The number one focus of the Red Sox offseason this winter is pretty clear, or at least that’s what we think. This team needs some reinforcements in the bullpen, and I think just about everyone would agree with that. Of course, this isn’t the first time we discussed this. Most of us wanted the Red Sox to bring in a new reliever last winter, but it didn’t happen. Everyone wanted them to trade for a late-inning arm at the trade deadline this past summer, and they chose not to. I think it’s safe to say things worked out for them. With Craig Kimbrel leaving in free agency, however, it’s hard to imagine they won’t do anything again this time around. Even if it’s just bringing Kimbrel back into the fold, something is going to happen.
So, the bullpen is certainly going to be the focus for the fan base this winter, and it seems likely that it will at least be a focus for the front office. It won’t be the only area of the roster on which they are focused, though. There’s a few interesting portions of the roster, but along with the bullpen the most likely positional group to see a new name would be the rotation. It’s not as glaring of a hole, and they don’t need a star-caliber name in the same way they could use one in the bullpen, but they probably need another body.
As things stand right now, the Red Sox do have four starting pitchers and it’s a good group that most teams would be more than happy with to enter the season. They have a pair of ace-caliber arms in Chris Sale and David Price. They have Rick Porcello, who won’t be his 2016-self again but is a great and durable arm. And they have Eduardo Rodriguez, who has massive potential and is set-up to have his breakout year in 2019. That’s a good start to the rotation, but obviously you need five names. (Well, you need more than five starters to get through a year, but you need five for a rotation. You get it.)
To be fair, the Red Sox do have internal depth that could take over that fifth spot in the rotation. Brian Johnson did everything the team asked of him all year and pitched well in the rotation and out of the bullpen. His ceiling isn’t huge, but they don’t need a high ceiling with the rest of their rotation. Hector Velazquez is in a similar position. Steven Wright has the most potential of the group, and if Boston doesn’t bring in a new starter it’s probably in deference to Wright. On the other hand, we don’t really know where he is health-wise, to say nothing of the erratic performances of a knuckleballer. They also have lower depth in guys like Justin Haley and William Cuevas as well as minor-leaguer Mike Shawaryn.
So, the Red Sox do have options already on hand, but they all come with significant enough question marks that they’d be better served to be utilized as depth. If you throw in one more safer rotation target into the fold from outside the organization, suddenly all of the guys mentioned above shift into depth roles (or become trade bait to improve other portions of the roster) and things start to fall into place. The good news is that the starting pitching market has names in a number of different ranges. It is missing the top-of-the-line option, but that’s not what the Red Sox need. We’ll go in-depth on targets as the winter moves along, but this free agent class offers guys from Dallas Keuchel to Patrick Corbin to our friend Nathan Eovaldi to Yusei Kikuchi to another friend Drew Pomeranz. There is a spectrum here, is what I’m trying to say.
Ultimately, I would be surprised if the Red Sox don’t get another starting pitcher. I won’t go so far as to say it will be Eovaldi, though I’d call him the favorite, but it will be someone. The big question is whether or not they go for one year or multiple years. Remember, Chris Sale and Rick Porcello both have their contracts coming up after this 2019 season, so that starts to be a consideration now. Regardless, while the bullpen is the biggest focus of the winter, pay attention to what the starting pitching market looks like as well. Boston will be a part of it at some point.