The Boston Red Sox have spent big money in the offseason before, as recently as last season. The two major acquisitions last season were Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez. Both of these players struggled mightily in their first year in a Red Sox uniform. The best move the team made last season was hiring former Detroit Tigers GM, Dave Dombrowski. Following the midseason change in the front office, the Sox played like a different team, finishing with one of the best second half records in baseball. A major reason for this finish has to do with the young talent on this team, more specifically Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts.
This offseason, Dombrowski addressed what this team needed badly, pitching. Pitching is the key to a championship run in today’s game. While the Sox only added one starter, they got the ace they wanted in David Price. Price has much experience in the AL East, having pitched for Tampa Bay earlier in his career and finishing last season in a Toronto Blue Jays uniform. Price’s contract may be a bit much given his age, 30 years old. However, the Sox needed an ace badly and Price will produce such numbers for at least a few more years. More importantly, the Sox added bullpen talent in closer Craig Kimbrel and set up man Carson Smith. Both guys are great pitchers and are both younger, Kimbrel is 27 and Smith is 26. Kimbrel brings a career 1.63 ERA to the Sox and offers as good of a guarantee as one can find closing out the game. Smith served his first true season in the big leagues last year; he delivered a 2.31 ERA with 92 strikeouts in 70 innings. With Smith starting the season on the DL, former Sox closer Koji Uehera will serve as the set up man for Kimbrel.
While this offseason has been the best in years for the organization, there is still a major problem in our starting rotation, which pitcher will step up behind new ace David Price? Clay Buchholz has proven he can be a reliable number two option and sometimes he even pitches like a number one. However, if betting in Vegas, Buchholz serving time on the DL is one of the most reliable bets one can make. Buchholz went on the DL for the fifth straight season last year. Along with injuries, Buchholz has struggled with inconsistency throughout his career. A number two pitcher should bring stability to the clubhouse and Buchholz just hasn’t done that yet.
Another guy that could step up is the “big” pitching signing last offseason, Rick Porcello. Porcello, a ground ball pitcher who relies on his sinking two seamer had his best season in 2014 with the Detroit Tigers. As a result, the Sox signed him in the offseason and gave him a mind blowing 4 year $82.5 million contract. Former Sox GM, Ben Cherington, offered this contract to Porcello. Porcello’s cumulative season numbers last year, a 4.92 ERA and 1.36 WHIP, represent a pitcher that was overpaid. However, following the Dombrowski signing, Porcello turned in a very strong end of the season, starting in August with a seven-inning shutout on the road against the White Sox. In September, Porcello had a 3.74 ERA with a 1.22 WHIP, while averaging more than a strikeout per inning. In Porcello’s one start in October, he pitched seven strong innings of two run ball. Maybe having the familiar face around in Dombrowski led to a rejuvenated Porcello. If he picks up where he left off from last year, Porcello could change the opinion Sox nation has formulated of him.
The key to the Sox rotation is second year man Eduardo Rodriguez. One of the better moves in recent years for the Sox was acquiring Rodriguez from the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for one-year rental Andrew Miller. In his rookie year with the Sox, Rodriguez was very impressive. Some may wonder why he is the key piece to their rotation this year based off his 3.85 ERA and 1.29 WHIP last season. The answer to that is that he offers the most upside in the rotation beside Price. Similar with Porcello, Rodriguez closed out his season very strong, having a 2.22 ERA in September. With Price mentoring him as a fellow lefty, the two could form a dynamic duo as Rodriguez looks to take that next step in his second season.
The starting rotation is really the only question mark I see for this team. I strongly believe if the three question marks- Buchholz, Porcello and Rodriguez don’t live up to expectations by the deadline, Dombrowski will add a starter or two as this team is starting pitching depth away from another World Series. All they really need from their secondary pitchers is six innings allowing three to four runs and then handing the ball off to the strong bullpen. The Sox do not need elite secondary pitchers as their offense is loaded and the youth to compliment the veterans should easily have this team as a top three offense, and likely the best in all of baseball. With all of this said, how will the Sox fare this season? I loved their offseason and I love this team’s chances this year.
Second place in the AL East behind the Toronto Blue Jays.
AL Wildcard team.
Losing in the World Series to former GM, Theo Epstein’s Chicago Cubs.