We’re finally seeing some action from the Red Sox, even if it’s still not quite in the deep end of the market. Earlier on Friday we learned that the Red Sox had been closing in on a deal with Enrique Hernández, which became official a few hours later. Now, we’re getting a similar report about the Red Sox with a pitcher this time, and from the same reporter to boot. The reporter is Jon Morosi, who says the Red Sox are in “active discussions” with Garrett Richards.
Hernández fills the second base hole to go with some versatility that should help out in the outfield and elsewhere, but everyone knows the pitching remains the biggest question on this roster. Boston has thus far signed Matt Andriese and Martín Pérez this winter, but Richards would provide more upside than either if this deal were to get done.
Now 32 years old and turning 33 in May, he certainly isn’t the up and coming arm he once was, but the upside is still there. The former Angel looked like one of the best young arms in the game back in 2014 and 2015, but injuries have decimated his career since then. Prior to this past summer, Richards had started more than six games just once between 2016 and 2019, and he made only 16 starts in that season. But even just appearing sporadically, he did typically still show flashes of what he looked like in those earlier years.
Then, this past season, Richards was able to stay as healthy as he has since that 2015 season in L.A., though of course the season was shorter. The righty was in San Diego and made 14 appearances, 10 of which were starts. Over 51 1⁄3 innings pitched, Richards pitched to a 4.03 ERA with 46 strikeouts (22 percent rate) and 17 walks (eight percent).
The injury risk here would be substantial, of course, given his history, but in a weak pitching market relatively cheap upside is not easy to find. Everything depends on the contract, but assuming nothing exorbitant this is the kind of upside play that is worth it. The Red Sox have an uphill battle no matter what they do this year, so it makes sense to go after short-term plays that can pay off. The chances of Richards and Nathan Eovaldi both staying healthy for a full season are not very high, as we all know, but if it did come to fruition this would be the type of move that could make this team surprise some people.
FanGraphs readers, who were off by $2 million total on the Hernández deal, predict a two-year deal worth $16 million for Richards, as does MLB Trade Rumors. I would probably say that’s a little to much for my taste in terms of the guaranteed second year, but as I mentioned this is a weak market and at a certain point you have to pay what it costs or sit it out. And I’m not too keen on sitting it out.