1. Tanner Houck
Houck has had a complicated relationship with the Red Sox. He was the club's first-round pick in the 2017 draft and climbed the minor leagues quickly before making his debut at the big-league level in 2020. He was a rare bright spot during that pitiful Red Sox season, winning all three games that he started with a 0.53 ERA and 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings.
Flashforward to 2023, Houck reached a career high and innings pitched with 106. His ERA skyrocketed to 5.01, and 1.37 walks and hits per innings pitched also marked a career high. He missed extensive time last season after suffering a facial fracture when he was struck by a line drive in June.
Houck is assuredly capable of bouncing back from his 2023 campaign, his raw talent is too good and he is still only 27. He "earns" the number one spot because he likely holds the most trade value of any of the current Red Sox arms not named Brayan Bello.
Per The Athletic's Jen McCaffrey, Houck's contract situation could also help make him a more attractive asset in a trade package. His contract is pre-arbitration, and he will earn around only $770,000 this season. McCaffrey continues on to suggest that a package involving Houck could be used to acquire a frontline starter.
At this point, it looks like the Red Sox will be trying to add to their rotation primarily through free agency (Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Blake Snell, or Jordan Montgomery) or potentially swinging a trade for Dylan Cease, or some combination of both. Boston could quickly find themselves in a logjam in their rotation, with Houck subsequently rendered expendable.
If the opportunity presents itself to swap Houck for a contributing position player or front of the rotation starter, Breslow shouldn't hesitate to pull the trigger.
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