The Red Sox have just ten more days left until their season officially gets underway against the Orioles, and they still have ten more spots to fill on their 60-man player pool. There are still plenty of prospects who could make the cut for those spots, but the working theory (at least from me) is that they want to see what kind of player they can add from outside the organization before filling up too many spots with prospects. Remember, if a player is taken off the player pool they have to go through waivers. You don’t want to risk losing a top prospect because of poor roster management.
The issue with this is that the free agent pool, which I looked at earlier this month, is not very exciting. It goes without saying that the Red Sox’s rotation is the area of focus right now, and the best options who are healthy right now on the open market are familiar faces in Clay Buchholz and Andrew Cashner. One or both of them would be worth a shot, I think, but that says more about the roster than their potential to help. Another option entered the fray on Monday, though, and he is probably the new top option.
That option is Zack Godley, who was released by the Tigers Monday morning. Now, the obvious reaction to that is why would a team want a player who was unwanted by the Tigers, one of the worst teams in all of baseball? It’s a fair question! But for one thing, the Red Sox have a rotation that is rivaled in lack of talent by the worst teams in baseball. Additionally, Godley didn’t pitch so poorly in camp that Detroit had to get rid of him as quickly as possible. Instead, he had an opt-out, they didn’t expect him to make the roster — still a red flag! — and wanted to give him a chance to find a new team. The Red Sox should position themselves to be that team. In fact, in the time between me writing this post and it going up for publish, it was reported that they are indeed interested.
Before I get out of hand with optimism about Godley, let’s acknowledge some important facts. One, which I’ll repeat from above, he was released by the Tigers. Detroit won 47 games last season and has averaged 58 wins over the last three years. They are not good, and he couldn’t make that roster. Two, he is coming off a very bad year. The righty spent a significant amount of time in the bullpen, making nine starts and 24 relief appearances, totaling 92 innings. In that time, he pitched to a 5.97 ERA with a 5.17 FIP and a 6.45 DRA. His strikeout rate dropped way down below seven per nine innings and his walk rate was just north of four per nine. He also gave up more balls in the air than ever and that was reflected in his home run rate.
So, he’s coming off a bad season and was released by one of the worst teams in baseball. Why would the Red Sox be interested? Well, he’s been very good fairly recently. Back in 2017, he looked like he was on the verge of taking a leap. That year with the Diamondbacks, he tossed 155 innings with a 3.37 ERA, 3.43 FIP and a 3.69 DRA. Even in 2018 he was solid, with a 4.74 ERA and 4.78 DRA over 178 1⁄3 innings, but with a 3.77 FIP. In both of those seasons, he was striking out more than a batter per inning.
The key for Godley seems to be utilizing his curveball to get whiffs and his sinker to keep the ball on the ground. Last season, batters started laying off the curve more and he was throwing it for strikes less, which is obviously a rough combo. He also watched the launch angle on his sinker rise significantly, from -4 in 2017 to 2 in 2018 all the way up to 9 last year.
The Red Sox obviously don’t have the best track record in developing pitchers and finding success out of nowhere, but consider that right now this team has Ryan Weber as their number three starter and Brian Johnson as the favorite for the number four spot, with the number five spot likely going to an opener with someone like Matt Hall or Chris Mazza following behind. In other words, they desperately need help. Zack Godley is available, won’t cost the kind of money that would put them over the luxury tax threshold and has been good fairly recently. There’s no guarantee it would work. In fact, it’s probably not all that likely. But given the other options already in the organization, I can’t see a good argument against trying.