Even if David Price ends up missing the 2017 season, things still could be worse for the Boston Red Sox.
Red Sox manager John Farrell announced Wednesday that the left-handed starter is experiencing elbow and forearm soreness in his pitching arm and will see Tommy John surgery specialist Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion. By all accounts, that’s terrible news for Boston, although the extent of Price’s injury is unclear. But the team hasn’t exactly been caught with its pants down.
Not all the way, at least.
Trading for Chris Sale this offseason gives the Red Sox plenty of insurance in their rotation. The big lefty has been just as good as Price, if not better, in his career, so it’s not as though there will be a huge hole atop the rotation if Price does need surgery and/or misses significant time.
Boston also still has reigning American League Cy Young winner Rick Porcello. And if knuckleballer Steven Wright returns from his shoulder injury and back to his 2016 form and southpaws Eduardo Rodriguez and Drew Pomeranz pitch how they’re capable of pitching, the Red Sox could be A-OK.
(Admittedly, those are some big “ifs.”)
Although Price’s injury doesn’t necessarily hurt the rotation, it highlights a huge lack of starting depth in the Red Sox’s system. Boston can get by if everyone else stays healthy and pitches well enough. But if they don’t, the club isn’t exactly lining up All-Stars behind them.
If another pitcher were to go down, the Red Sox’s main competitors for a starting spot would be Henry Owens, Brian Johnson, Roenis Elias and newcomers Kyle Kendrick and Hector Velazquez.
Owens’ and Elias’ shaky track records bring their value way down, while Johnson has a lot of potential but missed a big chunk of last season seeking treatment for anxiety. Johnson’s improved mental health should help his game, but the fact that the extent of his major league career is one start in 2015 makes him a wild card.
Kendrick is a veteran with major league experience who’s had up-and-down results. Velazquez is the Red Sox’s most intriguing depth option, having only ever pitched in the Mexican League, but he’s still just one guy with plenty of questions about his big league capabilities.
With the state the Red Sox are in now, it’s hard not to look back on some past moves, most recently sending Clay Buchholz to the Philadelphia Phillies for second base prospect Josh Tobias. It’s not as though Buchholz would have provided sure stability, but he’s a major league starter, nonetheless. The point is, in being aggressive to build a fearsome rotation for right now — which isn’t necessarily a bad thing — the Red Sox’s depth ended up falling by the wayside.
As far as how this all could affect the Red Sox in the long run this season, their stock in the American League East shouldn’t take a huge hit. The New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles have more holes in their respective rotations, and the Tampa Bay Rays are banking on pretty much all of their starters returning to form after a terrible pitching year in 2016. Beyond that, however, the Red Sox could be in trouble if they find themselves in a must-win situation in the playoffs.
In other words, the Red Sox aren’t exactly in dire straits, even though their World Series chances inherently would take a hit with Price sidelined.
Thumbnail photo via Adam Hunger/USA TODAY Sports Images