What should the Red Sox do with its rotation?
Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com: (July 19, 2018 – Source: JULIO AGUILAR/Getty Images North America)
There was some news that broke before post-All-Star Game baseball began. Left-hander Drew Pomeranz is coming off the disabled list and will make a start for the team on Tuesday. He has been sidelined since early June with bicep tendinitis, recently completing an underwhelming rehab assignment.
In five starts with the Pawtucket Red Sox, Big Smooth pitched to the tune of a distasteful 5.49 ERA and 8.72 FIP. He recorded more walks (13) than strikeouts (12) and allowed 7 homeruns in not even 20 innings. While that is only a handful of starts, his 37 innings with the big league club were perhaps just as concerning.
Regardless, the fact he is returning to the mound is more exciting than it should be. After Eduardo Rodriguez was placed on the disabled list with a sprained ankle, the Sox were left with a four-man rotation with one of those guys being Brian Johnson.
Boston needs arm in the interim, especially since the timetable for Steven Wright‘s return is so nebulous. Pom is probably not the long-term answer because he is volatile, but he is an arm. The expectation for him has to merely be to eat some innings. Anything more is a bonus. If he could be serviceable, which he certainly has been in the past, then most of your rotation worries are solved.
With that said, no one should be banking on Pomeranz to be solid. He is a year removed from a wonderful season but there is nothing about 2018 that offers any semblance of a beacon of hope. His velocity is down, his command is more erratic and the knuckle-curve, his bread and butter, has lost most of its effectiveness. To be frank, I was more bullish on him before his Pawtucket stint.
Circling back to spot starter Johnson, the southpaw has been fine in that role. In fact, as a starting pitcher he has featured a 2.79 ERA compared to a 5.10 ERA as a reliever. However, he has been unable to get past the 5th inning in his last three starts. This is a problem, especially if your 5th starter is Pomeranz. The Sox have been utilizing a relief carousel this season to keep guys in the bullpen fresh. If they throw out Johnson and Pomeranz consistently, though, the bullpen could quickly get tired and overused.
Again, the injury news for E-Rod and Wright are not great and could have them on the shelf for quite a while. Consequently, the Red Sox would be behooved to make a move for a starting pitcher.
They do not need a premier arm, as they have two very good ones in David Price and Rick Porcello and an excellent one in Chris Sale. The team probably does not even need to attain a starter who could slide into the postseason rotation. They just need exactly what Doug Fister provided them down the stretch last year: serviceable innings.
Depth is the problem for this staff, which it has been for the entirety of 2018. Even using Johnson as a spot starter is not ideal and Hector Velazquez, the presumable next man up, is not either. Plus, when you put one of these pitchers in the rotation, the team loses a valuable long man in the bullpen. After that, Jalen Beeks is probably next in line and his cameo with Boston has not been fruitful, to say the least.
So, which pitchers should they be targeting at the deadline? Well, while getting a J.A. Happ or Michael Fulmer would be a game-changer, it probably is unnecessary and unrealistic given the state of Boston’s farm system.
The Red Sox could look at someone like Nathan Eovaldi, who is in the last year of his contract, from the Rays. He has been nails this season coming off a big-time injury. Despite an ERA (4.26) that is ballooned by one horrible outing (8 runs in less than 3 innings), this is a guy Boston should seriously look into. His 3.49 xFIP is incredibly encouraging, as his other numbers are inflated by an unsustainable homerun rate.
Another interesting candidate would be Tyson Ross, who is also in his final year of his deal, from the San Diego Padres. He possesses a fine 4.32 ERA and 4.40 FIP in over 100 innings and would instantly lengthen and strengthen the rotation. He would not cost much because he is a half year rental.
Even Matt Harvey would not be a terrible option, as he has resurrected life on his fastball and has mastered his slider with the Reds. Maybe a package with him and Iglesias could kill two birds with one stone for the Sox. A trade for just Harvey, though, would not cost much probably, although there is significant buzz around him and thus he may be a tad overrated right now. He, too, is in the final year of his contract.
There are more options like this: decent pitchers with an expiring contract after the 2018 season. Honestly, that is all the Sox need right now. It would not be shocking if Dave Dombrowski made a significant move for a more controllable, All-Star level pitcher given his proclivity for big-game hunting. Still, the practical route is this route.
The Red Sox have a starting rotation depth problem and there is no arguing with that. Rodriguez and Wright’s injuries have exposed this issue, which in the end may be a good thing. You can never have too much pitching, but it is questionable if the Red Sox even have enough pitching right now. A move for a decent starting pitcher rental should be made soon.