Despite what some people might lead you to believe, the Boston Red Sox’s 2016 rotation wasn’t a disaster. However, the club still has some work to do this offseason.
The Red Sox rotation’s 4.22 ERA was the eighth-best in Major League Baseball and the third-best in the American League behind the two teams fighting for the AL pennant: the Cleveland Indians and the Toronto Blue Jays. Boston’s starters also had the third-most wins in the league (68) and the fifth-most innings pitched (969 1/3), so the Red Sox did get the production they needed from their top five guys.
But they do need to beef up the back end of their rotation, and they might have to get creative to do so.
Jeremy Hellickson, Jered Weaver and Rich Hill probably are the best starters on the market this offseason, so that tells you all you need to know about 2017’s free agent class. With plenty of teams in need of starting pitching, the Red Sox probably won’t get much cooking on the hot stove.
It’s also likely Boston doesn’t do anything too Earth-shattering before the club gets a good look at what it has in spring training. David Price and Rick Porcello are the clear Nos. 1 and 2, but behind them, the Red Sox actually have a surplus of options. Provided the Red Sox pick up Clay Buchholz’s team option for 2017, they’d have him, Eduardo Rodriguez, Drew Pomeranz and Steven Wright to choose from. But there still are questions surrounding all of them.
Red Sox manager John Farrell said Tuesday that Pomeranz is a starter despite finishing the season in the bullpen, so the left-hander will factor in somehow. Still, the Red Sox saw just 13 starts from Pomeranz in a Boston uniform, so it’s not clear what spot in the rotation he’ll occupy. Buchholz and Rodriguez both ended their seasons strong, but they had an abysmal first half. Wright finished his season on the disabled list with an injury in his throwing shoulder, so it remains to be seen how that affects his already uncontrollable knuckleball.
The Red Sox’s farm system is deep, so if any of those four starters continue to struggle, it won’t hurt the club to deal one or two for a back-end starter. They also have five major-league catchers on their current roster (Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez, Blake Swihart, Ryan Hanigan and Bryan Holaday), so the Red Sox could use one of them as a piece if they want to trade for someone better. They also could use one of their prospects for themselves if anyone stands out in spring training. Brian Johnson, for example, is on the rise since taking a break this past season to get treatment for anxiety.
The Red Sox don’t need to make any major changes to their rotation, and it would be smart of them to take it slow. Plus, they could find teams coming to them, as this year’s free agent class isn’t very exciting all around. Boston will have a lot of leverage to better its rotation this offseason, so it should be interesting to see what the club does.
Thumbnail photo via Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports Images