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OTM Roundtable: How many pitchers?

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What should the Red Sox be looking to add?

New York Mets Vs. Boston Red Sox At Fenway Park Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

We’re not delusional to the fact that the thing everyone wants to talk about with the Red Sox right now is Alex Cora. The timing for it was not exactly ideal for our roundtable, though. It’s rude of the team not to think about me and only me when they make these decisions. Anyway, as I’ve explained before these questions and discussions start early in the week, and so staff thoughts on Cora can be expected next Friday. For Cora stuff you can join the discussion on our news post and we’ll have more from the analysis side over the weekend.

For this week, we’re keeping the focus on the players and the roster itself. More specifically, we’re going to focus on the pitching. It’s unclear when the market is actually going to pick up — there have been no signs of it on any front as of yet — but whenever that happens the Red Sox are expected to be heavily involved in the pitching market for obvious reasons. So, my question for the staff this week was what net gain of pitchers should the Red Sox aim for this offseason? In other words, how many pitchers should they add, though I wanted to hedge a bit in the event someone advocates for a Matt Barnes trade, for example. So trading him and adding one would result in a net gain of zero. We’re also just talking about 2021 major-league contributors, so additions or subtractions of prospects doesn’t matter here.

Michael Walsh

With the Red Sox declining Martín Pérez’ 2021 option, they need to add at least four arms this offseason. In a perfect world, the Sox’ staff for next year would look like:

1) Chris Sale

2) Eduardo Rodriguez

3) Nathan Eovaldi

4) Tanner Houck

5) Nick Pivetta

Not too shabby. Sadly, however, this isn’t a perfect world. The health of these players needs to play a major factor in Chaim Bloom’s decisions, and this offseason should be approached as if Sale and E-Rod will not be ready to play. I’m also not sold on Nick Pivetta starting next year. A potential bullpen day could be used instead of Pivetta, but that still leaves big holes in the 1 and 2 slots. I think at least two starters should be signed to fill those holes - perhaps one bonafide starter and a second “prove-it” guy.

As for the bullpen, I’m usually not a huge fan of handing out big contracts to relievers, but the way the market is shaping up, I can’t imagine that happening. After 2020’s mess of a ‘pen, I’d like to see at least two relievers added to the mix. It doesn’t have to be a big name like Liam Hendriks or Kirby Yates, but there will be a lot of solid relief arms out there for cheap this winter.

Shelly Verougstraete

The Red Sox have a lot of work to do this offseason and we should see a bunch of new faces on the pitching mound. I think we need two new starters, maybe Drew Smyly and Anthony DeSclafani, and two relievers, Sergio Romo and Trevor May.

Boston Red Sox Spring Training Workout Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Phil Neuffer

Even if they have Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez back at full health next year, the Red Sox will still have gaps in the rotation, especially with Martín Pérez gone. There is even less certainty in the bullpen. That’s why I think the Red Sox will add five new pitchers this offseason. I expect perhaps one high impact arm and then some guys who can add to the rotational depth and maybe pitch in the later innings from time to time.

Mike Carlucci

It’s been a rough couple years for Red Sox pitching and 2021 doesn’t look much easier. The projected rotation is probably Nathan Eovaldi, Nick Pivetta, and Tanner Houck. Wth Chris Sale returning from Tommy John surgery, which can be a routine process but is not a guarantee, I’m going to pretend he doesn’t exist. He’s a bonus. Eduardo Rodriguez is hoping to fully recover from COVID-19 and the resulting heart issues. We’ll put him at 50 percent and maybe 14 starts and anything else is gravy. He may, of course, be ready for a normal spring and cruise from there but acquiring pitching in-season is also never a guarantee. So...four guys who can start would probably be a nice place to be. With one or maybe two intended to be in the rotation regularly. Doing the same for bullpen depth would be a nice start.

The Sox probably can’t acquire enough relief arms since the rotation could be shaky and a few guys who can swing from starting to relieving would be fantastic. Maybe five relievers from outside the organization. Again, not five top free agent closers, but five guys who can help the pen and ride the train from Fenway to Worcester a few times. If Matt Barnes is traded to a team that needs a closer, consider replacing him with two pitchers and hope someone catches fire even a bit.

So, nine or ten pitchers with two or three being relatively dependable entering the season. That’s probably the floor and obviously Chaim Bloom will be hunting for some diamonds in the rough, but with 10 pitchers added to the current staff I think we can at least feel they gave it a shot.

Brady Childs

I’m going to go out on a limb and say they need to net seven new pitchers. A large part of this is just to accumulate depth by either signing depth pieces or improving upon the current bullpen and rotation to bump the current crop into depth roles. I’d reckon they do both with the current state of the staff. We saw how important depth was last year. A bunch of pitchers were swatted down like flies and as a result of the lack of depth, guys like Jeffrey Springs and Andrew Triggs got innings and were bombed. Some sort of safety net is needed and that net isn’t there right now. You don’t want to have your season riding on Nick Pivetta and Tanner Houck. When you’re down 5-3 in the seventh, you’d rather go to someone besides Austin Brice for the second day in a row. Add seven pitchers and you can bump Chris Mazza and Nick Pivetta from the rotation and bump Ryan Weber, Austin Brice, Colten Brewer, and Phillips Valdez to less important spots on the depth chart and not only will you have a better pitching staff, you’ll be able to cushion the blow when one of those signees strains their tricep in spring.

