Red Sox should solve the Drew Pomeranz conundrum by extending him

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 06: Drew Pomeranz #31 of the Boston Red Sox throws a pitch in the second inning against the Houston Astros during game two of the American League Division Series at Minute Maid Park on October 6, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 06: Drew Pomeranz #31 of the Boston Red Sox throws a pitch in the second inning against the Houston Astros during game two of the American League Division Series at Minute Maid Park on October 6, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

While many wonder what the plan is for the Boston Red Sox to add to their power-deficient lineup, there’s another important decision that looms in the near future about their pitching staff.

In 2016, there was a pitcher who had a 2.47 ERA in the National League before he was acquired by the Boston Red Sox and got rocked by the American League, posting a 4.59 ERA while barely making it through six innings pitched without implosion. Many wondered if this trade was a horrible mistake by the Red Sox, as this pitcher simply couldn’t hang in the AL East gauntlet after a smooth ride for the San Diego Padres.

However, that same pitcher had a bounce-back season in 2017, posting a respectable 3.32 ERA while qualifying as a Cy Young candidate. Well, maybe not a serious contender, but his 17-6 record combined with his career high 173.2 innings pitched shows he’s headed toward the land of promise and potential.

But he’s not an ace that your team will ride late into games. Forget about complete games; he has never pitched more than seven innings in a game for your ball club. In fact, he only made it through seven innings once all of last year.

Surely, his stats must’ve improved this year? Not quite. His walks were up from 65 to 69. He allowed almost 30 more hits this season (166), accumulating for a raised opponent batting average that ballooned from .217 to .252.

He must be a reliable postseason pitcher, right? Not yet.

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In 2016, he was never even trusted as a starter and used as a reliever in the divisional round against the Cleveland Indians, posting a 4.91 ERA in 3.2 innings.

Last season, he was given an opportunity to shine in his first postseason start against the Houston Astros. Unfortunately, there was no room for sunshine, as a storm of hits and home runs showered at Minute Maid Park. Just about anything Pomeranz delivered was clobbered past him for a hit, leaving a short-lived start of two innings.

But this pitcher, of course, has become arguably the second most reliable pitcher on the starting staff. At a time when David Price and Eduardo Rodriguez can’t stay healthy nor perform up to expectations while Rick Porcello drastically regresses, the Red Sox find themselves desperate for reliable starting pitching.

Welcome to the Drew Pomeranz conundrum.

According to Mass Live’s Christopher Smith, there have been no talks between Boston and Pomeranz regarding an extension. The tall lefty is headed into a contract year in the upcoming season.

"Would he be open to talking with the Red Sox about a contract extension during spring training?“I’m obviously focused on this year,” Pomeranz said. “Obviously all those things are going to take care of themselves, but I love it in Boston at the same time. I’d love to be here. We haven’t had any of those talks. Right now, I’m just staying on the ultimate goal of having a strong season. If I don’t take care of my part, none of that really matters.”"

Smith pointed out how next year’s free agent class could be loaded with talent that could all interest Boston.

"Next year’s free agent class might be the best ever. It includes Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Andrew McCutchen, Charlie Blackmon, Clayton Kershaw (if he opts out), David Price (if he opts out) Dallas Keuchel, Craig Kimbrel, Andrew Miller, David Robertson and Brian Dozier."

With such a loaded class, Pomeranz, 29, has created a difficult decision for Red Sox management. Depending on the possible opt-outs of Price and Kershaw, Pomeranz could be in for a huge payday. The pitchers who don’t opt out could leave the market with even slimmer pickings, leaving a possible bidding war for both Keuchel and Pomeranz.

"“Kind of every year is like the biggest year of your life, but you know, this year I think is the biggest year of my career, obviously,” Pomeranz said. “So I’m working harder than I’ve ever worked. The ultimate goal there is to have a good year for the team, which also could benefit me in the long run, too. So I’m just hoping for a good season and trying to accomplish some of my goals for this year.”"

Great starting pitching is difficult to find, and the last thing the Red Sox want to do is get into a bidding war with other teams who may have more financial flexibility than they do. There will be teams out there who have less financial commitments on their rosters, and less future commitments to pay.

The Red Sox already find themselves with difficult decisions to make on pitchers Craig Kimbrel and Chris Sale — both in line for huge paydays. Beyond the two star pitchers, lies a long list of positional players the Red Sox will have to pay, and a thin farm to replace any key subtractions from the major league roster.

Despite Pomeranz’s somewhat underwhelming statistics, Boston finds itself low on resources, money and time. The window of opportunity for the Red Sox to win a World Series is closing tighter each year. Best case scenario: Pomeranz becomes a great No. 2 pitcher for the staff. Worst case scenario: Pomeranz is a solid back-end rotation starter.

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There’s very little chance the Red Sox will have the funds to dive into the Kershaw or Keuchel market since they already need to use money toward the offense. The decision is becoming clear: even if the Red Sox have to extend Pomeranz by overpaying him for four years, they should do so. Don’t let him get to free agency.

At this point, what other option do they have?