The 2019 Rotation

Danny_Darwin

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(Another more specific offseason thread - again, if people think this is redundant, feel free to delete.)

There are fewer questions about the starting rotation than there are about the bullpen. Assuming health and barring a surprise trade, the top four are set: Sale, Price, Porcello, and Rodriguez. There are a few options for the remaining spot. In no particular order...

Do nothing. This is defensible - give the fifth spot in the rotation over to some combination of Brian Johnson, Hector Velasquez, and (knee permitting) Steven Wright - and maybe Shawaryn or even Darwinzon Hernandez at some point - while monitoring the in-season trade market. If this strategy seems familiar, it's because it's the one they employed in 2018. The downside, of course, is that if someone gets hurt, then that depth gets stretched pretty quickly. But, again, this worked pretty well this past season.

Re-sign Eovaldi. I expect this will be a popular choice here. On the plus side, he was really good with Boston this year. On the down side, he figures to be a popular target in free agency for a lot of teams, which could drive his pricetag ever upwards. It does sort of seem like Dombrowski puts some value on continuity and bringing in/keeping "his guys," but that could just be my perception.

Sign a different Top Guy. This option has not been discussed too much here, but there's a case to be made. Specifically, and without spending too much time on who is and isn't a "top guy," I'd fully expect Dombrowski to at least consider either Happ or Morton if Eovaldi does indeed sign elsewhere. Maybe even Keuchel, but he'll probably require a larger commitment than the other two. Happ and Morton are both in their 30s, maybe they'd take something similar to what Lackey got from the Cubs a few years ago?

Trade for a Top Guy who is signed beyond this year. This was discussed here over the weekend, but it seems to have cooled a bit. The appeal is obvious: they would strengthen the team in 2019 while also leaving themselves covered for 2020 in the event (likely, IMO) that Sale leaves via free agency. The problem is also obvious: how would they pull this off when other teams who look to be in the market for starting pitching - including but not limited to Atlanta, Milwaukee, and the Yankees - have better minor-league systems than Boston? I don't think they're inclined to trade from the MLB roster to fill a hole that doesn't really exist, but it's certainly a possibility.

Sign a fourth-starter type. I get that nobody's excited about someone like Lance Lynn or Gio Gonzalez or Trevor Cahill or Jeremy Hellickson, but they'll give you some innings and probably - probably! - won't be terrible in doing so. At least one guy from this category will have a really good year out of nowhere; it wasn't so long ago that the aforementioned Happ and Morton were guys you picked up because you needed a warm body in your rotation. I wouldn't be surprised if this was the route they chose.

Take some cheap flyers.
Nobody expected Wade Miley or Anibal Sanchez to start a playoff game last year, and yet they did just that. Maybe someone nobody's thinking of right now will dramatically turn his career around.
 

nvalvo

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Any interest in Yusei Kikuchi?

The 27 year old LHSP is likely to be was just posted to MLB by the Saitama Seibu Lions — Matsuzaka's old team — after a strong season (14-4, 163 IP, 3.08 ERA, 153 SO against 45 BB) as the leader of the staff for the Pacific League pennant-winners. The Lions were bounced in the semifinal series by the eventual champion Fukuoka Softbank Hawks.

Kikuchi is a three time All Star, with some injury history. Observers see a mid-90s fastball and well-developed secondary pitches. He is not seen as a likely ace on this side of the Pacific, but more as a 3/4 type, or a 2 if things break well. But the success of recent SP imports from NPB suggest that statistics are translating pretty well.

Fangraphs envisions him getting somewhere in the ballpark of $36-60 over four years. Reports suggest that "the Brewers, Dodgers, Giants, Phillies, Rangers, Red Sox, and Yankees" scouted his last start.
 

bosox79

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Signing him would probably mean no Eovaldi and it would mean 4 lefties in the rotation, again.
 

chrisfont9

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I'd offer Pomeranz a one year make good contract to see if he can regain what he had in 2017, when he was their second best starter.
Without Eovaldi this makes some sense: Have three (or four) guys for the fifth spot. With Eovaldi? Makes no sense unless he's willing to be a reliever, which isn't something Pom will give into until he's exhausted his starting options, I'd think.
 

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Without Eovaldi this makes some sense: Have three (or four) guys for the fifth spot. With Eovaldi? Makes no sense unless he's willing to be a reliever, which isn't something Pom will give into until he's exhausted his starting options, I'd think.
Right. I've been pretty vocal about not wanting Eovaldi, but I probably should have restated it here.
 

