Red Sox RHP Garrett Richards
Few pitchers in baseball were impacted more than Garrett Richards by MLB cracking down on the use of “sticky stuff.” Richards had always been among the elite spin rate pitchers but without the aid of a foreign substance, the right-hander struggled to get the proper grip on his secondary pitches. Richards was forced to reinvent himself on the fly and the results were predictably disastrous.
Richards went 6-7 with a 5.22 ERA in 22 starts before he was banished to the bullpen along with Perez when the Red Sox revamped their rotation in August.
While Perez remained underwhelming as a reliever, Richards thrived in his new role. Pitching in shorter stints meant he could rely less on the secondary pitches he was still learning to control without the use of sticky stuff. He could lean more on his upper-90s fastball in a relief role where he wouldn’t need to pace himself or face the same hitters multiple times.
Richards produced a solid 3.42 ERA while striking out 28 batters in 26 1/3 innings of relief. He gained enough trust from his manager to earn some high-leverage spots as a setup man down the stretch and even notched three saves.
The Red Sox might have interest in bringing back Richards as a middle reliever but the $10 million price tag on his team option is far too steep for that role. Declining his option is the obvious choice. Boston might try to convince him to return at a cheaper salary to retain his spot in their bullpen but Richards will almost certainly go looking for a team willing to give him another shot as a starter.