Rick Porcello is eligible to hit the free agent market next winter but says the Boston Red Sox haven’t discussed a contract extension with him.
The Boston Red Sox have several key players hitting free agency next year and it may not be feasible to keep them all. Reaching an agreement on an extension with any of them now would create cost certainty for the club to plan their future budget while crossing an item off their list for next offseason. Rumors have swirled that the front office has engaged in these extension talks with some of their impending free agents but apparently, Rick Porcello isn’t one of them.
During an appearance on the Bradfo Sho podcast with WEEI’s Rob Bradford, Porcello revealed that he would be open to an extension if it were offered to him but that hasn’t happened yet.
"“I don’t know. That’s a great question,” said Porcello when asked if he thought he would be getting a deal done prior to the start of the regular season. “If there is an extension offered to me I’ll definitely (think about it).”"
Porcello is entering the final season of the four-year, $82.5 million extension he signed on Opening Day of the 2015 season, his first year in Boston after he was acquired from the Detroit Tigers.
Many questioned why the Red Sox handed such a lucrative deal to a pitcher before he ever took the mound in a regular season game for the franchise. The grumbling grew louder when Porcello stumbled through a difficult year to begin his tenure with the club, going 9-15 with a 4.92 ERA and 0.5 WAR. Were the Red Sox really stuck paying $20+ million per year to a barely above replacement level pitcher?
Porcello silenced his critics with a Cy Young campaign in 2016 when he went 22-4 with a 3.15 ERA, 5.91 K/BB ratio and 4.8 WAR. The right-hander went from having his contract viewed as an albatross to a bargain.
The follow-up to his award-winning season was a disappointment. Porcello led the league with 17 losses, 236 hits, and 38 home runs allowed. His ERA ballooned to 4.65 and he produced -0.2 WAR. Below replacement level value from one of the team’s most expensive players!
Last year was a solid bounce-back year with Porcello going 17-7 with a 4.28 ERA and 3.1 WAR. Far from Cy Young contention and perhaps still a bit overpaid but the performance was acceptable. Porcello increased his value during Boston’s World Series run by posting a 3.51 ERA in the postseason. He earned himself some bonus points with his team-first approach by pitching out of the bullpen between starts.
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Porcello’s tenure in Boston has been a roller coaster, which may explain the team’s hesitance to discuss an extension. He’s alternated good years with disastrous seasons over a stretch that dates back to his time in Detroit. If that pattern remains, 2019 could be an off year for Porcello. The Red Sox may prefer to see how he performs this season before committing to him. A second consecutive year of solid production would make them feel more comfortable about re-signing him while a down year would make them think twice – or at least lower the price.
Porcello is presumably eager to lock in a new deal now for similar reasons. He may also be looking at the bleak free agent market this winter and realizing he wants to part of it. Former Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel, who has performed below expectations in two of the last three years since winning the award, is still seeking a job with spring training already underway. The same fate could be in store for Porcello, depending on how he performs this year.
The last few years have had ups and downs for Porcello but he’s always been a reliable fixture in the rotation. He’s made 33 starts and pitched over 190 innings in each of the last three seasons. There’s value in the ability to carry that type of workload even if his production is closer to middle-of-the-rotation rather than Cy Young contender. Particularly for a Red Sox rotation that, while formidable on paper, has some lingering health questions entering the season.
Boston’s brass may have second-guessed their decision to extend Porcello in 2015 but the deal proved to be worthwhile. There are no regrets about that extension now and despite the risks associated with an inconsistent 30-year old pitcher, they won’t regret extending him again as long as the price tag remains reasonable.