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MLB: What the Red Sox Rotation should look like Opening Day 2023.

The Boston Red Sox went through a season that was kind of like a rollercoaster ride. On this rollercoaster the highs were pretty high, and the lows were pretty low. From May 27 to June 21, they went 27-12 after being 10-19 to that point. Then ended up going 5-15 from July 1st to the 24th. Which included a stretch where they lost nine out of 10. While also being outscored 67-13 during a five-game losing streak. Which is as equally bad of a reflection on the rotation as it is the lineup.

From then on, it never really went back up for the team from Beantown. The talk switched from, will they make a push for the Wildcard? To will Xander Bogaerts stay in town? While the Bogaerts contract issue is a hot button topic/priority, there is something else that could be just about as equally important if they want to make the playoffs in 2023.

One of the most inconsistent parts of the team was the pitching. At times it was more the rotation than the bullpen, and other times it was more the bullpen than the rotation. We will focus on the rotation, because in my opinion, if you don’t have a solid rotation, you won’t get very far.

Below, I will outline what I think the Red Sox starting rotation should look like come March 30, 2023.

Rotation Spot #1: Chris Sale

This past season the “injury bug” seemed to never leave Sale’s side. After recovering from a lingering rib injury, the 33 year-old came back in July. Only to barely get any time in uniform (5.2 IP), before he broke his left pinky from a hard line drive off the bat of New York Yankees Outfielder Aaron Hicks. While he was trying to come back from that injury, he broke his left wrist (throwing hand) in a bicycle accident. That bike accident led to Sale missing the rest of the season.

Even with Sale having the “injury bug”, when he’s healthy, #41 is one of the top pitchers in the league. The 2018 season was the last time he went over 150.0 IP, Sale’s stat line looked like this: 12-4, 2.11 ERA, 237 K/34 BB and a 0.86 WHIP.

Those are the type of numbers the Sox will need to start off strong and stay that way next season. There’s no saying that if he’s healthy the lefty couldn’t do that, if not better. Not to mention, with the money still owed to him ($27.5 million player option for 2023), they need him to stay healthy/perform well.

SP #2: Nathan Eovaldi

Should be almost no surprise here. Eovaldi is a free agent this off-season, but he seems to love Boston, meaning he’s keeping the door wide open for a return. That return may have to come with a bit of a discount though. More so if Xander Bogaerts opts out and they sign him back. “Nasty Nate” made $17 million each of the 4 years of his expiring deal. Being 32 years old and wanting to win, he’d hopefully take a deal around the 3 yr/$8-10 million mark.

The Houston native was an All-Star, and top 5 in Cy Young Voting just two seasons ago. Eovaldi was a huge part of the Sox 2018 World Series title run. Being brought in halfway through that season and pitching almost impeccably throughout the playoffs. He’s a fan favorite, and loves the city/team. His overall consistency is a safe haven that should stay behind the “ace” in Sale.

SP #3: James Paxton 

“Big Maple” as the 6-foot-4 native Canadian is aptly nicknamed, never saw the mound in a Red Sox uni last season. Recovering from Tommy John surgery in 2021, Paxton only made it as far as the FGCL in Fort Myers. During a rehab start in mid-August, he suffered a “Grade 2 Lat Tear” after only facing two batters.

He came to Boston last off-season on a 1 yr/$10 million deal. Which includes an interesting club/player option for next season. The Red Sox can either accept a 2 yr/$26 million club option, or decline that and make it a 1 yr/$4 million option. In all honesty, there’s only one smart option. That is to decline the club option and give the power to Paxton on whether to accept the player option.

He will be 34 years old before the start of next season. Usually older players on short deals want to prove themselves. Especially coming off of injury. That is exactly why I have confidence Paxton will accept the player option. To try to prove that the club isn’t wasting a roster spot on him.

SP #4: Garrett Whitlock

The “steal” of the 2020 Rule 5 Draft.The 26 year-old Whitlock bounced between starter and reliever last season. Mainly coming out of the bullpen (9 starts out of 31 appearances). In 78.0 IP, his SO/W ratio was 5.47 (82 K/15BB), to go along with a 3.45 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP. The fans love when he steps on the mound, not only because he shoves* every time he goes out there. Also thanks to the fact that he was “stolen” from the Yankees in the aforementioned Rule 5 Draft.

Any time the UAB alum has a solid outing, it’s like a slap in the face to the boys in the Bronx. Cora kept Whitlock for holding onto leads mostly. If he wants to have a chance to get back to the World Series, he will keep him in the rotation.

SP #5: Martin Perez/Mike Clevinger/Michael Wacha

To round out the rotation, there is a few solid options in my mind. Ones that don’t come at that much of a cost. All three come from the FA market, and two are familiar faces.

Perez

The 31 year-old Perez pitched for Boston for both the 2020 and 2021 seasons. He left to be a Texas Ranger through Free Agency this past offseason. Putting up solid numbers down in Arlington (12-8, 2.89 ERA, 7.7 K/9). Earning him his first career All-Star nod.

Toward the end of his time with the Sox his starts were always pegged as “Perez Day”. Becoming somewhat of a clubhouse and even fan favorite. If Chaim Bloom and Co., were to kick the tires on a reunion, it wouldn’t cost them an arm and a leg. Making only $4 million last year, the Venezuela native may ask for more coming off an All-Star season. But nothing that will break principal owner John Henry’s bank.

Clevinger

Another pitcher that entered this season coming off of injury, Clevinger had somewhat of a disappointing season. After a couple more-than-solid seasons in Cleveland, the man nicknamed “Sunshine”, headed to ” the “Sunshine State” via trade. Following his second Tommy John Surgery, Clevinger posted the second highest ERA and the lowest K/9 of his career.

Like Paxton, “Sunshine” seems to be a slightly older guy (32 entering 2023 season) that should want to prove himself again. Nickname wise, it would be a shame for him to leave California. Wouldn’t hurt for the Sox to take a flier and bring him back to the AL.

Wacha

The second of the familiar faces in the #5 spot options. The former NLCS MVP was the epitome of consistency in Boston this past year. When the rotation was in shambles during the injury laden times (Whitlock, Eovaldi, and Sale on IL), Wacha was the “ray of sunshine”. At least I (as a Red Sox fan), felt that way.

He’s not gonna give any team 7 or 8 innings consistently, if at all. But I think most teams would take 5 or 6 innings of shutout or 1 run ball from their starter. His postseason experience makes him the kind of veteran a team like the Red Sox should want at the back end of their rotation.

All in all, March 30, 2023 is a long way away. A lot can happen in the baseball world from now till then. Retirements, Signings, Suspensions. The list goes on. The rotation I listed above would gel well with the Red Sox’ bats. Possibly leading them back to the playoffs, and maybe even their 10th WS title. But that’s a lot to ask.

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