Red Sox: Taking age over youth on the 2022 rotation

HOUSTON, TEXAS - JULY 24: Justin Verlander #35 of the Houston Astros pitches against the Seattle Mariners at Minute Maid Park on July 24, 2020 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TEXAS - JULY 24: Justin Verlander #35 of the Houston Astros pitches against the Seattle Mariners at Minute Maid Park on July 24, 2020 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /

Shoring up the Red Sox rotation with vintage arms

Youth must be served is an idiom that certainly applies to baseball and the Red Sox. A calendar often becomes a benchmark for determining if pursuing a player makes good sense.

Baseball players have prime years in which their core statics can define their careers. Former Red Sox lefty Eduardo Rodríguez sits just in that recognized sweet spot of baseball age 27-31. Rodríguez will be 29 years old when he takes the mound in 2022.

E-Rod is in the process of either rejecting or accepting a staggering $18.4 million qualifying offer. The Red Sox are also reportedly in the process of negotiating a deal with Rodríguez that will keep him anchored to the rotation. I may not recall my anniversary date, but I have memorized the five-year and $70 MM projection that MLBTR has pinned on Rodríguez. Forget it. Go old!

I am old. To some, it would be very old, decrepit, ancient, frail, and the proud holder of an AARP Card since Hoover was president. Now is the time for Boston to go in the other direction. You want to rebuild the staff, Chaim Bloom? Look for arms that may get their baseball pension, Social Security, and their paycheck all simultaneously. Yes, I have a healthy dose of sarcasm, but I will march on.

The first order of Business is free agent righty, Justin Verlander. Verlander collects Cy Young votes like my dog collects ticks, but the 226 game-winner has been on the recovery shelf from Tommy John Surgery. At 39-years-old, Verlander is at first glance a knee-jerk rejection, but not for me.

Verlander is meticulous about maintaining a healthy regimen and should be ready to pitch in 2022. Reportedly Verlander is ringing up the high 90s with his heater during a recent showcase for interested potential employers.

If MLBTR is correct, Verlander will be offered a contract in the vicinity of two years and at $40 million. That vicinity is somewhere between Boardwalk and Park Place. Take the risk and do it.

Verlander trails fellow right-hander Max Scherzer three to two in capturing Cy Young awards. Scherzer was part of the Washington Nationals yard sale in 2021 and landed with the Dodgers. The 37-year-old showed no signs of regression, with the only question being a late-season “tired arm.”

MLBTR has projected a three-year deal at $120 million (ouch!). If the “numbers” are any indicator – traditional of metrics – you will see Scherzer’s name among the top. Scherzer did lead the NL in WHIP (0.864), H/9 (6.0), and BB/9 (1.8).

Scherzer is a pitching workhorse who can punch them out with the beat (34.1 K%) and keep free passes (5.2 BB%) to a minimum. When Scherzer became available, I compared him to when the Red Sox picked up Curt Schilling, another ancient baseball warrior. They missed then and now have a chance to rectify that.

At 38-years-old, Zack Greinke has undoubtedly been around the baseball block. Another former Cy Young winner (2009) and the possessor of 219 career MLB wins. Greinke is not like Scherzer, as his skills have eroded over time.

Will Greinke retire? His fastball has, but his baseball intellect has not. Greinke can still pitch and is being pegged for a one-year deal at $15 million. Greinke’s 1.6 HR/9 almost matched his 1.9 BB/9.

The oldest of the old is former Red Sox lefty Rich Hill at 42-years-old. Hill is on a first-name basis with the Injury List since he’ll pay a visit every season – usually more than once. What Hill can still do is give solid innings, and in 2021, it was 158.1 innings.

Hill would be on the lower end of the wage scale. In 2021 that lower end was $2.5 MM for the Milton, Massachusetts native. Spot starting, long relief, and just about any pitching chore Hill would provide.

As a concession to youth, there is one premier pitcher available, lefty Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw will be 34-years-old next season, and his dominant days of pitching – three CYAs – is in the past, or is it?

Kershaw’s problem is staying on the field, and most are related to a back condition and a forearm injury. The forearm is usually a precursor to Tommy John surgery. Kershaw’s fastball has dived in velocity, but the Dodger great still keeps the walks down (1.6 BB9).

Kershaw remains a solid performer when 100% or close to it. The projection is a one-year deal at $15 million, and there will be takers despite the specter of possible arm issues.

What would I do? What would you do? Since I have the bully pulpit, I will leave the comments to you, gentle reader. Hill is a given for me. Cheap by baseball standards and still has a competent arm. Then comes the top shelf, and that is Verlander and Scherzer. One, both, or none?

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The Red Sox payroll has a little wriggle room and could sustain either Scherzer or Verlander. I would make every effort for both, but if the choice is just one, be it, Verlander. Short of years and money. And Kershaw? I see bad news in his future with arm concerns.