As you may or may not have heard, David Price has landed on the DL with elbow inflammation. This is bad because it’s the same elbow that led to him missing the start of the season. He missed all of April and came back at the end of May. Last season’s innings leader has not been a model of good health in 2017. He’s averaging close to a half-inning less per start, and even if he does come back within a reasonable time frame there’s cause for concern since, again, this is the same elbow that gave him grief at the beginning of the year.
With David Price down, the next person in line becomes Doug Fister, and while the team may be content with that short-term fix I am not. We do not have the luxury of waiting until Price is healthy, before deciding whether to pursue a trade for pitching. Doug Fister is not enough to help us win in 2017, if the worst should come to pass (Price missing the rest of the season).
So, I propose we explore the market. We won’t be chasing Sonny Gray, since it appears the cost for him is too high for us to really justify chasing. They’ve been reportedly asking the Yankees for prospects in the Clint Frazier level - which sounds like a Groome proposition for me. I do not believe the A’s would “settle” for Michael Chavis, our next best chip. I’m also not keen on the idea of chasing after Justin Verlander, either, who may be one of the top 3 likely starters to be moved. Verlander might be had slightly cheaper in terms of prospects, but comes at a cost of 28 million a year through the end of 2019, when a vesting option appears. This vesting option is worth 22 million a year, and exercises if he finishes top 5 in Cy Young voting in 2019. I do not like the idea of paying Verlander that much money over such a long stretch of time, since it might hurt our chances to extend our young guys as well as Chris Sale, who is without a doubt the best thing to happen to the Red Sox this year.
This leaves me with one high-profile starter that the Rangers are looking to deal, Yu Darvish. Now, Darvish has a no-trade clause that allows him to list several teams. Unfortunately, Boston is one of them. If he uses it, there’s not really anything we can do, and we should probably just give our young guys a chance. I’d be for giving Brian Johnson more chances to start if Price is out long-term - though he himself is having injury issues of his own. Coming to Boston would give Darvish a great opportunity to make the postseason, and possibly win in it as well.
The cost will still be high, but I doubt we’d be talking Groome. We might be talking guys in the next tier of guys given current market trends, but even so, there are worse ideas out there. For example, letting Doug Fister start another game for the Red Sox.
If Darvish were to come to Boston (big if), he would essentially just take David Price’s spot. Darvish’s peripherals are slightly better, but not astronomically so.
What if David Price is healthy, after his DL stint? Well, in that case of “great problems to have”, you suddenly have a rotation of Chris Sale, Yu Darvish, David Price, Rick Porcello, and one of Drew Pomeranz or Eduardo Rodriguez.
You don’t want to move Pomeranz out of the rotation considering how excellent he’s been, but it may be the best course of action after we saw him tire down the stretch in 2016. He’s still putting up good numbers for now, and we should enjoy the ride, but there’s always the chance he simply runs out of gas.
Moving Rodriguez to the pen, could be a good idea as well. Since coming back from the disabled list, he has not looked as sharp. Success could always be around the corner though, and prior to being injured he was arguably the team’s third best starter.
My preferred strategy, one that will probably never ever happen in a million years, is to keep all six in the rotation. For the first four games, things proceed as normal, but then game five rolls around, and ka-pow, you have two guys pitching one game. Pomeranz pitches four or five innings, and Rodriguez pitches the rest. This piggy-back strategy would alleviate the need for another reliever, because as long as those two can do their jobs and get through the game, the bullpen has a day off. With an extra day off, the bullpen can focus on coming into other games.
While this strategy may seem a little unorthodox, I believe there’s some truth in the weirdness. If David Price is down for the season (a possibility), and the Sox are still dead-set on contending this year (mind, I don’t think they should go out of their way to try), then pursuing a non-Doug Fister option for the rotation seems like a good idea.
With all that said, Darvish does have a few strings attached that would make the trade tricky. There’s the no-trade clause as already discussed, but there’s also the matter of financials. The Red Sox have made it a goal to stay under the Luxury Tax Threshold, and Darvish is making 11 million this year before departing via free agency as a rental option. Using Cot’s Baseball Contracts, I found this list of current roster obligations. Not listed is new Sox acquisition Eduardo Nunez, due 4.2 million dollars. Additionally, there may be something else I’m missing. All of this means the Sox have between 5-8 million dollars to spend on a player making 11 million. For a trade to work and for the Sox to stay under the threshold, it appears as if a player worth between 3-6 million would have to be moved. This probably makes a Darvish deal all the more unlikely. Still, it could be something that is worth it for the team to explore.