the ninth inning in 2015. No one can argue with Cherington’s decision to keep the closer who helped guide them to a World Series Championship dominantly in 2013, but if Boston really values Uehara as much as they say, it may be time to end his season. In his last two appearances closing games out Uehara has suddenly become human, blowing a save against the Seattle Mariners last week and then again last night against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Looking back even further, over his last four appearances Uehara has surrendered seven earned runs and 10 hits through just 3.1 innings. While Uehara argues that his struggles are not due to fatigue but just a loss of control on his splitter, it wouldn’t be a surprise to anyone if it was weariness. Since the beginning of the 2013 season, he has racked up 148 innings of work. If the Red Sox are serious about being contenders next year and want Uehara as their closer, shutting him down is something they need to highly consider.
Right now there are no signs indicating the Red Sox want to shut him down, but with nothing to lose or gain in 2014 why not? The front office has made it clear they plan to do what it takes to contend for a World Series come April 2015, and I think letting Uehara continue to pitch this year goes against that vision. The last thing Boston needs is for him to injure himself, need Tommy John surgery or cause more wear and tear on his soon-to-be-40-year-old arm.
What Uehara has done for Boston in the closer role over the last two seasons has been nothing short of fantastic. However, if the organization wants that dominance for at least one more year, they need to consider ending his season now.