Late last night while most of the east coast was probably asleep, the Arizona Diamondbacks traded closer Brad Ziegler to the Boston Red Sox.
The Red Sox filled a very immediate need by acquiring Ziegler or two minor league prospects, right-hander Jose Almonte and infielder Luis Alejandro Basabe. The team had needed bullpen help for quite sometime with both closer Craig Kimbrel and interim set-up man Koji Uehara struggling.
Kimbrel who was elected to the 2016 All-Star Game next week in San Diego even admitted that he was “a little surprised” at being named to the team due to his performance this season. While Kimbrel is one of the hardest throwing closers in the majors, he has just 17 saves in 34 appearances and had really struggled in non-save situations with an ERA of 3.55.
In just one of other season the 28-year-old right-hander has had an ERA over the 2.00 mark just once in his seven-year career. Named Rookie of the Year in 2011 while with the Braves, Kimbrel led the league in saves four times and made four straight All-Star appearances. Tuesday’s game in San Diego would have been his fifth All-Star game.
Then hours before the trade was even made Kimbrel disclosed that he’d tweaked his knee and was unavailable to play in Friday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays. He was sent for an MRI after the game.
Even in spite of Kimbrel’s injury, as already noted, the Red Sox were already in need of bullpen help – beyond Uehara and Kimbrel -regular set-up man Junichi Tazawa is also dealing with right shoulder soreness and Carson Smith has been out for the season following Tommy John surgery.
So Red Sox president of operations Dave Dombrowski pulled the trigger last night and made the trade to acquire one of baseball best closers in Ziegler. According to Diamondback’s general manager Dave Stewart, Dombrowski had contacted him a couple of days ago about acquiring Ziegler but no one knew that it would end up being very late on a Friday night.
Ziegler began his career by setting records in Oakland as a member of the Athletics where played for parts of four seasons. In his rookie season he set the record for consecutive innings by a rookie to start his career. He first hit the American League mark of 22 scoreless innings that was set by Boston’s Dave Ferriss in 1945. He passed the major league record of 25 innings that had been held by George McQuillan of the Philadelphia Athletics since 1907. His streak ended at 39 innings.
Since then Ziegler had broken the Diamondback’s record for consecutive saves. He finished his career with the Diamondbacks with 62 saves and a 2.49 ERA. That ERA is a franchise record (min. 100 games). He also set franchise records with his 348 appearances and single-season relief ERA of 1.85 last season.
This season Ziegler broke the Diamondback’s franchise record for consecutive saves that began in 2015. He’s converted 18 of 25 save opportunities, pitching 38.1 innings in 36 appearances. While Ziegler is a sidearm pitcher and not the “typical type” for a closer he’s obviously been very good at getting the job done and saving games when given the chance.
A fan favorite in both Oakland and Arizona, Ziegler is already being welcomed to Boston with open arms by the fans.
Welcome to Boston Brad Ziegler!!! Big pickup
— Matt Todd (@toddsinator15) July 9, 2016
Even the Diamondbacks were sorry to see Ziegler go according to Ken Rosenthal who tweeted:
#DBacks, after informing Ziegler of trade, told him that they would be interested in re-signing him as a free agent this off-season.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 9, 2016
Ziegler resides in Arizona and has loved playing there. So it’s definitely likely that lamenting Arizona fans and players, sorry to see Ziegler go, may get to see him return to Arizona by spring training 2017.