A recent report from Sean McAdam of the Boston Sports Journal states that the Boston Red Sox are looking for rotation depth in return for a catcher.
It may be unsettling to some fans that the Red Sox are focusing on rotation depth. The rotation was one of the strongest points on the team in 2018, especially in the postseason. Rick Porcello and David Price have both won Cy Young awards, while Chris Sale has led the American League in strikeouts twice. Nathan Eovaldi broke out in the postseason and even Eduardo Rodriguez is said to be in the best shape of his life.
However, Dave Dombrowski is a two-time World Series champion and has several reasons for making this move. First and foremost, the Sox have a recent history of bolstering the rotation and moving arms between the rotation and the bullpen.
One should not expect the same fluidity of roles as in the 2018 postseason, but the Red Sox had a lot of fluidity in the 2018 regular season. Many expected Dombrowski to go after Zack Britton or Kyle Barraclough at the trade deadline, but instead, he traded for Eovaldi. That move allowed several players to move to bullpen roles.
In 2018, Steven Wright, Hector Velazquez, and Brian Johnson all swung back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen, combining for 23 starts. The Eovaldi trade gave them room to make more appearances out of the ‘pen. Adding another starter could change the roles for one or all of those players, giving the team more arms to work within the bullpen.
Secondly, Steven Wright has admitted that his knee is not 100 percent. The team was hoping that he would be able to help out both the rotation and the bullpen this season. His possible absence means the Red Sox will need someone to step into his role from either within or outside the organization.
Dombrowski could also be preparing for Chris Sale and Rick Porcello’s free agency in 2020. While Sale and Dombrowski have both expressed interest in an extension, anything could happen. Porcello’s recent decline in performance including ERA’s of 4.65 and 4.28 in 2017 and 2018 makes his situation much more up in the air.
Finally, Dombrowski is very good at judging the trade market. He clearly saw more options in starting roles than in the rotation. So who exactly are the starters that Dombrowski could be looking at?
No matter which catcher the Red Sox trade, the fact that it will be the third-place finisher means Dombrowski cannot expect a huge haul. The Red Sox President of Baseball Operations is also keeping his cards close to his chest as always, so there are no names readily available.
It’s easiest to look at the pool of expiring contracts to see who might be available via trade. Shelby Miller, Marco Estrada, and Kyle Gibson are three names that seem like good options. However, with Dombrowski’s focus on the rotation just announced and about 40 starting pitching contracts scheduled to expire after this season, the possibilities are endless.
Dombrowski’s approach of bolstering the rotation and sending more internal pieces to the bullpen is certainly an unexpected idea. On one hand, fans should trust his genius as a two-time World Series champion. But it’s also hard to have confidence in the bullpen to step up in this position. It seems as if every bullpen player could have a different role in 2019 than in 2018.
And while wearing different hats comes with the territory of being in the bullpen, some sort of continuity is also welcome. Whatever the outcome, the sheer number of possibilities makes the Red Sox’s pitching staff one of the most interesting storylines this offseason.