As of this writing, the Red Sox 2018 roster is still unknown as there is presumably some work to do because this offseason has been a snoozefest of epic proportions. Most of us are expecting another big bat to be brought in, and most of us expect his name to rhyme with Shmay Shmee Shmartinez. Addtionally, it seems feasible that Dave Dombrowski could target some some periphery pieces including bullpen help and depth to both the lineup and rotation. The point being, we have some idea of what we think the roster might look like, but we don’t really know what it will look like. Unless, of course, you are psychic, in which case why the hell are you wasting your time reading this when you could be saving the world?
Anywho, even though there are still moves to be made I think it’s safe to say we know the basic framework of how the 2018 Red Sox will work. Of course, now that I say that Dombrowski will go bananas and trade everyone. Assuming that doesn’t happen, we know the core of the roster and who will be the most important players. Or, at least, who will be in the conversation. I suspect some of us will disagree over who the most important player is, though since this is the internet I also suspect said disagreement will be handled with nothing but respect. All of this being said, I think there could be an argument for David Price being the most important Red Sox player for the 2018 season.
For all of the talk about the offense this winter — and it’s totally warranted given how frustrating the unit was for almost all of 2017 — I would still say that pitching is the lifeblood of the Red Sox. They need the offense to be better, but if they are going to compete in this new look American League with some terrifying teams the pitching is going to be the group to get them there. Specifically looking at their matchup against the Yankees, which is the race that everyone will be watching this upcoming season, the Red Sox will never win in a battle of offenses. However, they can more than make up the offensive talent disparity with superior pitching. If they are going to reach their full potential, though, they need David Price to be the David Price they expected when they signed him a few years ago.
The importance of Boston’s southpaw can really be seen when you look at the rest of the rotation. In front of Price, Chris Sale is going to be Chris Sale, and there’s no reason at all to expect anything besides greatness from the 2017 Cy Young runner-up. If the Red Sox are going to have an elite pitching staff, though, they’ll need to pair another ace or near-ace with him. Drew Pomeranz was that for much of 2017, but it’s unclear if he can repeat that performance while also staying healthy and effective all year. We all witnessed the toll it took on his arm towards the end of last season. Rick Porcello has a Cy Young under his belt, but he also has two bad seasons with the Red Sox to sandwich that award-winning season. Eduardo Rodriguez has yet to put it all together on a consistent basis and is going to start the year on the disabled list. Steven Wright is not that kind of pitcher, and he’s also likely to miss some time as MLB investigates a domestic dispute of his from earlier this winter. All in all, the Red Sox have a lot of intriguing arms, but they all have questions.
Price isn’t one without questions, of course, but he also has the most talent of any of these pitchers, and I’m not really sure there’s much of an argument for anyone else in the conversation. Pomeranz has shown it more recently, but Price has been a more consistent, elite performer over his career. There’s a reason the Red Sox gave him over $200 million, ya know? Even last year, we saw what he can be as he was rolling in the rotation before his injury flared back up and then he was otherworldly out of the bullpen to end the season. He’s yet to show it on a consistent basis as a starter in a Red Sox uniform, but Price still has the talent to put up a Cy Young caliber season.
Of course, the biggest issue here is the health. Based on what I saw last season, the skills are there for Price to be the Price of old. Unfortunately, there are plenty of questions with his elbow that started to flare up in spring training. Magic elbow or no, it caused him to miss a considerable amount of time and forced him to the bullpen for the end of the season. As of now, there is no sign that he should be anything besides a starter heading into spring training. Once he starts throwing, though, there’s always a chance that elbow could start to give him problems yet again, and if it does then the Red Sox have some problems of their own.
With or without a healthy David Price, the Red Sox do have the talent to make a run through the American League, particularly if they make the move(s) that most of us expect them to make before camp starts. Baseball is not the type of sport where one player will make or break a team’s run at a championship. That being said, the Red Sox look a whole lot different if Price is healthy and himself behind Sale in the rotation. In this scenario, Boston all of a sudden has a viable three-headed monster with Sale, Price and Pomeranz along with three intriguing back-end arms in Rodriguez, Porcello and Wright. Given how top-heavy the American League is starting to look, and the scary Yankees fighting for the American League East title, the Red Sox could really use a healthy and effective Price in 2018.