Although there is some clamoring to move Daniel Bard into the starting rotation, he remains Boston's best internal option to replace Jonathan Papelbon.
Bard has the prototypical closer's stuff—a hard fastball and a high strikeout rate.
Bard stumbled in September, blowing three saves and taking four losses. Those handful of bad outings and some ill-timed comments to the media drew the inevitable questioning of his potential to handle the closer's role in the event of Papelbon's departure.
The fact remains, however, that Bard has now been pitching at a high level for the better part of three seasons. At 26, he's much younger than any of the available free-agent talent and, relatedly, has the most potential to succeed going forward.
The Red Sox would be foolish not to turn to free agency to shore up a bullpen weak on depth, however they would be equally remiss to not give Bard a shot at the closer's role. He's the best guy for the job.