Boston Red Sox starter Rick Porcello doesn’t want to think about his upcoming free agency as he wraps up the worst season of his career.
It’s been a frustrating season for Boston Red Sox right-hander Rick Porcello. What comes next might be even worse.
Porcello signed a four-year, $82.5 million extension in April 2015, shortly after arriving in Boston from a trade with the Detroit Tigers. That contract expires after this season, allowing him to test free agency for the first time in his career.
The timing couldn’t be worse. You often hear about players exceeding expectations in a “contract year,” earning themselves a big payday based on a breakout season that may be an outlier. Porcello is having the anti-contract year. On the verge of free agency, the right-hander is producing the worst numbers of his career.
Porcello is 13-12 with a 5.77 ERA that ranks dead-last among qualified major league starters. His 1.44 WHIP is the sixth-worst and the 31 home runs he’s allowed tie him for seventh-most in the majors.
Porcello faces an uncertain future that will almost certainly send him out of Boston.
"“I’m not thinking about it right now, man,” Porcello told reporters, per MassLive’s Christopher Smith. “I haven’t gotten anybody out in two months. I’ve got to get somebody out again before taking those steps. Whatever’s going to happen is going to happen. It will take care of itself. Honestly, it’s been a tough year, frustrating year. It’s been a grind physically and mentally. And I’m still here with the Red Sox and I plan to finish this contract.”"
The comments came after Sunday’s win in Philadelphia. In Porcello’s best start this month, he limited the Phillies to two runs over five innings. Instead of sounding relieved or showing any signs of optimism that he may finish the season strong, a dejected Porcello remained critical of his overall failures.
Boston’s top priority this winter, once they hire a replacement for Dave Dombrowski, will be patching a starting rotation that severely underperformed this year. It’s hard to see Porcello being a part of that. The club declined to grant him the extension he wanted prior to this season and his dismal performance in 2019 hasn’t changed anyone’s minds.
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The Red Sox could conceivably offer Porcello a qualifying offer in an attempt to recoup a draft pick when he leaves but there’s too much risk that he’ll actually accept it. Even with so much uncertainty regarding how they will fill out their rotation, an ownership group intent on cutting their luxury tax bill probably doesn’t want to be on the hook for about $18 million for a No. 5 starter coming off a terrible season.
Declining a qualifying offer could be even riskier for Porcello. We saw Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel wait until June to sign free-agent deals this year after declining qualifying offers. Both pitchers were around the same age as Porcello but coming off solid seasons. Who is going to pay Porcello and cough up a draft pick to do so after the year he’s having?
Porcello may need to settle for a one-year deal to re-establish his value. It’s hard enough for pitchers on the wrong side of 30 to find multi-year deals in free agency, let alone those who were arguably the worst pitcher in baseball in their walk year. That’s a dilemma for another day though. Right now, Porcello would rather not think about it.