The Boston Red Sox have respectable pitching, but it is all external development. The farm system’s lone representative is Matt Barnes.
The Boston Red Sox have had an extraordinarily successful farm system and in the last 10 years have been among the top-ranked in professional baseball. That has now dramatically changed with Dave Dombrowski and a willingness to part with prospect talent for established talent. That, of course, is a long-established modus operandi for Dombrowski.
Farm system success comes with an attachment that depreciated the long list of positional positives and that is pitching development. That has been a disaster. The last first-round draft pick that accomplished anything of note was Clay Buchholz (2005). The list of failure is extensive and encompasses rotational and bullpen development.
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The failure is costly. By cost, I am referring to both money and valuable prospects. Look at the current staff and their price tag. This is not the baseball bargain basement, but the upper echelon of contract. David Price ($30 million), Rick Porcello ($21.125 million), Chris Sale ($12.5 million), and Drew Pomeranz ($8.5 million) represent the big tickets in the rotation. That – is if my calculation is correct – is $72.125 million for four starters. That is almost 31% of the team payroll.
The bullpen is also not cheap. The last bullpen pitcher was the productive and successful Jonathan Papelbon and where is Daniel Bard and Craig Hansen? The bullpen price listing starts with Craig Kimbrel ( $13 million) and Joe Kelly ($3.825 million). Fortunately, the remaining are relative cheap by baseball payroll standards and based on recent results you get what you pay for.
The only pitcher on the 25-man roster who is homegrown is former number one pick Matt Barnes. Barnes is being compensated with $605,000 to present Red Sox Nation with an astounding 6.5 BB/9. I view an appearance by Barnes with the same level of enthusiasm as a colonoscopy exam.
The hidden cost is prospects traded and just a look at the current state of bullpen disrepair shows what developmental failure means. I am sure the Red Sox would have had a fervent desire to retain Travis Shaw, but bullpen help was needed. Would it be nice to have a successful Pat Light close and have Manuel Margot in center field?
The rotation faces the exact same issue as failure after failure accumulates like a clogged artery. Trey Ball will never make it. Another number one to the baseball dumpster. Jay Groome? Maybe he’ll shine after the surgery, but don’t count on it. Michael Kopech will soon be in the rotation in Chicago. Henry Owens is somewhere and Brian Johnson will soon be.
Maybe luck will change in drafting – that old blind squirrel saying. Bobby Poyner and Austin Maddox may turn the lethargic bullpen development around. Jalen Beeks has shocked with his quick rise in promise. And Tanner Houck may eventually win 150+ games for the Red Sox.
I wish I had some magic baseball pixie dust to change this systematic failure that has stretched from Theo Epstein to Dave Dombrowski. The Red Sox certainly are not shy about shoveling resources into player development, but the prize of the last few years may end up being Hector Velazquez – a Mexican League purchase. Is that part of our system?
Knowing how the great wheels of fate in baseball circulate I am sure the Red Sox circa 2023 will have a successful homegrown and developed staff only to have the positional talent imported via trades and free agency. But in the here and now the outrageous and subsequent highest payroll in baseball has a direct link to the failure to develop one or two highly prized arms.