Red Sox

Chris Sale's injury is only the start of a potential catastrophe in the Red Sox rotation

Chris Sale's injury is only the start of a potential catastrophe in the Red Sox rotation

BOSTON -- It turns out Dave Dombrowski flunked a test with only wrong answers, unless you count nihilism, and who chooses that? It would be like sitting for the SATs and immediately setting the Scantron sheet on fire.

Was Dombrowski really supposed to walk away from every member of a World Series-winning rotation? Of course not. But it's looking more and more like he shouldn't have kept any of them, either. That's what Starfleet cadets would call a Kobayashi Maru -- an unwinnable scenario that may very well cost Dombrowski his job.

Saturday's news that erstwhile ace Chris Sale is headed to the injured list with elbow inflammation surely set off the hull breach alarms at Fenway Park. Not only has Sale endured a trying season -- posting the worst record (6-11) and ERA (4.40) of his career -- but his $145 million contract extension doesn't even kick in until next season.

Next on Sale's agenda is a visit Dr. James Andrews, the famed orthopedist. Sometimes those exams yield good news, like when David Price learned about his unique Wolverine elbow, which has mostly held up since 2017. But Andrews is often a harbinger of Tommy John doom, which means we must steel ourselves for the possibility that Sale doesn't pitch again until 2021.

Nothing like writing off Year 1 of a nine-figure investment. The issue extends well beyond Sale, though, because outside of cost-controlled left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, every member of the rotation looks like a bad investment. The Red Sox will feel the repercussions of those decisions for years to come, with the unreliable and overpaid trio of Price, Nathan Eovaldi, and Sale on the books through 2022, 2022, and 2024, respectively.

We can't sit here and say no one saw this coming. Those of us who hated the Sale contract when he signed it this spring pointed to the way last season ended, with the left-hander virtually useless for the final three months because of a shoulder injury. He closed out the World Series, but it's telling that the Red Sox weren't comfortable using him until they had built a four-run lead in the ninth.

Owner John Henry had long opposed long-term contracts for pitchers in their 30s, at least until he blew the John Lester negotiations in 2014. Since then he has committed $217 million to Price, $145 million to Sale, and $68 million to Eovaldi, who doesn't turn 30 until February, but came with more red flags than a Chinese military parade.

Price represents a sunk cost at this point, and at least he played a starring role in last year's title, but the odds of him becoming more durable over the final three years and $96 million of his contract feel remote. His misanthropic behavior has turned off members of the organization at every level, but good luck moving on from that money. Despite his ability, he might as well be radioactive, especially with wrist tightness sending him to the IL and durability concerns following him like Pigpen's cloud of dust.

Then there's Eovaldi. For eight years, he delivered more promise than results. Then came three magical weeks in October, when ability and opportunity coalesced into a run of dominance that transformed him from a fringe free agent swingman to a starter in demand. The $68 million contract he signed is probably triple what he would've commanded if the Red Sox had missed the playoffs.

The Eovaldi deal felt like an overpay based on the emotion and euphoria of a title. The Red Sox ignored not only a history of arm surgery, including two Tommy Johns, but one of mediocrity, too. Eovaldi's lifetime ERA of 4.22 and strikeout rate of 6.9 suggested a pitcher whose results never matched his talent.

He lasted only four starts this April before undergoing yet another surgery to clean loose bodies out of his elbow. He has bounced around the bullpen since returning and is now being used as an opener, no one's idea of a good use of $17 million.

The only pitcher Dombrowski got right was Rick Porcello, whom he never seriously considered re-signing. The 30-year-old right-hander is statistically one of the worst starters in baseball, and the Red Sox will look to upgrade his rotation spot this winter.

Unfortunately, with the benefit of hindsight, we now know that Dombrowski's best approach would've been entirely impractical: let Eovaldi walk, watch Sale pitch out his contract, and try to find takers for Price and Porcello.

With the Duck Boat tracks still fresh on the warning track and champagne still soaking everyone's hair, Dombrowski decided to bring the band back.

It's hard to blame him, but oh man, has it cost him.

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Red Sox select possible Brock Holt replacement in Rule 5 draft from Astros

Red Sox select possible Brock Holt replacement in Rule 5 draft from Astros

The Red Sox didn't leave the winter meetings empty-handed after all.

