The Red Sox’s roster could look very different come Opening Day. Or most of Boston’s pieces might remain intact.

It all depends on the vision new chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has for the organization, which moved on from president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski amid a disappointing 2019.

One thing is clear, however: the Red Sox’s pitching needs to improve in 2020. And that turnaround begins with the rotation, where unpredictability surrounds several of Boston’s hurlers.

Chris Sale, David Price, Nathan Eovaldi and Eduardo Rodriguez all remain under contract, with the first three on particularly expensive deals. It’s hard to bank on any of them, though, as Sale, Price and Eovaldi battled injuries and inconsistency this past season while Rodriguez’s performance exceeded his career norms.

Nevertheless, the Red Sox seemingly need a No. 5 starter at the moment, as Rick Porcello is a free agent and there is very little help down on the farm. Boston could deploy an opener (Bloom made the practice popular with the Tampa Bay Rays), thus eliminating the need for a fifth starter, or even deal from the aforementioned quartet of remaining pitchers to really shake up the rotation. But let’s assume the Red Sox will explore free agency, at the very least to see what’s out there.

Of course, any foray into free agency poses a problem for the Red Sox, who have a stated desire to get under the $208 million luxury tax threshold yet already boast a payroll far exceeding that number, especially now that slugger J.D. Martinez (and his $23.75 million salary) has decided to stick around. So, Bloom might need to tweak other areas of the roster to facilitate a free agent signing, and even then, it’s unlikely the Red Sox will consider making a sizeable splash on the open market.

As such, let’s eliminate the top available starters. So, no Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, Zack Wheeler, Madison Bumgarner, Dallas Keuchel or Hyun-Jin Ryu. Even the likes of Cole Hamels, Jake Odorizzi, Kyle Gibson and Michael Pineda might be too rich for Boston’s blood.

Instead, we’ll focus on the next tier, identifying a few names that could be of interest, while also acknowledging that the trade market and other bargain-level free agent starters ultimately might be more realistic given the Red Sox’s current payroll constraints.

Alas, here are seven options to consider, with the ages reflecting how old they’ll be on Opening Day. An emphasis was placed on durability in compiling this list, as the Red Sox need a reliable innings-eater given the health questions scattered throughout the rest of the rotation as constructed.

1. Rick Porcello, RHP, 31
FanGraphs free agent ranking: 31
MLB Trade Rumors free agent ranking: 31
The Athletic free agent ranking: 24

Projected contract, per FanGraphs: Two years, $18 million ($9 million AAV)
Projected contract, per MLB Trade Rumors: One year, $11 million
Projected contract, per The Athletic: One year, $9 million

2019 stats (with Red Sox): 32 starts, 174 1/3 innings, 14-12 record, 5.52 ERA, 4.76 FIP, 1.39 WHIP, 7.4 K/9

Porcello is a known quantity in terms of his leadership, his demeanor and what he brings to the Red Sox’s clubhouse on a consistent basis. Sure, his 2016 Cy Young Award-winning season seems like an aberration in hindsight and he’s coming off an awful 2019, but Porcello is a strong leader, a consummate professional and someone who takes the ball every fifth day with a compete level that’s matched by few across Major League Baseball.

2. Rich Hill, LHP, 40
FanGraphs free agent ranking: 37
MLB Trade Rumors free agent ranking: 46
The Athletic free agent ranking: 31

Projected contract, per FanGraphs: One year, $8 million
Projected contract, per MLB Trade Rumors: One year, $6 million
Projected contract, per The Athletic: One year, $8 million

2019 stats (with Dodgers): 13 starts, 58 2/3 innings, 4-1 record, 2.45 ERA, 4.10 FIP, 1.13 WHIP, 11.0 K/9

This runs counter to the whole durability thing, as Hill hasn’t topped 25 starts or 135 innings since 2007. But he’s a local guy who resurrected his career with the Red Sox in 2015 and figures to be attainable on an inexpensive one-year deal. The upside is worth considering as Hill nears the end of his MLB journey.

