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Smash or Pass: Seth Lugo

He’s not a huge name, but he’s got upside.

MLB: San Diego Padres at San Francisco Giants Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Who is he and where does he come from?

He’s right-handed pitcher Seth Lugo. You may know him from this tweet. He debuted in 2016 with the Mets and spent seven years in New York before joining the Padres for the 2023 season. He’s been used as both a starter and a reliever, though the Padres exclusively pitched him out of the rotation. The assumption is he’s looking to pitch out of a rotation at his next destination.

Is he any good?

Over his eight-year career, he has an ERA of 3.50. Just about half of those innings are out of the bullpen, so that may be slightly skewed, but it’s a solid line nonetheless. More recently, he posted a 3.57 ERA in 141 innings. At first glance, that’s a really solid rotation piece.

Is he actually good though?

Lugo is 34 years old, and while he’s bounced around from role to role, we have a decent idea of his ability. He isn’t an ace, but he has a pretty safe skillset to provide some quality innings. He throws a decent fastball and a decent sinker to get strikes, complimented by a huge curveball and sliders, sweepers, and changeups. He doesn’t blow hitters away, rather he attacks them in the zone with his “kitchen sink” approach and limits free passes (6.0 BB%) His hard contact rate is a bit on the higher side, but he still manages to induce a high number of ground balls.

Lugo also has fairly neutral platoon splits. Despite his fastball getting hit hard at times, he’s able to get whiffs at the top of the zone due to his solid vertical movement and flat approach angle. Pair that with his big, loopy curveball and it’s enough to keep lefties off balance.

Sounds like he’s really good.

Well, it’s not all good. Like many starters in today’s game, Lugo’s numbers suffer the deeper into games he goes. He also battled elbow and shoulder injuries early in his career. They didn’t require surgery, but they did force him to the bullpen early on. While the injuries didn’t hamper him last year in his first full season as a starter since 2017, there’s always a chance those issues resurface.

Tl;dr, just give me his 2023 stats.

26 Starts, 146.1 IP, 140 H, 36 BB, 140 SO, 3.57 ERA, 115 ERA+

Why would he be a good fit for the 2024 Red Sox?

Lugo’s 146 innings would have been the second most on the team last year behind only Brayan Bello. The Red Sox need a front-line starter, but they also need an innings-eater. They need a horse. While Seth Lugo isn’t going to win the Kentucky Derby, he can be in the mix for the Kentucky Oaks. 150 innings with a 3.50 - 4.00 ERA isn’t glamorous, but it’s necessary.

Why would he not be a good fit for the 2024 Red Sox?

There are already a lot of guys on the roster who could be in the rotation or the bullpen. While I believe Lugo will stick in the rotation wherever he goes, I understand the concern with having another swingman in the clubhouse.

Give me a hot take.

Well, I didn’t want to throw out a hot take, but if you’re going to twist my arm, I guess I will.

One of these is a pitcher everyone is urging the Red Sox to spend $200 million on, and the other is Seth Lugo. Seriously, are the two that different? Aside from throwing with opposite arms, they’re incredibly similar pitchers. Montgomery was magnificent down the stretch for the Rangers, I’m not trying to take that away from him. All I’m saying is that if not for the playoff run, he’s probably not being discussed in the same manner this offseason. While Montgomery is a few years younger, he’s thrown more career innings than Lugo. We have a pretty clear picture of who Montgomery is. He just happened to have the best stretch of his career in the two months leading up to free agency, and all of a sudden he’s an ace-level talent. If I’m forced to pick one of the two with all else equal, I’ll take Montgomery, but the difference between the two is a lot smaller than you think.

What will he cost?

MLBTradeRumors projects three years, $42MM for Lugo. At 34 years old, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a deal structured as two years with a third optional year. Either way, unless the market all of a sudden explodes, you’re not going to have to break the bank for Lugo.

Smash or pass?

I think my stance on Lugo is pretty clear. I’m not suggesting they make Seth Lugo the cornerstone of the offseason. If he’s the best pitcher that’s brought in, I’ll be disappointed. Despite what Craig Breslow says, financial resources are going to be limited to some extent. Signing every superstar free agent isn’t realistic. While reinforcing the pitching staff with a back-end of the rotation signing isn’t exciting, it’s necessary. Seth Lugo fits the bill of a relatively low-cost, high-floor option. Count me in on Lugo.