With all the talk about the Red Sox’s need to address the bullpen, especially now that Joe Kelly’s gone and Craig Kimbrel might be on his way out, folks have been closely watching how the organization approaches the free agent market. While we haven’t seen them sign a big name yet, Boston did just make a step in towards providing some potential relief support by signing Zach Putnam to a minor league deal.
The plain and simple fact that it’s a minor league deal shows Putnam isn’t ready for prime time right now, but he does have a history that shows he might be able to make a difference in the big leagues after proving he’s recovered from injuries. He missed the 2018 season and most of 2017 after having Tommy John surgery, but had some success with the Chicago White Sox before that. From 2014 to 2017 he pitched 139.1 innings with a halfway decent ground ball rate of 47.6 and 149 strikeouts while giving up 46 runs (42 of which were earned), 108 hits (11 of which were homers), and 56 walks. Perhaps his best stat was that he kept batters to a 27.2 percent hard-hit rate, which is well below the league average.
Since the Red Sox had to pay a $12 million luxury tax for their 2018 salaries and are likely to do so again in 2019, it’s also worth noting that they’ll have control of Putnam until at least 2020 through arbitration. Putnam already has four years of big league service, so he’ll hit the five year mark if he spends a good chunk of time in Boston this year. But that could be delayed if he doesn’t find much success and therefore only spends a limited amount of time in the big leagues.