Savin Hillbilly

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The wrong side of the bridge....
Without Eovaldi this makes some sense: Have three (or four) guys for the fifth spot. With Eovaldi? Makes no sense unless he's willing to be a reliever, which isn't something Pom will give into until he's exhausted his starting options, I'd think.
Yes, and I can't see the Sox investing money in making Pom a starter until they've exhausted their other options. So from both sides, this looks like a late deal if it's a deal at all.
 

theapportioner

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I'm a bit surprised that the free agent pitcher contracts are being projected so low. Seems like recently pitchers have generally earned their big contracts - Scherzer, Lester, Greinke, Verlander etc. with guys like Price and Tanaka maybe a little disappointing but not total busts. OTOH the contracts given out to Pujols, Cabrera, Ellsbury, and our guys Hanley and Sandoval have been terrible.
 

Greenfielder

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Shall we try Joe Kelly as a starter again? If I remember correctly he looked good for St. Louis when he first came up and then fell off a cliff after he came to Boston. Perhaps he will accept a 1-2 year contract if we offer him a shot at starting. If he fails we can shift him back to the pen.
 

nvalvo

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I promised to stop harping on Eovaldi's two Tommy John surgeries: tl;dr, about 100 pitchers have had a second TJS, and like 7 have come back effective, and that's being generous. (Here's the link to my earlier post.)

It is of course possible that now that Eo's back and performing at a high level, he's out of the woods. If the team medical staff think that's what's up, I guess I trust them. But there's no denying that the track record is ominous.
 

Moosbrugger

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I promised to stop harping on Eovaldi's two Tommy John surgeries: tl;dr, about 100 pitchers have had a second TJS, and like 7 have come back effective, and that's being generous. (Here's the link to my earlier post.)

It is of course possible that now that Eo's back and performing at a high level, he's out of the woods. If the team medical staff think that's what's up, I guess I trust them. But there's no denying that the track record is ominous.
I was with you until I saw him pitch in September and October- in particular his work against the Yankees. Now I’m all for signing him at the going free agent rate and jettisoning Porcello in order for the money to work. I’m unsure if this is an emotional reaction or a logical conclusion.
 

BaseballJones

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I said this earlier but Morton is a really interesting option. He's just a few days short of 35 so won't command a big (i.e., long) contract. But he's still really good. Last two seasons:

14-7, 3.62 era, 3.46 fip, 113 era+, 1.19 whip, 10.0 k/9
15-3, 3.13 era, 3.59 fip, 129 era+, 1.16 whip, 10.8 k/9

Signing him to a 2-year, $28 million deal or something like that probably would work out pretty well.
 

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I said this earlier but Morton is a really interesting option. He's just a few days short of 35 so won't command a big (i.e., long) contract. But he's still really good. Last two seasons:

14-7, 3.62 era, 3.46 fip, 113 era+, 1.19 whip, 10.0 k/9
15-3, 3.13 era, 3.59 fip, 129 era+, 1.16 whip, 10.8 k/9

Signing him to a 2-year, $28 million deal or something like that probably would work out pretty well.
I like Morton a lot, but why wouldn't Houston try to keep him, especially because it looks like they'll lose Keuchel.
 

chawson

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I like Morton but I’m not sure we can ignore the flags. He’s never pitched a full season and had velocity issues down the stretch last year.

My sense is that we can rule out a low-whiff lefty on the decline. I could imagine DD signing almost anyone on the board before Dallas Keuchel.
 

Sandy Leon Trotsky

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I'd offer Pomeranz a one year make good contract to see if he can regain what he had in 2017, when he was their second best starter.
This is where I'm at.... I imagine some team will offer him a conservative 3 year deal around 7million per season. I think the Sox could step in and offer him a 1 year 10million and a chance for him to put in a 2017-like season and get paid afterwards. These guys all have massive egos and I could see him taking that.
A one year deal would be difficult for any new SP addition since the entire team will be upended after '19 with only EdRod and Price on the rotation beyond then. But it gives the team a massive payroll break to see if Sale can stay healthy enough for another long term deal.... or perhaps some pitcher steps up massive in the minors and we can finally develop a home grown ace....
Speaking of which... how's that kid doing that we dealt to San Diego for Kimbrell doing now?
 

Savin Hillbilly

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The wrong side of the bridge....
I promised to stop harping on Eovaldi's two Tommy John surgeries: tl;dr, about 100 pitchers have had a second TJS, and like 7 have come back effective, and that's being generous. (Here's the link to my earlier post.)

It is of course possible that now that Eo's back and performing at a high level, he's out of the woods. If the team medical staff think that's what's up, I guess I trust them. But there's no denying that the track record is ominous.
I guess the question is, why do pitchers come back from second TJs so much less often than from initial ones? And does the answer to that question imply a permanently heightened risk, or just a lower success rate?

