Welcome back to Read Sox. This week we evaluate what the Wade Miley trade means for the starting rotation, Joe Kelly’s role with the pitching staff, potential additions to the rotation, the impact of David Price in the clubhouse and Hanley Ramirez’s preparations for 2016.
As I am sure you heard, the Red Sox made a trade on Monday, adding another high-strikeout, ground-ball machine to what has become a strong relief corps. Craig Kimbrel, Koji Uehara (he is still great!), Junichi Tazawa, and newly acquired Carson Smith is an outstanding four-pack at the end of games. But the loss of Wade Miley and his 200 innings pitched raises questions for the rotation, most notably the fifth spot. That spot could be filled with one of (or a combination of) Joe Kelly, Henry Owens, Brian Johnson, Roenis Elias or even Steven Wright. While I think Kelly is best suited as a flame-throwing reliever (make it a five-pack!), Jason Mastrodonato of BostonHerald.com reports that the Red Sox appear to be content with using Kelly (and his great stuff) in a starting role in 2016. Kelly’s month of August, in which he struck out fewer batters, walked more, induced fewer ground balls, and had good fortune in stranding baserunners, has earned him another chance at starting. Kelly tells Rob Bradford of WEEI.com he is ready for whatever role is given to him, but feels he can build off his performance as a starter at the end of the year. This could all be posturing by the Red Sox, but if they really are going to move forward with Kelly as a starter then a reasonable plan would be to pair Kelly with a lefty (e.g., Henry Owens, Brian Johnson) in a piggy-back rotation spot. I made this suggestion a while ago, but pairing them in the fifth rotation spot would ease the pressure on each pitcher, help with limiting the impact of the times through the order penalty, and make it more difficult for opposing lineups to consistently gain a platoon advantage. This approach should help get more value out or Kelly than he would provide as a one-inning reliever.
An alternative to using Kelly in the fifth spot in the rotation — and perhaps a more prudent course of action — would be to acquire another quality starter and use the list of players given above as relievers/starting depth. Pitching depth is always critical, and should not be overlooked. Michael Silverman of the BostonHerald.com writes that the Red Sox need a legitimate No. 2 starter to pitch behind David Price. Trading for someone like Shelby Miller would’ve been nice. The Sonny Gray and Chris Sale dreams still linger, but they are likely just that, dreams. Free agency is another avenue to travel, but the players who remain available are not all that exciting (e.g., Yovani Gallardo, Scott Kazmir, Wei-Yin Chen) and would still command a large commitment. All told, it looks like the Red Sox will need to get creative to further improve their rotation.
The David Price acquisition pushes the Red Sox over the $200 million payroll barrier for the first time in club history. When the dust settles on this offseason the Sox are likely to roll into Opening Day with a $215 million roster. Alex Speier of The Boston Globe has more on the debits and credits to the Red Sox payroll over the next few seasons.
David Price brings a lot to the Red Sox in terms of pitching prowess, but he is also known as an exceptional teammate. Tim Corbin, Price’s coach at Vanderbilt, spoke with Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe about how great a person the Red Sox have signed. The intangibles Corbin suggests Price will bring to the club led Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com to speculate on the role Price will play in mentoring the other members of the rotation.
While there are many who suggest trading Hanley Ramirez is a top priority for Dave Dombrowski this offseason, Hanley is busy readying himself for life at first base with the Red Sox. Hanley spoke with the media at David Ortiz’s celebrity golf tournament this past weekend. WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford highlights Hanley’s comments on a number of topics including playing winter ball, transitioning to first base, working with Brian Butterfield and his fitness. Scott Lauber of the BostonHerald.com suggests that, given his comments, Hanley is ‘all-in’.
If Hanley is to be traded the Red Sox are reportedly already touching base with potential reinforcements, specifically old friend Mike Napoli. Napoli struggled mightily with the Red Sox in 2015 (.247 TAv in 378 PA), but performed well in his opportunities with the Rangers (.318 TAv in 91 PA) after the trade deadline. Supposing Hanley does get moved, pairing Napoli with Travis Shaw in a fairly strict platoon would provide a decent option at first base for 2016.
Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman were the two biggest fish in the reliever pond this offseason. As you know the Sox acquired Kimbrel last month, but Alex Speier of The Boston Globe reports they were working with the Reds on a deal for Chapman before backing away from things when a background check revealed that Chapman had been involved in a domestic dispute – the alleged details of the incident are awful. Ideally the Reds (and/or the league) provide Chapman with the help he clearly needs.
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