Is poor evaluation, bad luck, or money souring Red Sox pitching decisions?

Baltimore Orioles v Boston Red Sox
Baltimore Orioles v Boston Red Sox / Omar Rawlings/GettyImages

Nasty business, politics, and sports decisions are on display for all to pick apart like a Thanksgiving turkey. The Boston Red Sox and Chaim Bloom are now suffering the indignation of several of those decisions in pitching performing successfully in their new homes, but is the methodology employed a failure?

The central focus in baseball is on that small bump in the middle of the infield, and Boston has suffered management humiliation regarding that bump not meeting expectations.

The latest is an unfortunate injury to lefty Chris Sale, who was well on the road to contract redemption that now may be contract albatross. Sale's ongoing health issues and the David Price contract are two recent examples of Boston's reluctance to embrace lengthy, expensive pitching contracts.

The Red Sox starters are now ranked 14th in the American League, with the only rescue point from statistical embarrassment being the Oakland/Las Vegas A's.

The Red Sox and Bloom went to a low-priced option for replacement parts on the hill: Corey Kluber. If James Paxton had not exercised his contract option, another veteran arm would have joined Kluber with many question marks attached. This has been the strategy for Bloom and needs to be fixed since it only works if the team relocates to a weak division.

In 2022 Michael Wacha, a righty reclamation project, did all he could to instill a take-a-chance with an 11-2, 3.32 record. The risk assessment was evident with 23 starts and a checkered history of the IL—still, Wacha garnered a 4-year/$26 M deal from San Diego. Wacha is now the National League Pitcher of The Month for June.

Nathan Eovaldi was similar to Wacha in 2022, managing 20 starts. When 100%, the right-hander can be a devastating mound presence. The Red Sox passed on Eovaldi, and the Texas Rangers did not. The Rangers inked Eovaldi to a two-year/$34 million contract, and Eovaldi matched Wacha as far as a June pitching reward.

The last mention of the rotation is lefty Rich Hill. Hill is a reasonably steady five-inning starter, and Hill made 26 starts in 2022, notching an 8-7, 4.27 record. Hill signed an $8M one-year deal with the Pirates, and the results at the one-third marker are similar to Boston in 2022.

The Red Sox rotation signings strategy has failed

The Red Sox bullpen has been pressured by overuse due to the rotation's failings, but there is strength in numbers with the constant revolving door. One item Boston did pass on that I found challenging to reason with is not signing left-hander Matt Strahm.

Strahm (4-4, 3.83 ERA) did the job in 2022 and is again doing the job with the Phillies. Strahm signed with the Phillies for two years at $15 million, a contract that the Red Sox could have easily absorbed with Boston's competitive tax base. You could add on Hill and either Wacha or Eovaldi and still have contractual wiggle room. If Kluber had not been signed, Eovaldi and Wacha could be part of the 2023 staff. The Red Sox are in the rental business supplying recoverer opportunities for tired arms, and success is rewarded with a shove out the door.

Some positives are attached to decision-making, and Masataka Yoshida is a perfect fit for the lineup. Matt Barnes is gone, and so are Ryan Brasier and Hirokazu Sawamura. But this is all about pitching and retaining those who deserved to be in Boston.

Hindsight is a great tool, but signing those they chose to let go out the door differed from the high-salary blockbuster or potential contractual dead weights. Retention of the successes of 2022 at reasonable contracts that they inked elsewhere would have inherent risks - all pitching does - but the monetary loss would be significantly less than the risk versus reward of a top-rated arm such as Carlos Rodon.

I suspect Bloom will continue down the signing path with a formula he feels comfortable with, and that is a continuation of seeing Wacha, Kluber, Paxton, Garret Richards, etc., signings until the farm system produces quality pitching, which may be a long wait.

What questions do I contemplate? Is it an evaluation issue with the Red Sox, especially with Eovaldi and Wacha? Is it just bad luck with Kluber suddenly becoming a pitching risk? Bringing back Hill, Strahm, Wacha, and Eovaldi made sense based on the money. But, then again - all hindsight.

The revolving door has existed for five years with a series of short-term deals. The rotation is in constant flux with limited stability in this whack-a-mole method.

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