Ranking the top five relief pitchers

Ranking the top five MLB free-agent relievers originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

A quality bullpen often separates the World Series contenders from the pretenders. It’s tremendously difficult for teams to navigate October baseball without reliable relief pitching.

With that in mind, all 30 MLB teams will be in the market for relievers this winter. The Boston Red Sox should be among the most aggressive clubs following a brutal 2022 season for their bullpen. Entering the year without a clearcut closer proved costly as they rank near the bottom of the league in ERA and the top of the league in blown saves.

More MLB Free Agents: Top 25 overall | Top 10 SP | Top 10 OF | Top 5 C | Top 5 1B | Top 5 2B | Top 5 SS | Top 5 3B

So, who could they target to help bolster the bullpen in 2023? Here’s a look at the top five relief pitchers set to hit free agency.

1. Edwin Diaz, RHP

Age: 29

Diaz’s entrance song and his performance earned him a reputation as the most electrifying reliever in baseball in 2022. The two-time All-Star currently boasts a career-best 1.28 ERA with an 0.90 WHIP and 29 saves through 53 appearances. He’s a big reason the Mets look primed for a deep postseason run.

UPDATE (Nov. 6): The Mets are re-signing Diaz to a record-breaking five-year, $102 million contract, per USA TODAY’s Bob Nightengale.

Age: 35

Jansen’s first season in Atlanta has been a mixed bag, but he still flashes dominant stuff when he’s on. The former Dodgers star leads MLB with 32 saves and owns a 3.19 FIP through 52 appearances. He’s no longer among the game’s elite, but there’s little doubt he can still bring a significant boost to a bullpen.

Age: 35

Chapman was arguably the best closer in the game for about a decade. That run may have officially come to an end in 2022. The seven-time All-Star has posted a 4.70 ERA and 1.44 WHIP with 22 walks and 35 strikeouts in 36 appearances. He missed time due to Achilles and leg injuries.

There’s no doubt Chapman can still help a bullpen when healthy, but his days as perhaps the most dominant reliever in the game appear to be behind him.

Age: 35

Like Chapman, Kimbrel isn’t the dominant closer he once was. The 2018 World Series champion has a 3.88 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in 51 appearances with the Los Angeles Dodgers this year. That said, he’s only a year removed from a phenomenal season with the Chicago Cubs. Kimbrel’s undeniable track record should earn him a solid payday this offseason.

Age: 32

Rogers struggled in his debut season with the San Diego Padres and things didn’t get any better after he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers. Despite the down year, the former Minnesota Twins All-Star has filthy stuff when he’s on, and he should be one of the most coveted relievers in free agency.

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