The trade of lefty David Price to the Dodgers leaves the Red Sox in a precarious position. They only have four legitimate major league starters, that we know of.
The option of using an “opener”, a concept made fashionable by the Tampa Bay Rays recently, for whom the Sox’ current top baseball man, Chaim Bloom has just arrived from this winter, has been tossed out there.
Personally, I’ve never been a fan of the concept, and OBVIOUSLY the Sox are very concerned about the opinions being thrown about at You’re Ducking Right. For one, it over taxes a bullpen that isn’t exactly bursting at the seems with high end talent. Granted, the results from the second half of last year are encouraging, adding extra stress to the pen doesn’t seem like an attractive alternative.
The primary concern is that if you go into the season with 4 starters, and two of them are Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi, you’re just asking to go to a 2 man rotation. Ideally the Sox would have 6 capable major league starters, and one or two AAAA guys. Players who aren’t really prospects anymore, but aren’t really bonafide every day players either.
So with spring training starting up this week, who is still available? Lets take a look at some options.
The right handed starter is still “just” 34 years old. He certainly had an up and down career in Boston, but he did throw a no hitter for the Sox, he knows the organization, and where all the good chicken joints are. The fans wouldn’t exactly be thrilled with him coming back, until they realize the alternative
Sanchez has extensive experience in the AL East having spent the vast majority of his career as a Blue Jay. Its actually pretty surprising that he hasn’t latched on with someone yet. His joining the rotation would likely knock Martin Perez to the 5th starter slot, a role he is certainly more suited for. The flip side is you’re not likely to get Sanchez on the cheap. At this point he is likely more inclined to see who gets injured in the spring, and what teams may be desperate as a result (as the Sox should be). Still only 27, Sanchez likely hasn’t peaked.
A bit long in the tooth at 37, the lefty has been around the block a time or three. He won a career high 18 games back in 2017 with the Royals before getting paid with the Mets that winter. He was shipped to Philly mid-season last year and still floating out there as a free agent. He’s not the glamorous choice, and his upside is minimal, but as a 5th starter that can eat some innings, there are worse options
A nice buy low candidate with plenty of upside. The 30 year old former Rockie has battled cancer and injuries the last few seasons. He made 39 appearances last season, but only 3 were starts. Signing Bettis would require a little additional safety net, but then again so doesn’t have Eovaldi as a starter, and Bettis would be significantly cheaper.
For those old enough to remember when the Sox signed Steve Avery, Bret Saberhagen, or John Smoltz, the signing of Salazar would be in that vein. At his best Salazar would slot in as the Sox #2 starter behind only ace Chris Sale. That’s how big his upside is. The down side is that Salazar has made only one start since 2017. Which is to say, its a pretty big downside. Someone is going to take a flyer on Salazar by the end of spring training. The Sox have always had the money, in spite of what they’d lead you to think with their recent trade efforts. If you’re going to pay David Price that much money to NOT pitch for you, why not throw some cash at Salazar and see how it turns out.
Former Astros have a bit of a stigma to them at the moment, but McHugh, as a pitcher, wasn’t really boosted by the sign stealing scandal, other than his win-loss record. Formerly a starter he’s been relegated to relief duties the last couple of years. That demotion had more to do with the Astros having an outstanding rotation, and less to do with any short comings McHugh had.
He wouldn’t be expected to come in and win 18 games while striking out 225 guys in 200 innings. But he could absolutely get you 160 innings with 10-12 wins, and from an end of the rotation guy, you can’t ask for much more.
The 31 year old has made 19 starts for the Sox over the last three seasons. Mostly when filling in for an injured starter, or making a start during a double header to preserve the rotation. You know, AAAA guy stuff. He hasn’t be AWFUL. But he hasn’t been good either. A non-roster invitee, he’s poised to be fighting it out with our next guy for the 5th starter spot, which is absolutely why a free agent (or two) need to be signed, and soon.
Johnson is the poster boy of why you trade Michael Kopesch for Chris Sale 10 times out of ten. Why you can be excited about Bryan Mata, and Tanner Houck, but you can’t really be sure. It wasn’t that long ago that Johnson was one of the crown jewels of a robust Red Sox farm system. Now he’s still just 29 years old, but isn’t on the 40 man roster and will be fighting tooth and nail for a spot in Boston or Worcester.
Don’t Be Crazy, Leave These Kids In Worcester
The 23 year old righty has some arm talent, and has 26 starts at AA under his belt, but none at the AAA level. It wouldn’t shock if he made some late summer appearances, but even if he comes in and blows people away this spring, the front office needs to pump the brakes, and let him get his feet wet in the minors to open the year.
Another 23 year old young pup, Houck has slightly more experience at the higher levels of minor league baseball than Reyes, but not significantly more. He made 16 AAA appearances last year, with only 3 of them being starts. By most accounts his future is in the bull pen. If he were to garner a spot in the rotation, it’d likely fall under the category of “opener” in the new fangled scheme being tossed out there. Not as a 5-7 inning a start guy.
We’re throwing his name out there only as a sign of respect for his abilities. The 20 year old has made only 11 AA starts, and is clearly not ready for the Sox rotation in 2020, and not even a front office crazy enough to trade away Mookie Betts and NOT get a rotation candidate back (could they REALLY not have gotten Tony Gosselin instead of Wong in that deal?) would be stupid enough to toss Mata to the wolves this season.
Considering all those names, what would WE do? We’d look at incentive laden deals for Danny Salazar and Chad Bettis while also inking Collin McHugh to a multi year deal. Best case scenario, everyone is healthy and it comes down to McHugh or Perez in the bullpen. Worst case, Salazar and Bettis flame out, but you’ve got McHugh to step in. What will likely happen? Brian Johnson attempts to resurrect his career as an “opener” and I hit my head against a wall repeatedly all season.
Welcome to Red Sox baseball 2020 my friends!
- Written by Jason Sullivan
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