Red Sox: Could Pomeranz’s time in Boston be running out?
The tall lefty hasn’t found his form this season and is running out of time.
Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Drew Pomeranz made a case last season to be signed to a large deal in the 2018 free agency class. Pomeranz, 30, went 17-6 with a 3.32 ERA in 173 2/3 innings en route to arguably the best season in his career.
Just when we thought Pomeranz had turned the corner in his career, he now owns a 6.75 ERA in seven starts this season for the Red Sox.
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe asked manager Alex Cora about Pomeranz’s struggles, but Cora remains confident in the lefty.
"Cora said of Pomeranz, “We trust this guy. He was in the same spot last year and all of a sudden he turned it around.”"
To say you trust a guy is one thing, but blindly rolling him out there every fifth day to watch him get waxed against any opponent is another. Pomeranz’s velocity and control are both down, and his curveball is flat with little bite to it.
Last season, Pomeranz gave up 19 home runs in 32 starts. However, this season there’s not much deception in his pitches right now, as he’s given up six home runs in seven starts. Even if he is limited to 25 starts this season, he’s on pace to allow a career-high 24 home runs while falling well short of 150 innings pitched.
As each start is less impressive than the last, it seems less likely the Red Sox are inclined to re-sign the veteran lefty. Unless a dramatic turnaround occurs, the Red Sox are better off spending the money elsewhere and replacing Pomeranz with in-house options of Steven Wright, Brian Johnson or Hector Velazquez.
Even if Pomeranz turns his season around and posts a season of 4-plus ERA, he’s likely to get paid a multi-year deal from a team. Whether he’s the big acquisition for a team who’s willing to believe in him as a front-end rotation option, or as a plan-b to losing a star — The Diamondbacks’ situation with Patrick Corbin comes to mind — Pomeranz will get paid. Especially in a market of star pitching with little alternatives for teams who metaphorically strike out.
Wright, 1-0 with a 2.77 ERA, isn’t a sexy replacement but he’s made strides since his return to the Red Sox. While trusting a knuckleball pitcher to have an impact in October seems like a stretch, pitching well enough as a No. 5 starter still helps the Red Sox. In fact, nearly anything would be an upgrade to the Pomeranz situation every fifth day.
Can Pomeranz turn it around?
But not with an 88-90 mph fastball. Not with a curveball that moves like a beach ball right now. He’ll have to be placed on the disabled list with a fluke injury that allows him to fix his mechanics and strengthen his lower half.
The lefty acknowledged he hasn’t felt right this season.
"“One thing I’ve been searching for is getting that drive off my back leg. When I get into a jam I used to be able to bring out 93, 94, and 95 miles per hour. I don’t have that right now. Everything is a few miles an hour off. It’s a pretty good indicator something is missing there. There’s some attachment between my upper and lower body not firing right now.”"
Fine. Then sit him and let him figure it out when thousands aren’t watching him and professional hitters aren’t licking their chops at every pitch.
Should Wright not perform up to standards, Johnson deserves one last shot with the Red Sox. While he produced solid start against the Marlins, he hasn’t been nearly as effective as a reliever. Johnson, 1-2 with a 4.67 ERA, has pitched well as of late in multi-inning appearances, but he’s clearly being under utilized in his mop-up role.
It makes sense to let Johnson have one last go as a starter since he’s out of minor league options and seemingly out of roles with the Red Sox. If the playoffs were to start tomorrow, Johnson likely wouldn’t make the roster. Boston needs to see what they have with BJ before the trade deadline, so they can accurately assess their bullpen — especially after losing Carson Smith.
Lastly, if both pitchers can’t produce at a high level, Velazquez could establish himself as a dependable back-end rotation starter moving forward. Velazquez has been thrown into many different pitching roles with the Red Sox, but has passed nearly every test. The righty is 5-0 with an astounding 2.15 ERA in 29 1/3 innings. Like Johnson, Velazquez’s sample size isn’t large as a starter but it’s more dependable than Pomeranz’s ballooned ERA at this point.
If Velazquez were to take over as a starter for an extended period of time, he could audition as the in-house option to replace Pomeranz. It’s not guaranteed that Velazquez would seamlessly transition into a full-time starting gig, but the Red Sox could use Pomeranz’s starter money to use toward replacing Velazquez’s spot in the bullpen. Boston could always acquire a lively late-inning rental at the deadline should Pomeranz bottom out.
In today’s league, it’s extremely difficult to acquire a starting pitcher without spending top dollar or losing top prospects. But to an extent, the asking price for bullpen arms is a lot less. Plus giving Pomeranz ample time to re-discover himself could benefit the club for a postseason run, or save them from having to pay Big Smooth this offseason.
Next: Red Sox bullpen depth option: Right-handed pitcher Brandon Workman
How do the Red Sox fix three conflicts with one solution? Sit Pomeranz.