Red Sox hypothetical trade: Eduardo Rodriguez for Sean Newcomb

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 15: Pitcher Sean Newcomb
ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 15: Pitcher Sean Newcomb /

The Boston Red Sox offseason has begun with real and imagined deals that will surface.  Here is my contribution to the hypothetical.

One must make a disclosure in mentioning such a potential trade for the Boston Red Sox.

Sean Newcomb is a local kid who grew up in the town I lived in. Locally, he has been followed from being a college standout to being selected in the first round by the Los Angeles Angels. Newcomb was eventually sent to the Atlanta Braves in a deal and made his major league début during the 2017 season.

Eduardo Rodriguez and Newcomb are very similar and that goes beyond both being left-handed hurlers and being traded from their original organizations. Only two months separate the two in age as both are 24-years-old.  Both are primarily fastball pitchers with Newcomb tossing his heater 63.4% rate and Rodriguez at a 65.4% rate in 2017.

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Their speed is similar at 93.7(V)for Newcomb and 93.5(V) for E-Rod.  Newcomb mixes in a curve 21.7% and a change 10.6%. Newcomb’s curve also has a velocity of 78.2 for a quite respectable drop off his fastball. Rodriguez does not toss a curve but equally mixes in a change (17.6%) and a slider (17.5%).

Rodriguez is more polished since he has 65 starts spread over three seasons and Newcomb just 19 starts in 2017. Their ERA’s are similar for 2017 with Newcomb at 4.32 ERA and Rodriguez posting a 4.19 ERA. FIP and xFIP show no startling difference. Looking at other metrics nothing jumps out to distance one from the other, but the one issue that certainly drives me to drink Drano when watching a game – walks.

"Newcomb does have to cut down on his walks to reach his ceiling, but as a Northeast guy who used to divide focus among two sports, he has more upside than your typical college arm. If the control improves, he could even outperform those Jon Lester comps. – MLB Prospect Watch (2016)"

As noted in the scouting report, that is the one item that has not stalled Newcomb but has raised question marks. Last season in his 19 starts, Newcomb delivered a 5.13 BB/9 and you continue to do that and continue to pitch behind in counts it doesn’t take a pitching coach to tell you what the results will be.  Rodriguez had a 3.28 BB/9 in 2017 and a 3.12 BB/9 for his career.

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Last season was typical of E-Rod’s MLB career.  At the end of May, a 2.77 ERA and the Red Sox were 7-2 in his nine starts.  Then Rodriguez got toasted in Baltimore and promptly went on the disabled list until Mid-July with his all too often knee injury.  Rodriguez closed out his regular season by getting shelled by the Astros in just 1.2 innings.

So why do it?

The first paragraph disclosure sums up my own quite prejudicial reasoning and I readily admit to that flaw, but looking at the performance of both this is a selection of vanilla and vanilla ice cream.  A baseball Ginger or Mary Ann.  You do get a local kid and you do get some extra service time.  What I see and what the scouting report notes are the mention of Jon Lester.

Physically, Newcomb is quite like the former Sox ace.  Lester also had some control issues in his Red Sox beginnings with a 4.8 BB/9 in his first 15 starts. That dropped to a 2.0 BB/9 on Lester’s last full Red Sox season. And the risk for Boston. Control. For Atlanta, it is the knee.

If Newcomb continues to walk too many and go to too many 3-1 counts the results will be like 2017 only spread over a career. For Atlanta, a blazing stretch of great games by Rodriguez could dissipate with a visit to the orthopedic section of the OR.

Next: Red Sox have bullpen problems they need to address

For a provincial like myself, it would certainly be enjoyable to see a local kid succeed in Boston. Will Newcomb become Lester? I’ll take that bet!

Sources: Fangraphs