The Red Sox have only made one move so far this off season. That would be the trade for Padres and Braves closer Craig Kimbrell. He is exactly what they needed in the bull pen. He came “cheaper” than Chapman, in terms of players going in the other direction, and will belong to the Red Sox for more than one season (Chapman will be free agent after the 2016 season). He was pricey in that they lost 4 lower level prospects with tons of upside. Potential is not always realized, however. There have been plenty of prospects that don’t pan out like everyone hoped. This is not the dealing away of Jeff Bagwell for a rental who doesn’t even get you into the playoffs. But he didn’t cost them their best and most electrifying prospects: Moncada, Devers, and Benintendi. Or the guys read;y to make the jump to the big leagues: Owens, and Johnson.
The Kimbrell trade gives you an elite closer who throws high 90’s heat. The coveted power arm at the back end of the bullpen. This takes the pressure off of Koji, who has struggled with injuries the last 2 seasons and is 40 years old. Koji doesn’t need to close, and can provide protection as well as a dependable guy to pitch in the 8th. This creates bullpen depth they sorely lacked last year. Tazawa is pushed to the 7th.
This also means that Joe Kelly remains in the rotation. He showed great improvement after returning from the DL. If he can be THAT guy, the rotation will be much better and save the bullpen unlike last year. The lousy starts by Kelly and Porcello, and occasionally Miley, devastated the bullpen.
The main question is who will the Red Sox sign to be the ace. Finishing in last the previous 2 seasons sent a strong message to John Henry about the need for an ace ASAP. E Rod may be an ace one day. Maybe. Or he could be the 2nd coming of Felix Doubrant whom we thought would be the 2nd coming of Jon Lester by finally figuring a few things out so he could go deep in game. Nope. Felix was not in the majors last I knew. He just got worse.
Clay has ace caliber stuff, but can’t stay healthy. I pity the fool who relies on Buchholz Available aces tend to be older, unless you want to pay the king’s ransom for them. It worked for Pedro. But most young guys like Grey are not available, or their teams are greedy. A few are untouchable, only a few. But guys like Owens and Johnson and Shaw won’t get a trade done. Besides Shaw may end up playing first in 2017, and will back up the increasingly fragile Hanley Ramirez as he takes over first base (crossing fingers).
Dombrowski indicates that they will most likely get that #1 starter in free agency. This leaves us to consider Price, Cueto, Greinke and Jordan Zimmerman. These are the guys, and even Zimmerman is borderline as the #3 pitcher on the Nationals. He also had a lousy free agent year. Health, pressure, lack of confidence? I’m not sure I want to spend ace money on Zimmerman. Or give him ace responsibilities. With Porcello at $20 million they could quickly have an over-priced and under-performing rotation.
As Owens and Johnson develop and prove they can perform in the big leagues, they can force the Red Sox to trade Miley (he’s on a good contract and is probably the most tradable of Porcello, Kelly and Miley).
So, we are down to Price, Cueto and Greinke. The first 2 were traded during the season, so they were not eligible for qualifying offers. This means that only Greinke will cost them a draft pick. A 12th pick, kind of draft pick.
This is a high price. However, it may be worth paying. Greinke has dealt with his social anxiety issues. He is a thinking man’s pitcher. He is big on advanced analytics, and got Bannister, now a Red Sox employee, into them while they both pitched for Kansas City. The connection with Bannister may be important. Not being a a power pitcher may mean that Zach is able to dominate longer, much lack Maddox. He may be the best value over the life of the his contract. He has pitched in the AL, obviously, though it has been awhile. He has seemed to resolve his post season issues.
All the “experts” and GMs believe that the Red Sox will sign Price. Earlier they all though he’d head to the Cubs to be reunited with Maddon rather than pursue a reunion with Dombrowski. I’m sure he could play with Ortiz for a season, but I’m not sure he wants to play for Red Sox fans who have been a bit hard on him. While his post season record is pretty lousy, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t pitched well. His WHIP is slightly higher, which doesn’t quite explain the significantly higher ERA. Oh, the joys of a smaller sample size and the vagaries of post season play. He has pitched most of his career in the AL East when it was one of the best divisions in baseball. He can pitch in the division.
Price is more of a power pitcher, which means that unless he’s Nolan Ryan, he will not live up to the last years of what looks to be a huge contract. He is likely to be the guy John Henry fears or feared.
Cueto has that Luis Tiant odd delivery thing going for him. What he doesn’t seem to have going for him is a bum elbow. There are some serious questions about that elbow. He does seem to be a good leader, talking pitching with other starters on the bench during games. He’s the alpha dog type you want. He may be cheaper due to the question about the elbow. You could try the John Lackey maneuver with him- add a year at league minimum if he has surgery on that arm.
I am glad I’m not Dumbrowski, and I don’t have to make that choice, and live with the consequences.
Update: Zimmerman signed with the Tigers for about $22 million a year for 5 years.
The D’Backs are pushing hard for Cueto.