Red Sox

Red Sox to 'reassess' how they handle pitchers after Chris Sale injury

Red Sox to 'reassess' how they handle pitchers after Chris Sale injury

The Boston Red Sox boast the third-best offense in baseball. So, why are they currently six games out of a Wild Card spot?

You can blame the starting rotation, which owns a collective 5.05 ERA and sustained another blow this week when ace Chris Sale received a PRP injection in his left elbow that likely will sideline him for the rest of the 2019 season.

Sale joined Nathan Eovaldi and David Price among Red Sox starters who have battled injuries this season. As it turns out, all three pitchers logged fewer than 10 innings in spring training, as the Sox opted to play it safe with their starters following a run to the 2018 World Series.

In an interview Wednesday on WEEI's "Dale & Keefe," president of baseball operations admitted Boston may change that approach in 2020 based on how things played out this year.

"In the beginning of spring, we were being careful with (Sale), but he also had a little bit of a problem with his toe, so we were trying to be careful with that," Dombrowski said. "We were in a spot where David Price has come off pitching a lot in the postseason (and) Eovaldi. But I think in a situation that — it’ll definitely be something at we reassess going into next year, I’ll guarantee that part of it."

Sale, Price and Eovaldi all struggled out of the gate after their light spring training workloads, with Eovaldi hitting the 60-day disabled list less than a month into the season.

So, will Boston's starters be more involved in 2020 spring training if they're fully healthy? Dombrowski suggested that's a possibility while insisting pitchers must be handled with care.

"You always have to be careful with pitchers," Dombrowski said. "Because I think it’s proven that if a pitcher is tired, they’re more apt to be susceptible to injury. 

"... One of the things we had talked about is being in a situation where we tried to prevent injuries, which is really the thought process there. But guys still got hurt. … I think all in all, it’ll be something that we’ll sit back and assess, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we go into next spring a little bit different."

Add that to the list of several things the Red Sox must do differently in 2020 to return to championship form.

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Maybe David Price isn't as untradeable as we think for Red Sox

Maybe David Price isn't as untradeable as we think for Red Sox

David Price has caused no shortage of headaches with the Red Sox, from blowing up at Dennis Eckersley to tweeting cryptically about the White House visit to making no effort to hide his disdain for "Manager John" Farrell.

But Price also delivered when it mattered most, during the 2018 postseason, when he led the charge to a title as the de facto postseason MVP.

He seemed positioned to maintain that momentum before a wrist cyst got in the way. Though his final 2019 numbers were mediocre — 7-5, 4.28 ERA — he struck out a career-best 10.7 per nine innings and was the team's best pitcher in the first half, when he went 7-2 with a 3.24 ERA.

Because we tend to focus on the negative around here (not me, though, I only see sunshine), we often judge Price for his faults. He's no longer a 200-inning pitcher. His elbow could blow. He considers himself a great teammate, but he consistently brings negativity into the clubhouse, which multiple rival executives have noted warily.

He's too expensive. He hasn't made an All-Star team or earned a Cy Young vote since 2015. He's past his prime.

It's hard to read the preceding paragraph and think there'd be a market for him this winter, especially since he's due $96 million over the next three years. But focusing on those negatives obscures some positives that other franchises might consider.

Price is a proven ace who has won one Cy Young Award and finished second twice. He's a classic change-of-scenery candidate after four tumultuous seasons in Boston, and a club in a friendlier market — like, say, St. Louis — could make a case for reinvigorating him. For all of the concerns over his health, he has thrown nearly 400 innings since avoiding Tommy John surgery in 2017.

And most importantly, with seemingly every team in baseball on the hunt for starting pitching, why should Price be immovable, when only last year a 36-year-old Robinson Cano with five years and $120 million remaining on his contract was not?

If the Red Sox want to drop below the $208 million luxury tax threshold, removing as much of Price's $32 million salary as possible would be one way to do it that doesn't involve giving away a former MVP in his prime — jettisoning Price would open a clearer path to keeping Mookie Betts for one more season, anyway.

So what is Price worth? As free agency cranks into gear, we're actually seeing some parameters forming in the starting pitcher market. Four starters have signed contracts with average annual values of at least $10 million, from Kyle Gibson (3 years, $30 million with Rangers) to Zack Wheeler, who just agreed to leave the Mets for a five-year, $118 million deal with the Phillies. Meanwhile, righty Jake Odorizzi accepted a one-year qualifying offer from the Twins for $17.8 million, while veteran left-hander Cole Hamels inked a one-year, $18 million contract with the Braves.

The two biggest fish remain unsigned in Houston's Gerrit Cole and Washington's Stephen Strasburg, both of whom will each command nine-figure deals. Former World Series hero Madison Bumgarner, defending NL ERA champ Hyun-Jin Ryu, and possibly ex-Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel will probably earn $15-$20 million annually. And then after that the drop in talent is pretty steep, to pitchers like Rick Porcello, Michael Pineda, and Tanner Roark.

Viewed through that lens, suddenly Price feels like … an asset? The Phillies will pay Wheeler nearly $24 million a year, starting with his age-30 season, more on projection than performance. His lifetime ERA+ is 100, which is the definition of average. And whatever injury concerns exist about Price, it's worth noting that Wheeler missed all of 2015 and 2016 to Tommy John surgery.

Were Price a free agent this winter, he'd probably be in the Bumgarner/Ryu camp, a clear notch below Cole and Strasburg, but still desirable. It's hard to say what he'd earn, but even with his injury concerns, an AAV of $18 million feels like the floor. The fact that he's only signed for three more years maybe bumps that hypothetical number to $20 million annually. If the Red Sox ate $36 million, could they find a market for Price at three years and $60 million?

It doesn't sound so crazy to me, especially once you stop fixating on the negatives.

MLB's Top 10 free agent starting pitchers>>>>>

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Report: Brian Bannister leaving Red Sox to join Giants

Report: Brian Bannister leaving Red Sox to join Giants

After five seasons in Boston, Brian Bannister is taking his talents elsewhere.

The former Red Sox vice president of pitching development will join the San Francisco Giants, according to Jon Morosi of MLB Network.

Bannister was initially hired by the Red Sox as a scout in 2015. Later that year he was promoted to director of pitching analysis and development by then-Sox GM Dave Dombrowski.

In 2016, Bannister became Boston's assistant pitching coach and VP of pitching development. He was removed from the coaching staff but kept the latter title following the 2019 season.

Bannister spent five years as an MLB pitcher with the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals before pursuing a scouting/coaching career.

UPDATE (7:30 p.m. ET): Bannister confirmed his Boston exit Wednesday night in a pair of tweets thanking the Red Sox organization.

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