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The Red Sox should be looking at starting pitching ahead of the trade deadline

Eduardo Rodriguez’ injury changes things.

Toronto Blue Jays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Rich Gagnon/Getty Images

Let’s start this post off with a pair of true statements about the Boston Red Sox. Number One: The Red Sox are a very good team. This shouldn’t be controversial. They’ve won back-to-back division titles, so we knew they were good before the season even started, and so far in 2018 they have the best record in baseball and are on pace to win 112 games. You can’t really fluke your way into that kind of record when you’re not a good team.

Number Two: The Red Sox are not a perfect team. This also shouldn’t be controversial. There really doesn’t exist a perfect baseball team, and that is particularly true before the trade deadline. Every team has holes, it’s just a matter of limiting the number and size of said holes. Boston has done that, and you can expect them to address at least a couple deficiencies before the season. Most of the talk and rumors surrounding this team over the last couple of weeks has been around reliever and infield help, but after the news about Eduardo Rodriguez’ injury the Red Sox should consider diving into the starting pitcher market.

If, for whatever reason, you are too lazy to click the link above, a quick primer on the bad news for Rodriguez and the Red Sox. The lefty got negative X-Rays back on his ankle, which is good, but doctors did determine he had a relatively severe sprain and some ligament damage. He’ll be in a walking boot for a couple of weeks before being re-evaluated, but based on the cadence in interviews with Alex Cora it doesn’t sound like the timeline is very close to that two week mark. Instead, it sure sounds like he’s going to miss a significant amount of time. Rodriguez wasn’t perfect this year, but he certainly seemed to be coming into his own over the last few weeks and one could argue he was heading towards being the second-best pitcher in the rotation, though that talk may have been premature. Either way, Boston lost someone who certainly would be part of a playoff rotation when healthy, and with the trade deadline just a couple of weeks away Boston needs to determine if they have enough in their current rotation.

Toronto Blue Jays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

Given the close race for the division that should last all year, I would argue that they don’t. That’s not to say they don’t have a good rotation, or at least don’t have the potential for a very good one, but let’s just take a look at what they have going on right now. Chris Sale is at the top, and he is obviously amazing. There’s a chance he will start Tuesday’s All-Star Game and he is in the Cy Young conversation yet again. He does have a history of slowing down at the end of the year and that will always be in the back of our minds, but there’s very little reason to doubt him. Boston is more than fine at the top of the rotation.

After that, it gets questionable. Sliding in after Sale in some order is David Price and Rick Porcello. Both of these guys are former Cy Young winners and both have the potential to be good number two starters. In fact, both have showed that potential this year. However, both have also been inconsistent. Price has looked dominant at times when he has his command working well, but he’s also had outings in which he’s too reliant on his fastball/cutter combination and moves away from his changeup. The performances against the Yankees have gotten the headlines, but he’s been shaky at other points too. He needs to step up in the second half. Porcello has been a bit steadier and other than his last outing he’s generally at least good to make it into the sixth or seventh inning and not allow more than four or five runs, but the Red Sox could really use more quality starts from him moving forward.

So, the top three spots are mostly okay, though there are some questions in the number two and three spots in whichever order you put them in. The real questions start showing up down here. If completely healthy, Drew Pomeranz and Steven Wright would be more than fine to round things out. However, that is not the case. Pomeranz may or may not be healthy, but his performances have been awful. That includes his latest rehab outings, and it’s extremely hard to be confident in the lefty right now. Wright, meanwhile, has looked good in the rotation, but he’s currently dealing with a knee injury that is taking longer than expected to recover. It’s not clear when he could return at this point, and it’s not clear how his knee will feel when he does return.

With those two out, it’s all about the depth. The Red Sox are fine in that department, and if they only needed to use the fifth spot of the rotation for depth options the concern wouldn’t be that high. They now need to fill two spots, though. Brian Johnson and Hector Velazquez are the top two options. Neither of them are good bets to go out and dominate on any given day, but they’ve both been very solid in their spot starting opportunities. In terms of rate numbers, they are both fine number five options. However, one of them has to be number four right now and for the foreseeable future given the uncertainty around Pomeranz and Wright. Furthermore, neither Johnson nor Velazquez is completely stretched out right now and neither has been going more than four or five innings. That’s taxing on a bullpen if it’s happening two out of every five turns through the rotation.

Toronto Blue Jays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

The Red Sox also have a host of depth options in Triple-A with guys like Jalen Beeks, Justin Haley, William Cuevas and Chandler Shepherd. All of those pitchers are guys I would be fine with for a spot start or two, but when you start talking about them being consistent members of the rotation, it becomes scary in a postseason race.

All of this is to say that the Red Sox can’t really feel great about their rotation right now. It is not to say that they need to feel the need to panic. The Red Sox don’t need to make a crazy move for someone like Jacob deGrom or even Michael Fulmer (though I obviously wouldn’t complain about deGrom because he’s awesome), and they don’t need to rush into any deal. They can survive with the current crop of starters for another week or two. However, they should be looking at mid-to-back-of-the-rotation arms right now and strengthen their depth heading into the final two months of the season. The American League is loaded at the top, and every team needs to be as strong as possible heading into the stretch run. For the Red Sox, losing Rodriguez was a big blow to their rotation, and the only bit of good news is that it happened in July when there’s still time to try and remedy the situation through trade.