After signing Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval to large free agent contracts, the Red Sox have added yet another name to the logjam in the outfield. All the while, though, the Red Sox are in desperate need of solid starting pitchers to fill out their starting five. With the Cleveland Indians in need of outfield power and possessing a great deal of young starting pitching, it’s quite possible that the two teams could match up in trade talks this winter and if they do, Danny Salazar is a name to watch.
Salazar, a former top prospect for the Tribe, burst onto the scene by posting a 3.12 ERA and a filthy 11.3 K/9 rate in a ten-start stint during the Indians’ improbable run to the AL Wild Card Game in 2013, even starting the do-or-die game against the Tampa Bay Rays. And while Salazar lost that game, leading to a Red Sox-Rays ALDS matchup (which the Red Sox, of course, won en route to a World Series win), he pitched well enough during his time in Cleveland to push himself into the starting rotation for the 2014 season.
Salazar wasn’t quite so dominant during his second season with the Indians as his ERA regressed to 4.25 and his K/9 slipped to a still-impressive 9.8 mark, while his BB/9 rose from 2.6 to a still solid 2.9. However, while that 4.25 ERA speaks more to Salazar being a back-end starter than a #2, ERA predictors such as FIP (in which Salazar recorded a 3.52) suggest that his ERA does not tell the whole story.
Plus, regardless of Salazar’s 2014 results, there are other factors that could lead him to reaching his ceiling as a top-end starter. First of all, he has nasty stuff, featuring a fastball which sits in the mid 90’s but has touched as high as 100 mph in addition to a great change and developing breaking ball. That combination of three good-to-great pitches with his surprisingly strong command and ability to miss bats pegs him as a potentially excellent starter going forward.
However, considering Salazar’s potential, his age (24 years old), and amount of team control remaining (five more years of team control and two more years before he even reaches arbitration), there’s no doubt that he’ll be expensive. Still, with Boston’s outfield logjam and glut of MLB-ready starting pitchers in the upper minors, the Red Sox certainly have the pieces to swing a deal with the Indians.
Yoenis Cespedes alone likely would not get the job done, but Cespedes plus a mid-level prospect or two definitely might. The Red Sox have more Triple-A starters than they know what to do with and, with Henry Owens, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Brian Johnson belonging in Pawtucket next season, the Red Sox could have some house-clearing to do. A trade for Salazar could be a good avenue for that clearing and the Red Sox would net a very solid, young pitcher as well.