Boston Red Sox open to moving Johnson, Elias to the bullpen

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 17: Roenis Elias
BOSTON, MA - JUNE 17: Roenis Elias /

The Boston Red Sox are in need of left-handers in their bullpen, and they may turn to a pair of minor league starters to add them.

According to Dave Dombrowski, the Boston Red Sox could have some answers to their bullpen questions in their own minor league system.

Speaking on the first day of the MLB GM Meetings in Orlando on Monday, Dombrowski noted that left-handers Brian Johnson and Roenis Elias could find themselves in the major league bullpen in 2018.

"“We have some guys that potentially have that ability (to move to the bullpen),” Dombrowski said. “I would say that’s one area that we’re open-minded to improving ourselves.”"

Last season, Robbie Ross Jr., Fernando Abad, and Robby Scott were supposed to be the lefties in Boston’s pen, but Ross was sent to the minors and ultimately found himself on the disabled list. Now, both Ross and Abad have become free agents, and it seems like their time in Boston is over.

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The Red Sox now have only Robby Scott as a southpaw in their bullpen. Those lefty arms are a priority for the team this offseason, but if they ending up going all out for a power hitter they won’t have much wiggle room to add a big-time arm. Perhaps that’s why they are exploring the option of moving minor league starters Brian Johnson and Roenis Elias into the bullpen.

Last season, Johnson made 5 starts for Boston. He went 2-0 with a 4.33 ERA in 27 innings pitched. He struck out 21 batters and walked 8. In Triple-A Pawtucket he went 3-4 in 17 starts with a 3.09 ERA. Johnson is already 26, and it doesn’t look like he’ll crack Boston’s roster as a starter anytime soon, so a move to the bullpen could be huge for him. Elias, 28, is in the same boat.

In 2017 Elias appeared in just 11 games across all of the Red Sox teams. He pitched 0.1 innings in the majors, 34 in Triple-A, 2.2 in Double-A, 4 in High-A, and 2 in Low-A Lowell. So in total, Elias pitched just 43 total innings in 2017. He wasn’t very good at all, with a 6.96 ERA on the year. He’s a better pitcher than that, as he has a 4.24 career minor league ERA, but those numbers won’t push him into Boston’s starting rotation. He should jump at the chance to move to the bullpen.

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The Boston Red Sox will, of course, explore free agent and trade options to add left-handed relief pitchers. Dave Dombrowski is willing to spend, but the money could be going to a player like Giancarlo Stanton, J.D. Martinez, or Eric Hosmer. Boston will aim to have a strong bullpen behind their starters to make a run at the 2018 World Series title.