The Boston Red Sox are in no man’s land, so they might as well try to get back in the postseason for the first time since their 2018 World Series championship. How can they enhance their chances of doing as such? Sign a pair of veteran starting pitchers.
This is an offseason to need middle-to-top-of-the-rotation starters; there’s a bevy of options. Maybe the Red Sox reunite with Jon Lester? Perhaps Jake Arrieta and Jeff Samardzija could be interested in playing for a big-market franchise; Chris Archer has something to prove.
According to MLB Network’s Jon Morosi, the Red Sox are “showing interest” in two-time American League Cy Young Award-winner Corey Kluber, which is a risk worth taking on a short-term deal. How about taking a short-term flier on James Paxton, who’s recovering from a forearm injury?
Why can the Red Sox get a couple of these starters for team-friendly deals? With a surplus of quality starters comes a lack of value. Parity brings their financial value down because teams can tell a player to accept their offer or they’ll go to another player of the same value with the same contract. The length of a contract plays in the team’s favor, too.
There’s minimal incentive in a team investing a lengthy contract in a player they don’t deem a long-term piece to the puzzle. The uncertain financial future of the sport given the chaotic 2020 season adds fuel to the fire.
What difference does adding a pair of starters, some who are on the back nine of their careers, make for the Red Sox?
Last season they were without their ace, Chris Sale. As is, the menacing southpaw seems to be returning in 2021. At full force, he’s one of the premier starters in Major League Baseball. Sale throws a devious slider and logs strikeouts at a high rate.
Eduardo Rodriguez missed last season due to a heart issue. Fortunately for the left-hander, he seems likely to pitch in 2021. Prior to his health flaring up, Rodriguez was coming into his own as a mainstay in Boston’s rotation. In 2019 he recorded a 3.81 ERA while totaling 213 strikeouts across 34 starts.
Mesh Sale, Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, and a pair of free agent signees together and the Red Sox have a plausible starting rotation with upside; the upside is reliant on health. This grouping would be accompanied by a high-octane offense.
The likes of J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Alex Verdugo, and Christian Vazquez made for an exceptional offensive attack last season. Boston finished the 60-game MLB season second in hits (552), third in batting average (.265), ninth in OPS (.776), and 11th in runs (292). Throw a healthy Andrew Benintendi and a consistent Michael Chavis into the mix and the Red Sox could have the sport’s most fearsome offense next season.
The Red Sox aren’t the best team in the AL East; that honor is up for grabs between the AL-champion Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees. Meanwhile, the Toronto Blue Jays have a vibrant positional depth chart that can only improve; they made the playoffs in the sport’s expanded playing field last season.
What’s the alternative to the Red Sox making win-now moves: blowing up their roster and rebuilding? There are three teams in better shape than them in the AL East, and one could argue that the Baltimore Orioles have made progress in recent memory from the standpoint of them merely putting up a fight against some of their divisional foes. By the way, the Red Sox finished behind the Orioles in the division last season (last place).
With that in mind, how long does a full-blown rebuild take to yield positive results for the Red Sox? Waving the white flag sends Boston down an abyss. Does that sound fun?
With theoretical transactions Boston could be a playoff participant, especially if the playoffs are expanded again. Every season there’s a surprise team. Last season it was the Miami Marlins; in 2019 it was the Minnesota Twins; the year prior it was the Oakland Athletics.
In some cases, the surprise team is one who had an off-year coming off a playoff season; the Red Sox could use that as a model for optimism.
Their offense can compete with anyone in the sport, and their rotation will be better and would be even better with a pair of veteran starters in the fold. Boston’s weakness is their bullpen. At the same time, every team has a loose end. There are ways to get around an ailment, and one of them is strengthening a strength and/or making other parts of your roster well-oiled machines.
The Red Sox can continue to develop players through their farm system, rather than trading away from that aspect of their organization for an upgrade; they can develop and compete at the same time.
Beefing up their rotation gets the Red Sox back to a shred of competency.