Early predictions for the 2015 Red Sox rotation

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Number Two Starter: Cole Hamels

Sep 23, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cole Hamels (35) delivers a pitch during the sixth inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Ballpark. The Marlins won 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, the dreaded Cole Hamels could be bringing his concerning inter-league stats to Boston this winter. Here’s a peek at his stats against the AL East Teams in their ballparks, as well as his stats against the American League in general:*

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*Hamels has never pitched at Tropicana Field; thus explaining the absence of the Rays in my table

So let’s break this down. The 4.54 ERA against American League Lineups is shaky. The shellings by the Blue Jays and Orioles are also worrisome as he will not be able to avoid those lineups as a Red Sox pitcher (and they won’t get any easier to handle in the coming years). That being said, he pitched well at Fenway in his one outing, and he also kept the Yankees in check which is another important quality for a Red Sox pitcher. And he still maintained 8.1 K’s/9 and 3.77 BB/9 that are right in line with his career marks of 8.5 and 3.77 respectively, so his stuff and command is not mysteriously vanishing.

I think he would do fine against American League lineups in the long run; yes, there may be an adjustment period and no, he may not be as dominant as in the National League. But these are points of leverage in trade discussion, points that will make Hamels available for perhaps Henry Owens and Manuel Margot rather than having to bring Mookie Betts or Blake Swihart into the conversation. He is the one arm on the trade market the Sox seemed to be linked to and the Phillies are clearly interested in what we have to offer as well. This prediction has the lowest chance of coming to fruition but that is saying more about my confidence in the other ones than my lack of it in a Hamels deal happening. You should all be hoping, but it is not a stretch to be cautiously optimistic about this one either, and could also see us reel in another piece, like veteran catcher Carlos Ruiz, upside outfielder Domonic Brown or even our old (overpaid) friend Jonathan Papelbon; just so long as Ryan Howard isn’t included…

Plan B) Tyson Ross 

Jul 19, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Padres starting pitcher Tyson Ross (38) pitches during the first inning against the New York Mets at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Much more of an unknown than Hamels, Tyson Ross put together another strong season in 2014 and I truly expect him to be their target via trade if not Hamels. Despite his youth and affordability, Ross may not quite be the pitcher Hamels is which is one of three reasons I have him ranked behind Hamels. The second reason is that he is right handed; this may seem nit picky but currently with the Red Sox are very light on left handed starters and while the casual fan may not notice a difference, having depth in his starting pitching repertoire is important to a pitching minded coach like John Farrell.

The third reason though is the most important, Ross is a budding ace. He is just 27 years old and entering his prime and will be arbitration eligible next year, where he will get expensive in a hurry. While these initial arbitration salaries are pennies to the Fenway group, Ross will be a free agent in 2018 as a 31 year old and will command a hefty deal if he hits the open market. If the team can work out an extension beforehand, they will have themselves a coup, but if not they will surely lose him to whoever is willing to give him that deal into his late 30’s.

Plan C)Clay Buchholz

The in house option, and the only that does not involve sacrificing top prospects. That said, it is also by far the worst option to me, because while there is a chance Buchholz returns to ace form, his durability issues make that a risky proposition to bank on. There is not much else to say here, even though giving up high upside prospects is always a risk, this to me, is by far the riskiest of the three options. I would rather give up Margot or even dare I say Betts if it means securing Hamels, Ross or Mat Latos (really a long shot). Pitching wins in the playoffs and a Red Sox team with playoff aspirations won’t get very far with Clay Buchholz as their number two starter. If there was a trade suitor for him, I would not be remiss to move him. But that said, his current ceiling is a number three starter, and if the Red Sox elect to use the low set up of Christian Vasquez to his advantage he could thrive in that role..