This past weekend in Tampa Bay was an objectively good few days for the Red Sox. They not only won three baseball games, but this weekend was more than that. They saw big players, most notably Mookie Betts, start to snap out of their funks. They made a statement against the team that came into that series as the best in baseball. They avoided burying themselves eleven games down in the American League standings, a deficit that while not insurmountable surely would have been tough from which to emerge. Perhaps most importantly, though, they started to feel good about themselves. They said all the right things during their skid heading into that series, but the difference in body language from last Wednesday to Sunday was undeniable.
Of course, since this is the 2019 Red Sox it wasn’t a perfect weekend as the team got some bad news during the winning. Nathan Eovaldi, who looked very good in his last start, hit the 10-day injured list with a loose body in his elbow. This injury isn’t necessarily as bad as it sounds — it sounds gross, to be honest — but it’s definitely not insignificant. Eovaldi will undergo minor surgery for the ailment on Tuesday and this is going to be more than just a couple of turns through the rotation without the righty. The rotation was always going to be hugely important for the Red Sox success this year, as we saw early in the season when the unit’s struggles led to disastrous results for the team as a whole. The depth beyond the top five always left something to be desired, though, and now it’s fair to wonder if the Red Sox may want to look outside the organization for help.
It should be made clear that there is no indication that they will look at external rotation candidates and this is more of a “should they” than a “will they.” Hector Velázquez is going to get the start in the second game of Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Tigers and is likely going to get at least a couple more starts after that. To be fair to Velázquez, he is a guy myself and many others have habitually underrated at least in terms of results. He doesn’t have the most eye-popping peripherals, to put it mildly, but he keeps runs off the board at a solid pace. At the end of the day, that is the pitchers job. On the other hand, it is also less predictable than things like strikeouts and walks, and more exposure and more innings for his workload are likely to lead to worse results in the long-run. At such a point, the Red Sox could turn to guys like Mike Shawaryn or Chandler Shepherd, though there is a limited ceiling with both of them as well. The former has a bit of upside, but it’s probably not that of a difference-maker. There’s also tons of downside and unpredictability given their lack of experience in the majors. Brian Johnson could be ready to return from the IL at some point relatively soon as well, but he falls into this low-upside/decent-downside group.
That brings us to the external options, of which there are two primary ones. Dallas Keuchel is the first, but he’s not really worth spending time on. That’s not because he wouldn’t be a welcome addition to pretty much any team in baseball, but because it’s not realistic. The Red Sox have shown zero interest in surpassing the top luxury tax threshold and if they aren’t going to go after Craig Kimbrel there’s virtually no chance they’d make the leap for Keuchel.
That brings us to Gio González, who is a more realistic option. The former Nationals southpaw signed a minor-league deal with the Yankees at the start of the season, but after a few rough outings down in the minors he was granted his release to find a new team. There are going to be plenty of suitors for the lefty, as he brings a rare amount of major-league experience to be available right now for just money. It likely won’t be a large sum of money given his minor-league performance and the generally suppressed market around the league the last couple years.
The arguments against González for the Red Sox are quite simple. For one, those minor-league outings in which he pitched to an ERA of 6.00 are on the record. He got hit hard by minor-league competition, and that doesn’t exactly bode well for the immediate future. Additionally, the Red Sox likely hope Eovaldi will only be out about six weeks, and is it really worth it to bring in a new face for that amount of time? Throw in the fact that González is 33 years old and is coming off his worst season by FIP and DRA since at least 2009, and there are red flags.
On the other hand, those minor-league starts were basically spring training for González, who didn’t have a team until March 20. If he had struggled like that in three spring training starts, people wouldn’t care so much. For point two, these things have a way of sorting themselves out. The Red Sox will almost certainly have another injury in their rotation this year, because that is what happens to pitchers. González provides long-term insurance for that even after Eovaldi comes back. If they do get lucky and have everyone healthy, that’s a good thing! They can rest guys up with a six-man rotation and/or they can send González or Eduardo Rodriguez to the bullpen and give that unit a legitimate lefty. The third point is the most salient, but it’s also one year and he was still league-average. To be able to pick up a league-average starter right now for next to nothing is a bargain.
Like I said, I think it is extremely unlikely the Red Sox will actually pursue González. It seems much more likely they’ll just stick with what they have for the next six weeks or so and hope everything else stays intact before Eovaldi returns. In the meantime, some other team will scoop up González for virtually nothing. Maybe that backfires on them, but if the Red Sox suffer another rotation injury and are forced to dig deeper into their depth, their inaction could very well backfire on them.