This offseason, the Boston Red Sox talk will focus of free agents to be Chris Sale and Rick Porcello. I would be tempted to let both walk.
Being one to jump the gun, I will do that while needlessly fiddling with my worry beads as the Red Sox attempt to sink to the Yankees level. The pitching issue regarding free agency will surface after the conclusion of the 2018 season with Craig Kimbrel, Joe Kelly, and Drew Pomeranz, but the Big One surfaces after the 2019 season.
Sale and Porcello will both be free agents and that is a rather deep bite of your rotation. The minor league system does not appear to have any significant reinforcement in the pipeline so the Red Sox management may be in a rather delicate situation regarding both Sale and Porcello. I would pass on both and would most certainly avoid any extension discussions in the offseason or during 2019.
With Sale, there are three issues that surface and that is career innings pitched, potential injury, and age – the last could also be wrapped up in a long-term David Price-like contract and carry Sale deep into his 30’s. And Price would most likely be the template for any Sale negotiations as far as years and dollars. Of the reasoning presented, what jumps out is an injury.
Sale this season is on his second visit to the disabled list with a shoulder injury. The injury is being downplayed by both Boston management and Sale and is generally described as just what one would expect from a pitcher. A bit of tenderness and inflammation with no structural damage. Nothing here, folks, just move along. All I can think of is Pedro Martinez and his ongoing arm issues with Boston as he passed 30 years of age.
Pedro – like Sale – had marvelous control and certainly velocity that about 99% of MLB arms lack. The Red Sox let Pedro walk into a four-year deal with the Mets and after a 15-8 season, the Red Sox obviously made a horrendous signing decision. But one year does not a contract make and Pedro crumbled.
Would the same happen to Sale? Or will Sale continue to be the current version of Randy Johnson? Johnson led the National League three times in earned run average and five times in strikeouts after reaching age 35. And did I mentioned the four straight Cy Young Awards attached?
Maybe Sale will be like Price and morph into a dependable starter when his fastball goes into possible hibernation? Many a hard thrower made such a transition including the legendary Warren Spahn. As noted it is a gamble and one that I would reluctantly pass on. Maybe there is something to all that concern over “mechanics” making a Tommy John visit quite possible?
Porcello is less of a decision as I would wait diligently to see what market conditions dictate for him. Porcello is a quite dependable inning eating righty who could be classified as a number two in your rotation. Porcello is clearly capable of magnificent performances followed by a home run frenzy fur ball embarrassment.
As mentioned, it may all come down to Porcello’s 2019 performance and what the market may dictate. A projection of Porcello’s career performance you would expect an ERA/FIP slightly north of 4.00 – that is certainly not ace material. But Porcello is also dependable and rarely misses a start and that can be a big plus in today’s bullpen oriented game.
The Red Sox internal options appear rather bleak at this point unless one considers Eduardo Rodriguez, Steven Wright, and a variety of prospects sequestered in the minors – none of the prospects appear ready to take the hill as impact pitchers in 2020.
The money issue is also significant as young players go deep into arbitration or face free agency. The Red Sox have reluctantly decided to exceed salary limitations and face the consequences of a luxury tax. Will they be willing to do so with increasing levels of penalties and loss of draft position? Eventually, money plays into the baseball equation and the Red Sox are no exception.
Meanwhile, we can sit back and not let our angst over a collapse potential take hold and enjoy the 2018 ride that hopefully will end with a parade. Maybe Sale will lead the charge and force the Red Sox hand?