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Potential Offseason Target: German Márquez

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Do the Red Sox have a blockbuster in them this offseason?

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Colorado Rockies v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

When it comes to their starting rotation for 2022, the Boston Red Sox have been pretty active, but not all that exciting. Eschewing top-tier talent for depth, they signed veterans Michael Wacha, James Paxton and Rich Hill prior to the lockout. There is definitely a timeline in which at least one of those three guys puts together a strong year and bolsters the Red Sox’s rotation; there’s even one in which all three exceed expectations. But, as is the case with any low-risk, high-reward move, there is also a chance that all three won’t move the needle all that much or, worse yet, fail to provide anything positive altogether.

That may be the gamble Chaim Bloom is comfortable with, and after he used a similar approach to put together a roster that made a surprising run to the ALCS, there’s no need to panic about the lack of splash. However, if Bloom decides to get aggressive, there are definitely deals to be made. The Red Sox, as expected for a team with their payroll, have been linked to many of them, especially Trevor Story, but I’d like to discuss a current Colorado Rockie whom the Red Sox should try to add to the roster: German Márquez.

Unlike Story, Márquez is not a free agent, so the Red Sox would have to open up the trade machine to get him to Boston. In addition, after a puzzling trade deadline last summer in which they did very little to sell off parts to accelerate a needed rebuild, it’s unclear what the Rockies are actually planning right now, but assuming they would listen to offers for Márquez, the Red Sox should give it a shot.

If the Red Sox were to deal for Márquez, they’d be getting one of the most under-appreciated starting pitchers in baseball. Despite consistently producing at a high level in Colorado, the right-hander, who just finished his sixth MLB campaign, didn’t make his first All-Star team until last season. His All-Star berth was more than just a symptom of the Rockies needing a representative as well. Márquez produced a 4.40 ERA and 3.86 FIP in 2021 and while that might not seem impressive at first glance, let’s not forget he was pitching half his games at Coors Field. To get an even better (and more accurate) look at his success in 2021, let’s examine his park-adjusted marks, which show he had a 92 ERA- and an 87 FIP-. As a reminder, these two statistics adjust for park effects and the lower they are, the better, with a mark of 100 indicating league-average performance.

Going beyond the run prevention numbers, you’ll find that Márquez had a pretty much league-average strikeout and walk rate last year, and his Baseball Savant page isn’t filled with upper echelon percentiles either. However, his consistency has been key, especially considering where he’s been pitching most of his career. In 2021, he threw 180 innings, marking the fourth time in the last five seasons he’s reached at least 160. The only season he didn’t was the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign. All he did that year was lead the National League in innings pitched (81 2/3). The Red Sox had a miraculous run of good health with their starting rotation last season, but they can’t hope to rely on such a phenomenon again, especially considering the health concerns of guys like Paxton and Chris Sale, among others. Getting someone who you can all but pencil in for a full season’s worth of work would do wonders for the stability of Boston’s rotation.

But trading for Márquez wouldn’t just be about getting an innings-eater; it would also be about bringing in a budding ace to pair with an already solid top of the rotation in Nathan Eovaldi and Sale (assuming Sale remains healthy and builds off of an inconsistent second half of 2021). Like his inning totals, Márquez’s run prevention numbers have also largely held firm in the above-average to great range since 2017, with his ERA peaking at 4.76 in 2019 and hitting a low of 3.75 in 2020. Meanwhile, his ERA- has hovered in the 75-95 range during that time, while his FIP- has been below 90 in each of the last four seasons.

Looking a bit deeper, Márquez isn’t elite at avoiding hard contact, but he at least keeps the ball off the center of barrel, with a barrel rate of 5.6 percent or lower in three of the last four years, including a mark of 5.3 percent in 2021, which ranked in the 86th percentile in MLB according to Baseball Savant. Additionally, although his 2021 walk rate continued a trend in the wrong direction, Márquez has generally had a strikeout rate in the low to mid 20s and a walk rate between seven and eight percent, putting him right around league average. Those might not be exciting numbers to look at, but it’s part of the package with Márquez.

MLB: Colorado Rockies at Los Angeles Angels Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Moving to his pitch repertoire, Márquez’s fastball usage has steadily risen since hitting a career low in 2019, reaching 45.4 percent in 2021. It’s a bit of a return to his roots, as he was throwing his fastball more than 50 percent of the time in his first couple seasons. Using his fastball more frequently is a good thing because he can light up the radar gun, averaging around 95 miles per hour with his heater last season. While the fastball is solid, Márquez’s curveball has usually been his most effective pitch, especially when it comes to getting strikeouts. Although it doesn’t have a mind-bending amount of break, he has made up for it by locating the pitch well while getting good spin, with his curveball in the 79th percentile in spin rate in 2021. From there, Márquez has a slider that can be effective and a rarely used sinker and changeup.

All in all, if the Red Sox could trade for Márquez, they’d be getting a very good starting pitcher who stands to get even better away from the pitching death trap of Coors Field. Admittedly, Fenway Park isn’t exactly a pitcher’s haven, but it should give Márquez some help that he just won’t get in Colorado.

In addition, despite the Red Sox’s additions to the starting rotation this offseason, Márquez would easily slot in as an above average number three behind Eovaldi and Sale, and you could even argue that he could make a run at the No. 1 spot. Adding him to the mix would also immediately provide some certainty for the rotation and give the Red Sox the kind of top three of which title dreams are made.

Additionally, Márquez would be far from a short-term solution. He will be entering his age-27 season in 2022, which is ridiculous when you consider how long he’s been pitching successfully at the MLB level already. His current deal has him being paid $11 million in 2022 and $15 million in 2023, with a $16 million club option in 2024. That means trading for him would force the Red Sox to spend more than they’ve shown a willingness to do with starting pitchers so far this offseason, but with Márquez’s skill, track record and age, it would be difficult to understand why the Red Sox, who are coming off a deep playoff run, would turn down a chance to boost their rotation this much right now.

Of course, that doesn’t mean Colorado is just going to give Márquez away. Taking aside the odd approach the Rockies took at last season’s trade deadline, they’d be foolish not to ask for a king’s ransom for Márquez. That means the Red Sox would have to put together a package with more than a few top flight prospects. Once again, that doesn’t seem like something Bloom wants to do right now, making a trade for Márquez seem ever more unlikely. But unlikely doesn’t mean impossible and in this case, it doesn’t mean imprudent either.