It’s become increasingly obvious that Dave Dombrowski has no intentions of making a real splash. JD Martinez is still out there, but doesn’t it just kinda feel like if it was going to happen, it would have happened already? If Dombrowski wants to bank on the Red Sox core bouncing back and regaining their 2016 form, that’s fine with me. I firmly disagree with that line of thought, but maybe that’s why I don’t get paid to make baseball decisions. But let me make one thing clear: the Red Sox roster, as presently constructed, can not challenge the Yankees for the AL East crown. They’re better equipped to fight with Toronto, Seattle and the LA Angels for a wild card spot.
So JD Martinez probably won’t be coming to Boston. That’s fine, but it can’t mask the fact that there is still work to be done for Dave Dombrowski. So much of the offseason focus has been on the Red Sox offense, justifiably so. Last week, I wrote about how putrid of a power attack they had. Assuming that the Red Sox are at least comfortable heading into 2018 with the same lineup, let’s turn our attention to the rotation.
You may think I’m crazy when you read this, but I don’t trust the Red Sox rotation. I get that they were incredible last year, but I’m just here to tell you that the talent doesn’t match the production. The performance of the 2017 Red Sox rotation is not repeatable, at least not from everyone in the mix. Something has to be done. But before we get into that, let’s get into the issues that I have with each member of the Red Sox rotation.
Chris Sale: Sale was a horse last year. From April to July, he was the best pitcher in baseball. And then: poof. Chris Sale did what Chris Sale does. Isn’t it truly amazing how players are what their career numbers say they are? Sale historically wears down in August and September. His career ERA and homerun rates are significantly higher post All-Star game (3.28, 1.11 respectively) than they are pre All-Star game (2.74, 0.78). It happened again last year.
David Price: Screw the haters man. Price is a stud. His Boston career will unfortunately always be marked by 6 starts in 2016, and the dust-up with Dennis Eckersley in 2017. There’s no way around it, 6 of the first 7 starts Price made in a Red Sox uniform were BAD (all except a gem against Atlanta). So bad in fact, that his ERA was a brutal 6.75 after those first 7 starts. By season’s end, he had lowered that to 3.99, while leading the American League in innings and starts. Despite adverse medical conditions in 2017, Price was good again. He and Rafael Devers were the lone bright spots in the playoffs. The off the field stuff doesn’t bother me a ton. Price has always been known as a great teammate, and while he shouldn’t have lied and said his initial issue with Eck was regarding Eduardo Rodriguez, I don’t think he was totally in the wrong. Call me crazy, but I don’t exactly think it’s a broadcasters job to openly mock a pitchers pace of play while he’s trying to compose himself with the bases loaded. Just my thoughts though.
Rick Porcello: What exactly is Rick Porcello? The fact that people still call Porcello a ground ball pitcher is laughable to me. Sinkerballer Rick died in 2015. He was not good that year, just as a reminder. 2017 Porcello was a full on wanna be power pitcher. 2016 Porcello was a healthy mix of his 2015 and 2017 versions. He won the Cy Young that year.
Drew Pomeranz: If you trust Pomeranz, I don’t know what to tell you. When you step into the box against Pomeranz, you’re getting two things. High fastball, low curveball. That’s it. That’s really all the guy has. May-August Pomeranz was throwing 93-95. He was great. April and Sepetember Pomeranz was throwing 89-92. He was not great.
Eduardo Rodriguez: Put this one in the “can’t admit we screwed up on Andrew Miller” file. Rodriguez is maddeningly inconsistent, except for when it comes to topping 100 pitches in less than 5 innings. He’s damn good at that.
Brian Johnson: Nope. I want nothing to do with his 87 mph fastball. Next.
Steven Wright: Tim Wakefield is gone. Please stop.
So what’s the move here for Dombrowski? There are still good pitchers left on the market, the question is which one to sign. Ideally the move is to sign a guy who you can slot in as the number 3, and take some of the pressure off of Porcello. That leaves Jake Arrieta and Alex Cobb as the two possibilities. But, if they choose to go after Lance Lynn, it’d be a borderline acceptable move.
Let’s start with Lynn. He’s primarily a fastball pitcher, who’s consistently 92-94 with movement. That’s a good solid National League repertoire. I mean it worked for Barotlo Colon at a lesser velocity for years. My personal opinion? Lynn would get eaten alive in the AL East.
Here’s the deal with Jake Arrieta: he’d be an okay signing, but not great. Arrieta rode the greatest half a pitcher has ever had to the 2015 Cy Young. I mean seriously, a 0.75 ERA over half a season? That’s stupid. 2015 was a historically bad offensive season in the National League, as only 3 teams scored over 700 runs. None of those teams where in the Cubs division. For context, 9 teams in the NL topped 700 runs in 2016, and 11 broke the mark in 2017. Arrieta has also pitched in the AL East before, posting a 5.46 ERA with the Orioles over 63 starts. That’s just really awful. The media has painted it as Arrieta was young and inexperienced. But he was a college pitcher (TCU shoutout!) that was 24 when he made his MLB debut. That’s not an excuse. Bottom line is Arrieta benefited from a weak hitting division, in a terrible offensive year, which has catapulted his star to levels it doesn’t belong. He is not an AL East pitcher.
You know who is an AL East pitcher? Alex Cobb. I mean he literally pitches in the AL East, and he’s found success with it.
If Tanaka isn’t fully healthy, the only legit no. 1,starter in the AL East is Alex Cobb
— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) December 11, 2014
Cobb was very highly regarded prior to his arm issues in 2015 that required Tommy John surgery. After missing most of 2015 and ’16, Cobb returned last year and looked good (3.66 ERA, 179 innings). History has shown he’ll continue to get stronger as he gets further away from the surgery date.
Look, the Red Sox have rotation problems. If you disagree with my assessment of the five guys that are earmarked to make the opening day rotation, you’re perfectly entitled to do that. I don’t think anyone can argue that the depth and inconsistency isn’t a real cause for concern. Unless Chris Sale has gone into Tom Brady methods of sustaining peak performance, he’s likely to break down again. It’d be great to get him a few extra days here and there, but Brian Johnson, Steven Wright and Eduardo Rodriguez are not the answer. Alex Cobb very well may be.
Written by: Brian Borders (@bborders12)