Boston Red Sox v Atlanta Braves Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Jake Kostik

I think realistically, the Red Sox need to bring in one more mid-tier or better starting pitcher if their goal is contention. In the bullpen, I think the answer is somewhere around three we need who will contend for a major league job, although I have this feeling Stephen Gonsalves has made enough strides that he may be one of those three.

With Chris Sale on the mend, and Eduardo Rodriguez in questionable at best territory (get well soon Eddie), I could see many requiring us to bring in two starters to contend. My rotation as of now is Nate Eovaldi, Tanner Houck, Nick Pivetta, and Ryan Weber. Can we and should we improve on Weber? Absolutely. But I don’t think we need to invest heavily in two starters. Sale should be back in time for the team to still contend. If he isn’t, we have other problems to deal with. Same with Rodriguez. For the last spot in the rotation, sign a Masahiro Tanaka or something similar. Have Weber compete with Bryan Mata, Connor Seabold, Kyle Hart, and Thaddeus Ward for the fifth slot. A rotation of Eovaldi/Tanaka/Houck/Pivetta/Mata sounds good to me, for the purposes of 2021, until Sale is back.

In the pen, things are less clear for me. My bullpen at present would be Matt Barnes, Darwinzon Hernandez (who could also compete for a rotation slot!), Phillips Valdez, Josh Taylor, and a whole bunch of questions. The Red Sox probably need to roster 7 or so relievers, and this is only 4. They may be able to slip by with some combination of Ryan Brasier, Marcus Walden (who we shouldn’t give up on), Colten Brewer, Durbin Feltman, and Stephen Gonsalves, but I think projecting the back end of our pen will be an exercise in futility. Could just as easily be Austin Brice in a slot. Could just as easily see Mata shifted to the bullpen for 2021. Too many variables in place to be sure.

With several good relievers hitting the market because of the new financial dynamics around the sport, this would be a good chance to turn the bullpen into a strength using one asset the Red Sox should have plenty of: cash. Sign a Darren O’Day, a Greg Holland, and a Mark Melancon. MLB Trade Rumors has each of the latter two getting one year deals. Any relievers you can snag on one year deals will be useful in 2021, either because the Red Sox could use them in the pursuit of contention, or be used in a Kevin Pillar-esque deal, as Bloom continues to restock the farm system.

Keaton DeRocher

Well, we’re talking net gain here so I’m going to say zero. The amount of pitchers they have is fine its quality of them that’s the issue. They need to dump the dead weight and add major league caliber pitchers, which has been an issue now for this team for 2+ years.

Bryan Joiner

I think the answer is... a lot! That’s a copout, but I have serious long-term reservations about nearly everyone the Sox have signed up to pitch *right now,* so I think the problem goes beyond filling out the rotation and bullpen. Chris Sale is a year older and coming off surgery. Eduardo Rodriguez is feeling the long-term effects of COVID, which we simply don’t know enough about. Nathan Eovaldi is useful in a pinch but fades in and out like a radio signal. With the possible exception of E-Rod, I’d be surprised if these guys are mainstays on the next great Sox team, which means they need to start finding the players for said team now. Given the number of non-tenders, pitchers are gonna be available for cheap. I suspect the Sox will bulk shop if they think the price is right and kick the can if they think it’s not. But I think a lot of shopping is necessary.

Jake Devereaux

This question is very interesting and I feel like the answer could vary kind of wildly. I believe that the Red Sox will add at least five new pitchers to this 26 man roster to start 2021. The market has already shown to be extremely soft with many teams declining very reasonably priced team options. I think this market favors the Red Sox who have reset the luxury tax and are ready to spend. For those of you who are skeptical that the team will spend, just look to past years where the team has finished in last and had lost ground to the other Boston teams in the media market—each time they spent and spent extravagant amounts. I believe that the Red Sox will add at least two starting pitchers and at least three relievers and I believe that all three relievers will be better than anyone the team currently has. I think they could do this quite reasonably considering the fact that someone like Brad Hand wasn’t even worth $10 million despite having an incredible season.

Matt Collins

I’ll be honest I’m doing this at the literal last second and am pretty tired so I’ll be quick. I think at minimum they need at least two more starters and two more relievers that come in on a major-league deal with a guaranteed spot on the roster if healthy. On top of that I’d like to see at least three total pitchers, whatever combination of starter and reliever you’d like, on minor-league deals but with legitimate chances to make the roster and/or trades for players with option that can be up-and-down depth pieces. So I guess my answer is seven, thanks to my supreme math skills.