Boston Red Sox Free Agency Grades: Wacha not worth $7 million

Michael Wacha #52 of the Tampa Bay Rays (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
Michael Wacha #52 of the Tampa Bay Rays (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) /

The Boston Red Sox finally made their first move of free agency after being rumored to be involved with just about every player available. The move the Sox made was a one year deal worth $7 million for former Tampa Bays starting pitcher Michael Wacha. It’s not a huge move, and it almost certainly won’t be the last pitcher Boston brings in this offseason.

On paper, the move makes at least a little bit of sense for the Sox. They needed starting pitching coming into the offseason, and that was before Eduardo Rodriguez signed with the Detroit Tigers. Wacha seems primed to help fill in the back end of the rotation as of now, but whether or not that’s actually a good thing remains to be seen.

Wacha could turn out to be a steal, especially if he ends up rediscovering his form from earlier in his career. But he’s really just been a wildly inconsistent pitcher throughout his career, and that’s who Boston is paying for. The truth is Wacha is not worth the $7 million price tag the Sox handed him, and on the surface, this seems like a head scratching move from Boston’s front office.

The Boston Red Sox overpaid for Michael Wacha when they probably didn’t have to

Wacha finished his only season with the Tampa Bay Rays with a 3-5 record and an ugly 5.05 ERA through 29 appearences, 23 of which were starts. For the first part of the season, Wacha was used as an opener of sorts for Tampa, and it didn’t go horribly for the Rays. But once they started extending his innings, Wacha responded by giving up more and more runs.

Throughout his career, Wacha has demonstrated the ability to be a dominant pitcher. He burst onto the scene in 2013 to help the St. Louis Cardinals reach the World Series, and he was an All Star in 2015. But since 2015, Wacha has only had one season where his ERA sat below four, and the once promising pitcher has been left wondering where things went wrong.

At this stage of his career, Wacha can’t be counted on to return to the pitcher he was once was, and that feels like what the Sox are paying for. Wacha made just $3 million last season, and he didn’t really do anything to warrant a significant pay raise as he hit the open market this offseason. While $7 million isn’t exactly a lot in the MLB, the fact that Wacha more than doubled his salary from last season is a little bit unsettling.

It seems a bit foolish to assume the Boston Red Sox were really bidding against anyone here, to the point where they had to shell out this sum of cash to land Wacha. If it doesn’t work out they can admittedly cut ties whenever, but it would have been much more reasonable to try to improve their offer for a guy like Steven Matz, who just signed a four year, $44 million deal with the Cardinals earlier in the week.

Realistically, Wacha seems like a replacement for the likes of Garrett Richards and Martin Perez. They combined to make $17 million between the two of them (Richards: $10 million, Perez: $7 million) but they both were so bad that they got removed from the starting rotation entirely and were virtually useless during their playoff run. Unless Wacha finally figures things out, this is what that deal will most likely become.

Wacha has a higher ceiling than either Richards or Perez, but expecting him to be able to hit that ceiling is unreasonable. Rather than replacing Richards or Perez, this team should have tried to find a replacement for Rodriguez. Even if you want to slot in Wacha at the end of the rotation, did this rotation really get any better considering they added a guy who had an ERA above five last season?

Final Grade: C-

Next. Jeurys Familia could be the solution in the pen for Boston. dark

This feels like a wishful overpay from Chaim Bloom and the Boston Red Sox front office. You figured they would have learned their lesson about shelling out money for inconsistent starters after Richards and Perez flopped so badly last season, but they are right back at it again this offseason. We have seen the Sox resurrect players careers, such as Nick Pivetta and Christian Arroyo last season, but you can’t expect every reclamation project to succeed.

Adding Wacha for somewhere near what he made last season would have been reasonable, but $7 million is nothing but an overpay as of right now. Maybe Boston’s pitching staff can help Wacha get back on track, but given his track record recently, that just doesn’t seem likely to happen. I’m hoping Wacha can prove me wrong, but this isn’t an encouraging start to free agency for Boston.