With the Texas Rangers almost 30 games under .500 and firmly in last place in the AL West, they’re likely to be among the biggest sellers in all of baseball this summer. The good news for them is that they have two of the most valuable trade chips on the market in Kyle Gibson and Joey Gallo. Both players should be on the Red Sox’s radar as potential fits to their roster, but starting pitching presents a much bigger need than outfield at this point in the season, and the Sox would be wise to make a run at Kyle Gibson.
Gibson, a former first round draft pick back in 2009, is in the midst of one of the best seasons of his career. His ERA sits at an impressive 2.86, and he’s excelled at keeping the ball out of the air with a 51.3 percent ground ball rate. Being able to induce ground balls has become even more valuable with the foreign substance ban, and in the era of launch angle, and few do it better than Gibson. On the flip side, he has had a bit of luck on his side, as evidenced by his .267 batting average on balls in play, but his xERA and FIP are still solidly in the mid threes.
The 33-year-old righty also has quite a deep arsenal. His repertoire is made up of six primary pitches – a sinker, slider, changeup, cutter, 4-seam fastball, and curveball – and he uses all of them consistently. Gibson throws his sinker most often, about 35 percent of the time per Baseball Savant, and it’s the pitch he uses to generate most of his ground balls.
Beyond that offering, the veteran’s two best secondary pitches are his slider and changeup, off both of which opponents have wOBA’s below .215 (that’s on the same scale as OBP), and they each are inducing plenty of swings-and-misses. The only pitch that hasn’t been productive for Gibson is his cutter, which he just added this year. It’s weighted 1.7 runs below average on FanGraphs (his only below average pitch) and is allowing a wOBA over .400. Nevertheless, Gibson has proven that he has five very solid pitches he can rely on.
In addition to the repertoire, Gibson is also appealing because of the durability he’s shown throughout his career. Although he did have Tommy John surgery while in the minors, he’s since thrown at least 145 innings in every full season of his seven-year major league career. He’s well on his way to another durable season, having already thrown 107 innings so far in 2021.
Another huge factor in Gibson’s value is his contract, which extends through 2022. He’s due just $7 million next year, which is certainly far less than what he’d get on the open market. If the Red Sox do decide to buy at the deadline this year, it should be with the future in mind, and any trade involving Gibson will be beneficial to next year’s team as well as this year’s.
All of that being said, I would be wary of buying Gibson as a top-25 pitcher in baseball. He’s been consistent throughout his career, but his 2019 and 2020 seasons ended with his xERA at 4.96 and 5.70, respectively. Yes, he’s performed like a different pitcher this year, but it’s important to take struggles from recent years into account.
Still, at the end of the day Kyle Gibson has one of the best ERA’s in baseball, keeps the ball on the ground, throws five solid pitches, is durable, and is under contract for cheap through 2022. At the right price, Gibson can be extremely valuable to a contending Red Sox team in need of pitching.