Red Sox

If Red Sox hope to upgrade rotation in free agency, beyond one big name, they'll find pickings slim

If Red Sox hope to upgrade rotation in free agency, beyond one big name, they'll find pickings slim

BOSTON -- As recently as April, the Red Sox could still credibly claim to be built around their rotation. Now, that rotation could use an overhaul.

The economics of their staff make that virtually impossible. Three more years and $96 million remain on David Price's $217 million contract. Chris Sale's five-year, $145 million extension doesn't even kick in until next season. Nathan Eovaldi may finish year one of his four-year, $68 million deal with only four starts.

Those contracts look immovable, unless the Red Sox are prepared to eat an obscene amount of money. With Eduardo Rodriguez still under team control and Andrew Cashner never anything more than a rental, that leaves one spot to upgrade: Rick Porcello.

The right-hander is in the midst of a brutal season and it's unlikely the Red Sox will extend the free-agent-to-be a qualifying offer, because there's a chance he'd take it and lock in a one-year, $18 million salary.

The Red Sox would be better served spending that money on new blood, but what are their options?

An examination of the free-agent market shows one bonafide ace: Houston's Gerrit Cole. The right-hander is 13-5 with a 2.87 ERA and league-leading 216 strikeouts. He's been on the AL All-Star team the past two seasons and will probably finish in the top five of the Cy Young voting for the third time in his career. He turns 29 next month.

He's also looking at a $150 million-$200 million contract and it's difficult to envision the Red Sox committing that much money to another starter without removing one of the big three from their books. Let's consider Cole too rich for their blood.

So, whom does that leave? Per MLB Trade Rumors, there should be around 40 starters on the market, though a number of recognizable names -- Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, Julio Teheran, Corey Kluber -- either hold opt-outs they're unlikely to exercise, or options that should be picked up.

If we operate on a couple of assumptions, we can further narrow the pool. The first is that the Price and Sale contracts have hardened the stance of owner John Henry that free-agent pitchers in their 30s aren't worth major investments. That eliminates San Francisco's Madison Bumgarner (30), L.A.'s Hyun-Jin Ryu (33), Pittsburgh's Chris Archer (31) and Chicago's Cole Hamels (36).

The second is that a rotation featuring extensive durability issues can't afford another iffy arm from a health perspective. That eliminates Washington's Stephen Strasburg (if he opts out of the final four years and $100 million remaining on his deal), Seattle's Felix Hernandez, Philadelphia's Drew Smyly, and old friend Rich Hill, who turns 40 in March.

Then there's stuff. The Red Sox prefer strikeout pitchers who can work up in the zone and miss bats. That eliminates Oakland's Brett Anderson (4.5 K/9), Houston's shockingly effective Wade Miley (7.6), who they've had before, and Atlanta's sinker-balling Dallas Keuchel (6.8).

Guess what's left? Not much! One possibility would be Mets right-hander Zack Wheeler, who turns 30 in May and has already missed two seasons to Tommy John surgery. Two strikes against him, right? Possibly. But he hasn't missed a start in two years, and he hasn't even thrown 700 innings in his career. As a means of comparison, when the Red Sox signed Price at the same age, he had thrown over 1,400. That's a lot of wear.

Wheeler has touched 100 mph while also watching his 4.20 ERA suffer behind a woeful Mets defense. Depending on how many years he commands on the open market, he could be a target, though he's likely to receive a qualifying offer, which would cost the Red Sox a draft pick.

Another option is Cincinnati's Alex Wood, a 2017 All-Star with the Dodgers. Back spasms sidelined him until July 28, but a lifetime 3.29 ERA speaks to his ability. His injury history makes him a risk -- perhaps a low-cost one.

Then there's Minnesota's Jake Odorizzi. He made his first All-Star team this year at 29, though his ERA has climbed from 1.92 in early June to 3.61 today. He posted a 3.82 ERA over three seasons in the AL East with Tampa, for whatever that's worth.

And that's about it, unless you're interested in guys like Tanner Roark, Jhoulys Chacin, or Kyle Gibson. If this little exercise makes anything clear, it's that upgrading the rotation is likely going to require a foray into the trade market, which means this could be one busy offseason -- but that's a story for another day.

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MLB Rumors: Red Sox interested in a reunion with Rick Porcello

MLB Rumors: Red Sox interested in a reunion with Rick Porcello

The Boston Red Sox may be trying to cut some payroll this offseason, but that isn't going to stop them from targeting some free agents. And that may include one of their own.

According to Jason Mastrodonato of The Boston Herald, the Red Sox are having talks with Rick Porcello about a potential reunion. While the Red Sox may be interested in Porcello, Mastrodonato wrote that "it's unclear how aggressive the Red Sox will be in their pursuit."

He also noted that a short-term, incentive-based contract may make sense for both sides.

Porcello, soon to be 31, has spent the past five seasons with the Red Sox after being acquired in exchange for Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Wilson, and Gabe Speier. He won the Cy Young Award in his second year with the team, 2016, but he has had issues in the seasons since that campaign.

In 2019, Porcello endured his worst campaign as a pro, logging a career-worst 5.52 ERA and 7.4 K/9, his worst mark since joining the Red Sox. Still, he posted a 14-12 record and still profiles as a solid back-end starter because of his ability to eat innings.

We'll soon see if the Red Sox end up being involved in the Porcello sweepstakes. If they are involved, they will have competition and may find themselves facing off with the likes of the New York Mets, who reportedly have an interest in Porcello.

Where Porcello ranks among the MLB's top 10 free agent starting pitchers>>>

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Travis Shaw says return to Boston Red Sox 'makes sense on paper'

Travis Shaw says return to Boston Red Sox 'makes sense on paper'

After being non-tendered by the Milwaukee Brewers, could a return to the Boston Red Sox be in order for Travis Shaw?

With Mitch Moreland hitting free agency, the Red Sox should be in the market for a left-handed-hitting first baseman. That makes Shaw an obvious fit, and the 29-year-old agrees a reunion with Boston would make sense.

Shaw discussed the situation with Rob Bradford on WEEI's Bradfo Sho podcast

"I got non-tendered this week. It was kind of a hard decision. The Brewers did offer me but I decided I kind of wanted a fresh start and was willing to risk to see what was out there free agent-wise," Shaw told Bradford. "Just wanted a fresh start after everything that happened last year. Like you said, [signing with the Red Sox] makes sense on paper now we’ll see with who else call or what other teams call. That’s kind of what we’re sorting through now. We’ve had quite a bit of interest so far over this week which is an encouraging sign for me. We’ll just go from there."

Before the 2017 season, the Red Sox traded Shaw to the Brewers in the deal that brought reliever Tyler Thornburg to Boston. In his first two years with Milwaukee, Shaw was an integral part of the offense with 30+ home runs and an OPS well above .800. Last season, however, Shaw missed some time with a wrist injury and saw his production dip significantly.

Assuming Shaw can return to the type of player we saw in '17 and '18, he makes for an intriguing option for Boston in free agency. Along with his potential at the plate, Shaw brings versatility to the table as he can adequately play multiple positions.

Right-handed sluggers Michael Chavis and Bobby Dalbec currently are the Red Sox' options at first base. Chavis was solid in his 2019 rookie campaign, and Dalbec enters 2020 as one of the organization's top prospects.

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