Michael Wacha Free Agency: Case For Red Sox Banking On More Success

Wacha led the Red Sox in wins this season


Nov 3, 2022

The Red Sox pitching staff was paced by a somewhat unlikely source in the 2022 Major League Baseball season.

It wasn’t 2021 All-Star Nathan Eovaldi, who was in line to be Boston’s ace for the bulk of the campaign with Chris Sale sidelined. Nor was it Garrett Whitlock, who turned heads as a rookie and was given a shot to prove himself in the starting rotation. To the surprise of many, it was Michael Wacha, who signed with the Red Sox before the MLB lockout and was largely excellent in his first season in Boston.

Wacha’s 3.32 ERA led all Red Sox starters and his 11 wins were a team high. The veteran right-hander became somewhat of a “stopper” for Boston, as he excelled in turning the tides for a ballclub that struggled throughout the season.

Chaim Bloom and company now have a decision to make on Wacha, who played the 2022 campaign on a one-year deal. Here’s a case for the Red Sox to bring back Wacha in hopes of sustained success, as well as a counterargument.

2022 stats
23 starts (127 1/3 innings)
11-2, 3.32 ERA
104 strikeouts, 31 walks
1.12 WHIP, .233 opponent batting average

The case for re-signing Wacha
Pitching should be a priority this offseason for the Red Sox, who will enter the winter with major question marks hovering over their entire staff. Eovaldi also is an impending free agent and might be able to fetch a more appealing offer elsewhere. Sale, meanwhile, has a concerning injury history and no longer is a trusted option. Wacha probably is in line for a raise from his $7 million salary in 2021, but he still shouldn’t be much of a financial burden for Boston’s front office. The 31-year-old also has publicly vocalized his love for the organization and the city, perhaps opening the door for a discount.

Knowing exactly what you’re getting from a pitcher is invaluable in the big leagues, and Wacha provides this luxury to the Red Sox. The 10-year veteran is a pro’s pro who knows how to pitch, typically avoids hard contact and isn’t a frequent visitor to the injured list. Boston shouldn’t retain Wacha with the idea of him being a front-of-the-rotation horse, but having a familiar arm at the back end who’s capable of providing a quality start every five days would be a major plus for the Red Sox. It also doesn’t hurt that Wacha has plenty of postseason experience and could be both a long reliever or opener for Boston if it plays deep into October next season.

The case against re-signing Wacha
The Red Sox were able to ink Wacha to such a team-friendly deal last year because he didn’t offer much to write home about in 2021. He was perceived to be a great fit for the Rays, who’ve proven to be among the league’s best in identifying pitching talent and managing a staff. But Wacha struggled in his lone season with Tampa Bay, logging a 5.05 ERA across 124 2/3 innings (23 starts). He also labored through the final season of his seven-year run with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2019, recording a 4.76 ERA and career-worst 1.56 WHIP over 126 2/3 frames (24 starts).

Those recent woes, including a forgettable 2020 campaign with the New York Mets, suggest Wacha’s strong debut season with the Red Sox was an anomaly. Furthermore, one could argue Boston should prioritize making a bigger splash by signing a pitcher who could help stabilize their rotation for years to come. Jacob deGrom and Carlos Rodón are among the options who could intrigue a Red Sox front office that will have money to spend this winter.

Thumbnail photo via Paul Rutherford/USA TODAY Sports Images
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