Brad Ziegler is entering free agency. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Brad Ziegler prepares to enter free agency for first time at age 37, hopes to close, believes he can still get lefties

John Tomase
October 12, 2016 - 9:49 am
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Brad Ziegler reached the big leagues at age 28, set a record for most consecutive scoreless innings to begin a career (39), and has since saved 85 games, including four with the Red Sox this season. One thing he has never done: reach free agency. But that's about to change as Ziegler prepares to test the market for the first time this winter. "I have no idea what the future holds," he said after the Red Sox were eliminated from the American League Division Series by the Indians. "There's a lot of factors. It's just something I'm going to have to sit down with my family and discuss. I'm going to have a little more time to figure it out than I hoped I would, but at the same time, there's a lot to figure out. "It is unique. It's probably the only time, I'm hoping anyways, it might be the only time I get to do this. Hopefully the process is enjoyable and I'll get some offers that put my family in a good position going forward, not just financially, but location and everything." It appears unlikely that Boston will be that destination, though Ziegler said he enjoyed his two-plus months here, noting that, "one way or another, this year will be special for me." He also said he won't rule out anywhere at the moment. That said, he's intrigued by the possibility of closing again. He saved 30 games for the Diamondbacks last year and 22 between Arizona and Boston this year. The Red Sox are set at that spot with All-Star Craig Kimbrel. "It's one of 50 factors," he said. "If the situation's right, it's not mandatory. I think I've proven I can do it and I'd love to do it. Obviously here they have an established closer. There's a lot of other places where they have guys established, and if they feel like I'm a better fit somewhere else in the pen and it's a better fit overall for my family, I'm not going to be dead set on that's what I have to do." What Ziegler is eager to remind teams is that he needn't be limited to right-on-right situations, which was largely how he was used in Boston after recording more walks against left-handed hitters (16) than strikeouts. In 2015, for instance, he limited lefties to a .217 average. "I've worked hard to do it, and there's stretches where if my changeup doesn't feel just right and my fastball command isn't what it should be, lefties are going to hit me better than righties," he said. "I can still maybe get away with a little bit more against righties. At the same time, I'm completely confident facing lefties. When I was closing in Arizona, there were times I would face all lefties in the ninth inning and I handled those situations just fine. It didn't matter, you were the guy. That's not a concern for me going forward. In September, it's a little different, because you can put 12 guys down in the bullpen and just play matchups. "When you're going through the whole season, you can't match up every guy. I felt like I've proven I don't need to be a matchup guy long-term, and hopefully wherever I end up next year, they'll see that and they won't be scared to use me in certain situations."