3. Adam Wainwright, RHP, 38
FanGraphs free agent ranking: 29
MLB Trade Rumors free agent ranking: 40
The Athletic free agent ranking: 22

Projected contract, per FanGraphs: One year, $10 million
Projected contract, per MLB Trade Rumors: One year, $8 million
Projected contract, per The Athletic: One year, $10 million

2019 stats (with Cardinals): 31 starts, 171 2/3 innings, 14-10 record, 4.19 ERA, 4.36 FIP, 1.43 WHIP, 8.0 K/9

This isn’t the same Wainwright who earned three All-Star selections and finished in the top three in National League Cy Young voting in four of his five healthy seasons from 2009 to 2014. It’s also hard to imagine him pitching for anyone other than the Cardinals after spending his entire 15-year career with St. Louis. But he showed in 2019 he still has something left in the tank, thanks in part to his nasty curveball, and so maybe the Red Sox could squeeze another season out of him.

4. Tanner Roark, RHP, 33
FanGraphs free agent ranking: 28
MLB Trade Rumors free agent ranking: 20
The Athletic free agent ranking: 35

Projected contract, per FanGraphs: One year, $10 million
Projected contract, per MLB Trade Rumors: Two years, $18 million ($9 million AAV)
Projected contract, per The Athletic: One year, $5 million

2019 stats (with Reds and Athletics): 31 starts, 165 1/3 innings, 10-10 record, 4.35 ERA, 4.67 FIP, 1.40 WHIP, 8.6 K/9

Roark is sturdy, making at least 30 starts in five of the last six seasons (he didn’t in 2015 because he was moved to the bullpen) and never landing on the injured list. That makes him a valuable commodity, especially for a team in the Red Sox’s position, even if his performance doesn’t jump off the page and instead reflects a perfectly capable No. 4 or No. 5 starter.

5. Wade Miley, LHP, 33
FanGraphs free agent ranking: 32
MLB Trade Rumors free agent ranking: 24
The Athletic free agent ranking: N/A

Projected contract, per FanGraphs: One year, $9 million
Projected contract, per MLB Trade Rumors: Two years, $16 million ($8 million AAV)
Projected contract, per The Athletic: N/A

2019 stats (with Astros): 33 starts, 167 1/3 innings, 14-6 record, 3.98 ERA, 4.51 FIP, 1.35 WHIP, 7.5 K/9

Yes, the Red Sox have been down this road before, with Miley having an up-and-down 2015 for a last-place Boston team. In fact, his brief tenure was known as much for his dugout confrontation with then-manager John Farrell than anything he did on the mound. But Miley still is a stable southpaw who’s capable of inducing weak contact. He’s made at least 29 starts in seven of the last eight seasons and is coming off a relatively strong 2019 with the defending AL champs.

6. Gio Gonzalez, LHP, 34
FanGraphs free agent ranking: 40
MLB Trade Rumors free agent ranking: N/A
The Athletic free agent ranking: N/A

Projected contract, per FanGraphs: One year, $8 million
Projected contract, per MLB Trade Rumors: N/A
Projected contract, per The Athletic: N/A

2019 stats (with Brewers): 19 appearances (17 starts), 87 1/3 innings, 3-2 record, 3.50 ERA, 4.04 FIP, 1.29 WHIP, 8.0 K/9

Maybe he isn’t the same pitcher who won 21 games and finished third in NL Cy Young voting in 2012, although he finished sixth for the award in 2017 after going 15-9 with a 2.96 ERA for the Nationals. But he’s been rather consistent throughout his career, logging at least 27 starts in nine of the last 10 seasons, and showed signs in 2019 of being able to operate with a diminished repertoire as he enters his mid-30s.

7. Ivan Nova, RHP, 33
FanGraphs free agent ranking: N/A
MLB Trade Rumors free agent ranking: 48
The Athletic free agent ranking: N/A

Projected contract, per FanGraphs: N/A
Projected contract, per MLB Trade Rumors: One year, $6 million
Projected contract, per The Athletic: N/A

2019 stats (with White Sox): 34 starts, 187 innings, 11-12 record, 4.72 ERA, 4.98 FIP, 1.46 WHIP, 5.5 K/9

Nova doesn’t strike out many guys. But he also doesn’t walk many. And most importantly, he takes the ball when called upon, evidenced by him making at least 26 starts in each of the last four seasons, and has the potential to go on runs, evidenced by him posting a 3.02 ERA in a 17-start stretch in 2019.

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