By Terry Cushman – @cushmanMLB
Many Red Sox fans currently view their team as a sure fire division winner, or easy wild card team at the very least. While the latter is probably true, prospects of winning the division might have taken a serious blow this week with the injury to Eduardo Rodriguez.
Drew Pomeranz has all been forgotten about as he currently recovers from injury, and is struggling mightily in the minors to solve his mechanical issues. Having won 17 games in 2017, his Fenway counterparts could surely once again use that stability he provided.
With all of the trade deadline drama over where Manny Machado will end up, which relievers will head to their new destinations, many Boston fans seem completely oblivious to the struggles their team is about to endure.
Let’s look at the rotation currently in place…
Obviously no complaints this far in terms of performance. The former Chicago White Sock has gotten stronger and more effective as the season has worn on. However, his notorious history of fading in the second half leaves a lot of question marks as to whether or not he can sustain this current pace. There is a long standing pattern for Sale’s late season disappearing act, but due to his relaxed approach in spring training, and better innings management, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt one more time.
Since the biggest goal at this point in simply winning the division, it’s reasonable to believe Price can at the very least still pitch effectively against a historically weak American League, and rack up enough wins to help Boston remain at the top. Against non-contending teams Price has looked dominant. Against great teams, he’s essentially one who flew over the cuckoo’s nest. With his diminished velocity/emotional stability, it is fair to question whether he can in fact pitch effectively down the stretch. If the Red Sox are fortunate enough to make it into the ALDS, I have no faith in Price whatsoever. The fact he is in his 11th year as a professional with not a single starting playoff win is the elephant in the room. At the most, hopefully he will be the game four starter with a very short leash. There is no denying the fact he is an automatic loss.
The former Cy Young winner got off to a blazingly hot start, but has since had his peaks and valleys. The fact of the matter quite simply is that Porcello is career 4.24 pitcher, who’s 2018 ERA happens to be just under that mark at 4.13. An argument could be made that his ERA is high at the moment mostly because his bad starts have been REALLY bad… But it doesn’t matter how he gets there, because he literally nearly always seems to get there. The Red Sox are not in a position to have him sputter as was the case in 2015/2017. Porcello must pitch as a semi-top of the rotation pitcher if this team is going to finish ahead of the Yankees.
Hector Velazquez/Brian Johnson
It’s probably not fair to group these guy’s together. Velazquez is having a very solid season out of the bullpen, especially in long relief. Johnson on the other hand, is only on the roster merely because he’s out of options and they don’t know what else to do with him. He has had his ups and downs, and appears to have better success as a starter. albeit usually between four and five innings. His fast ball tops out at just over 90mph, and has been susceptible to giving up an occasional long ball. Velazquez landed on the D.L. earlier this season due to lower back tightness, and struggled up on his return. He has since strung together some solid performances. With a little over two months remaining in the regular season, it seems far fetched that they both will be sustainable in the back end of the rotation. Additionally there really is no further depth on the big league roster to replace them with.
Highest Trade Deadline Priority?
If you asked me this question a week ago, I would have felt extremely conflicted as to whether we needed a late inning reliever, or a right handed power bat for the bottom third of the order. Now that Rodriguez is likely out until at least mid-september, it’s abundantly clear that we absolutely need a starting pitcher above anything else.
The die-hard Boston homers will thump their chests, and cite the fact that the Red Sox lead the league with 68 wins. The fact we have two minor leaguer/spot starters at the back end of our rotation won’t help them get a better grasp on reality. Those are the same people that have the utmost faith that this is David Price’s year to finally notch that first starting playoff win, despite all signs pointing otherwise.
There are probably close to a dozen names that Red Sox President Dave Dombrowski could consider. Pitchers such as Cole Hamels to Jordan Zimmerman. J.A. Happ to Lance Lynn. Or if you’re really feeling frisky you could get Matt Harvey or Bartolo Colon. Are any of these guys “game changers?” Absolutely not. All half dozen of these starting pitchers have struggled at some points this year to varying degrees. The goal is simply to add depth and stability to give our offense a decent enough chance to win games.
The schedule gets infinitely tougher at the end of this month. Every other contending team has a much deeper farm system with lots more assets and resources to address their deficiencies. If the Yankees want to overwhelm the Mets for Jacob deGrom, they at least have the option to do so. The Red Sox do not have that luxury due to the fact they don’t have the assets.
As the remaining two years of this “window” comes to a close and the Red Sox start losing players to free agency, this could very well be Dombrowski’s last trade deadline. It has been my suspicion all along was to eventually bring in someone else to rebuild the far. Dombrowski has never been known as “Dave the Builder,” rather than “Dave the Destroyer.” This could be his final shot at a World Series, one that eluded him in Detroit.
It’s important he gets it right. Boston has a tough road ahead, and fans need to wake up and recognize this.
ICYMI: AVIDBOSTON PODCAST EPISODE 63!!!
ALL THREE OF US GIVE LETTER GRADES (A to F) FOR THE ROTATION, BULLPEN, LINEUP, ALEX CORA, & DOMBROWSKI!
WE ALSO DISCUSS THE TRADE DEADLINE!