On Thursday, they selected infielder Jonathan Arauz from the Astros in the Rule 5 draft. The switch-hitting infielder must spend the season on the big league roster or be offered back to the Astros for $50,000. He will compete for a roster spot as a utilityman, with the Red Sox likely moving on from free agent Brock Holt.

"He came to us highly recommended from our scouts and our analysts," VP of pro scouting Gus Quattlebaum told reporters in San Diego. "Younger guy, switch hitter, versatile glove, we think we can bounce him all around the infield. Has some work to do physically to get stronger, but we like his bat-to-ball skills, can use the field, so we're excited to give him an opportunity to compete for a utility infield position."

Arauz, 21, is a lifetime .243 hitter in the minors. Signed by the Phillies in 2014 out of Panama, he went to the Astros in the 2015 trade that sent closer Ken Giles to Houston and former No. 1 overall pick Mark Appel, among others, to Philadelphia.

He split last season between High A and Double A, hitting .249 with a career-high 11 home runs. He has spent the bulk of his minor league career at shortstop, but he also appeared in 86 games at second and 32 at third.

"We feel he can play short," Quattlebaum told reporters. "Anytime you have a young kid that you're pushing to the big leagues, the fact that he can bounce all over the infield, I think that helps his chances of sticking."

Added Quattlebaum: "We had some questions on the right side of our infield and we're looking for the most versatile athletes we can bring in to the organization. We have other guys internally that we believe in as well, but we think he can come in and compete."

The Red Sox used to be active in the Rule 5 draft in the early days of Theo Epstein, taking players like left-hander Javier Lopez, who went on to have a long career as a specialist, or speedy outfielder Adam Stern. A deep roster and farm system had left them out of the Rule 5 market in recent years, but the combination of a shallow farm system and the 26th man that will be added for the 2020 season made diving back in more palatable.

In the minor league portion of the draft, the Red Sox selected a pair of Double-A right-handers: Raynel Espinal from the Yankees and Jose Espada from the Blue Jays.

"Espinal's an older guy, he's 26 years old out of the Dominican," Quattlebaum said. "He's still recovering from Tommy John surgery, so credit our medical staff, our scouts, our analysts, they've all spoken up on all these guys that we've selected, and we came away comfortable with what we saw in the medical review. We're hopeful that he can get back, I would say sometime mid-summer. Power arm, chance to start. Wouldn't draw it up as the most cosmetic of deliveries, but our scouts and our analysts feel that he has some starter upside."

As for Espada: "Power arm," Quattlebaum said. "Missed some time last year with an elbow sprain, so not all of our scouts were able to lay eyes on him, but it's a big arm, we like the fastball-slider combo and figured it was worth a shot."

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MLB trade rumors: These 5 teams are 'in play' for Red Sox's David Price

MLB trade rumors: These 5 teams are 'in play' for Red Sox's David Price

The Boston Red Sox appear to have several potential suitors if they really want to trade starting pitcher David Price this offseason.'s Mark Feinsand reported Thursday an update on Price's situation, noting a few specific teams that have talked to the Red Sox about a potential trade for the veteran left-hander.

According to a source, the Red Sox have held trade talks with at least five clubs about David Price, the 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner who helped lead Boston to the 2018 World Series title.

Among the teams in play for Price are the Padres, Cardinals, White Sox and Reds, while the Angels have also been in contact with the Red Sox, according to sources.

One team Feinsand doesn't mention is the Toronto Blue Jays. Sportsnet reported Wednesday night that the Blue Jays have "explored taking on David Price and Jackie Bradley Jr.," but that "the cost in both dollars and prospect capital remains too high."

Acquiring Price does not come without genuine risks for these interested teams.

He is 34 years and still has three more seasons left on his contract with an annual salary of $32 million, which, before Gerrit Cole agreed to sign with the New York Yankees, was the fifth-highest yearly base salary in baseball.

Price also wasn't very durable or effective in 2019. He posted a 7-5 record with a 4.28 ERA, 128 strikeouts and 32 walks over 107 1/3 innings. Price made 22 starts this past season, eight fewer than he did in 2018.

The Red Sox reportedly are "actively" trying to trade outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., who is entering his final year of arbitration.

Boston lost a starting pitcher Thursday morning when news broke that Rick Porcello had agreed to a one-year, $10 million contract with the New York Mets. Losing both Price and Porcello in one offseason would be a real blow to a Red Sox rotation that battled injury and inconsistency throughout 2019.

Tomase: Price trade would put 2020 in jeopardy>>>

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