The Boston Red Sox pitching rebuild starts with the rotation.
The 2020 season has opened with a thud for the Boston Red Sox and all of Major League Baseball with COVID-19 disrupting the schedule and rosters. At this juncture, for the Red Sox, the obvious is, well, obvious. It’s the pitching!
Without the fans, the games have all the enthusiasm of a sack race. But what about that pitching? BSI’s Sean Penney touched on this topic, but I’ll take the plunge. Certainly another Captain Obvious message.
The rotation was expected to be as appetizing as a meal at a fast-food restaurant and that is becoming quite evident. The rotation consists of right-hander Nathan Eovaldi and the rest is a baseball version of Tomas de Torquemada or the notorious Grand Inquisitor noted for creative tortures. A series of victims.
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What does the future – meaning 2021 – hold for a possible revival of the rotation? First off is expensive lefty Chris Sale who should anchor the rotation with the optimum word being “should.” Projected as being healthy after arm surgery, one can only hope for the best – if Sale has a recovery season with questionable performances the depths of despair will continue. Heck – maybe Collin McHugh will discover his talent from the past? Maybe I’ll win the lottery? Maybe Ryan Weber will become a latter-day Dazzy Vance? Sure.
The leader of the staff should be Eduardo Rodriguez but COVID-19 has rendered E-Rod out of pitching commission for 2020. Just how serious the latest ailment is long term will be a question mark for the future.
The Red Sox are locked into their free-agent offseason signing of lefty Martin Perez. Perez has done nothing in his MLB career to place him above journeyman status but in baseball, all you need from your number four of five is to be a tad better than the others guys four or five.
To me, looking for a key is hard-throwing Darwinzon Hernandez. Hernandez has slogged around the Red Sox minor league system since 2014 and can be electric with his fastball. Unfortunately, it can also be short-circuited by a tad bit of wildness. In 2019, Hernandez had a 7.7 BB/9 and a 16.9 K/9. From my perspective, the COVID-19 recovering Hernandez needs a few starts to see if the projected talent level can be attained.
The player pool for 2020 has three prospects of note who may get a taste of MLB this season. All have rough edges with right-hander Tanner Houck – a 2017 round one pick – the most advanced. Houck’s projections (always questionable) is the bottom of the rotation starter.
The next two sequestered among the top ten are lefty Jay Groome and right-hander, Bryan Mata. Again the ugly projections sources with “back end starter” being attached to both. Do we see a trend? Time to start thinking about a long look from anyone in the system that calls the bump his home.
The Red Sox do have some money to spend but that means a Perez type pitcher unless the team chooses to move some positional talent. The most obvious to me is Andrew Benintendi who may need another destination to spark his innate talent. The Red Sox also have Michael Chavis and his well-noted power (and whiffs). Otherwise, you just don’t ship out a Xander Bogaerts or Rafael Devers.
Chaim Bloom has a reputation – well earned – for getting pitching prospects on the right track as he did with Tampa. Boston presents a challenge attempting to find something besides Eovaldi, Sale, and Rodriguez, who have their own question marks. But whatever Bloom does it will be an improvement over what passes for the 2020 rotation.
Meanwhile, the options for instant gratification is the signing(s) of more expensive pitching talent and excluding trades. A return to the same approach that has now hamstrung the budget for the new future. Plugging a hole or two with a mid-range purchase is certainly viable but finding the value is the problem – I wish Bloom well on that. The projected list of possible free agents brings back distant memories of my computer past – garbage in/garbage out. Prepare for a long ride getting this rotation back to being competitive.