We’re only one game into the season and there are already many questions about the Red Sox pitching staff. Andrew Bailey’s recent thumb surgery has unexpectedly pushed Alfredo Aceves into the closer role while Daniel Bard and Felix Doubront are holding down the final two spots in the starting rotation.
It’s much too soon make any judgements about whether these moves will be successful, but Red Sox president Larry Lucchino told Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe that he’s willing to increase the payroll to improve the pitching staff.
One obvious target is Roy Oswalt, who the Red Sox courted during the offseason. He’s currently aiming for a midseason return with a contender. His possible addition would potentially allow Bard or Doubront to move to the bullpen. The Red Sox have also had their eye on free agent reliever Mike Gonzalez, though he may eventually be redundant with Rich Hill on the comeback trail from Tommy John surgery. Of course, they could also increase payroll via a trade before the deadline.
The Red Sox began the season with a payroll of approximately $173 million and Lucchino said during an appearance on MLB Network Radio that he expects the team to be over the luxury tax threshold regardless.
“Our goal is to field a team with more homegrown players, fewer free agents, and to have a more manageable payroll down the road. But if you’re asking about this year, we understand that each year has to be taken on its own and this year our payroll is going to be, I’d hate to make a guess, but it’ll be well over the $178 million dollar threshold.’’
Similar to the Yankees, the Red Sox are tightening their belts with the new collective bargaining agreement in mind. With taxes shooting sky high, they can get a rebate on some luxury tax payments if they get under the threshold just once and will only be taxed as a first-time offender if they go back over in a future season.
According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa declined to attend the team’s annual Winterfest because of his dissatisfaction with management following their trade for outfielder Adam Eaton.
A source told Castillo that Espinosa’s unhappiness stemmed from a belief that the acquisition would jeopardize his starting role in 2017. With Eaton in center field, Trea Turner will likely return to his post at shortstop, leaving Espinosa out in the cold — or, as the case may be, on the bench. The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise to Espinosa, however, as Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the possibility of trading the infielder or reassigning him to a utility role back in early November.
Offensively, the 29-year-old had a down year in 2016, slashing just .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs in 601 PA. Defensively, he still profiles among the top shortstops in the National League, with eight DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 8.3 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) in his seventh year with the club.
Espinosa will reach free agency after the 2017 season.
The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.
The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.
Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.
Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.