More specifically, should we be comparing Eovaldi to all pitchers who have had a second TJ, or only to those who have thrown 100+ effective innings after a second TJ? You've suggested that most pitchers with a second TJ never make it back to the majors or give up after a few outings. What about the others? Are there examples of pitchers who've come back from a second TJ, pitched as much and as well as Eovaldi has, but then broken down shortly thereafter?
 

shaggydog2000

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This is where I'm at.... I imagine some team will offer him a conservative 3 year deal around 7million per season. I think the Sox could step in and offer him a 1 year 10million and a chance for him to put in a 2017-like season and get paid afterwards. These guys all have massive egos and I could see him taking that.
A one year deal would be difficult for any new SP addition since the entire team will be upended after '19 with only EdRod and Price on the rotation beyond then. But it gives the team a massive payroll break to see if Sale can stay healthy enough for another long term deal.... or perhaps some pitcher steps up massive in the minors and we can finally develop a home grown ace....
Speaking of which... how's that kid doing that we dealt to San Diego for Kimbrell doing now?
I would love the Sox to have as many good pitchers as possible. But I have doubts that with the money they have invested in their current top 3 pitchers, and their likely desire to extend Sale, that they would invest heavily in another starter, even if it is for only 3 years like Eovaldi would likely get. I think they plan on Edro being the 4th starter, and the 5th through 8th starters coming from the Wright, Velazquez, Johnson, guys who pop up from the minors group. It seems likely that they would add a cheap starter that could rebound from an injury or something like that, and I feel like Pomeranz would fit that definition. I don't think he is going to be offered all that much by another team, and if he is I'd walk away. He is just the sort of guy I would be interested in taking a chance on if he had played for someone else. But the Sox are the one with the detailed health info on him, so that would impact things too.
 

BaseballJones

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I like Morton but I’m not sure we can ignore the flags. He’s never pitched a full season and had velocity issues down the stretch last year.
Morton average 4-seamer velocity (per Fangraphs):
- 2017: 96.0
- 2018: 96.6

https://www.fangraphs.com/graphs.aspx?playerid=4676&position=P&pitchgraphs=true&statArr=&legend=1&split=base&time=daily&start=2018&end=2018&rtype=single&gt1=15&dStatArray=SI&ymin=&ymax=

Really you're talking about his last three starts. And really, just the second and third to last start, since his last start he averaged 95 mph. Not saying it's nothing, but I'm not sure it's a red flag or anything.
 

chawson

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Morton average 4-seamer velocity (per Fangraphs):
- 2017: 96.0
- 2018: 96.6

https://www.fangraphs.com/graphs.aspx?playerid=4676&position=P&pitchgraphs=true&statArr=&legend=1&split=base&time=daily&start=2018&end=2018&rtype=single&gt1=15&dStatArray=SI&ymin=&ymax=

Really you're talking about his last three starts. And really, just the second and third to last start, since his last start he averaged 95 mph. Not saying it's nothing, but I'm not sure it's a red flag or anything.
I am mostly with you on this. I like him as a two-year deal but he's had a weird career of near-total mediocrity (and recurring injury) before suddenly adding 3-4 mph of velocity at age 33. He's also one of maybe four pitchers that Houston coaches have revamped into a stud the last few years — not a red flag, exactly, but I'm not sure what to make of it.

Again, I like him a lot, but he seems to raise similar questions as Eovaldi, and if that's the case I'm not sure why the Sox would opt for the guy six years older.

Regardless, I still think we'll acquire a starter via trade.
 

BaseballJones

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I am mostly with you on this. I like him as a two-year deal but he's had a weird career of near-total mediocrity (and recurring injury) before suddenly adding 3-4 mph of velocity at age 33. He's also one of maybe four pitchers that Houston coaches have revamped into a stud the last few years — not a red flag, exactly, but I'm not sure what to make of it.

Again, I like him a lot, but he seems to raise similar questions as Eovaldi, and if that's the case I'm not sure why the Sox would opt for the guy six years older.

Regardless, I still think we'll acquire a starter via trade.
Cost would be the reason. If Eovaldi is going to get a 4-year, $70 million deal say, they might prefer Morton on a 2-year, cheaper deal.
 

nvalvo

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I guess the question is, why do pitchers come back from second TJs so much less often than from initial ones? And does the answer to that question imply a permanently heightened risk, or just a lower success rate?

More specifically, should we be comparing Eovaldi to all pitchers who have had a second TJ, or only to those who have thrown 100+ effective innings after a second TJ? You've suggested that most pitchers with a second TJ never make it back to the majors or give up after a few outings. What about the others? Are there examples of pitchers who've come back from a second TJ, pitched as much and as well as Eovaldi has, but then broken down shortly thereafter?
Not really. Again, the set of pitchers who came back and succeeded at all is tiny. Jasons Frasor and Isringhausen and Chris Capuano were the most durable, but only Frasor was really what you'd think of as good post-TJ2. The best example of that scenario would probably be Brian Wilson, he of the notable beard.

After a solid four year stint as the Giants closer, Wilson had his second TJS in April 2012. The Giants released him, and he signed with Los Angeles. His first season with LA, 2013, was injury-marred, but kind of amazing: he only accrued 13.2 IP, but he also only conceded one earned run, striking out 13 and walking four: very impressive results in limited work — a sparkling 0.66 ERA with a merely excellent 2.02 FIP.

The wheels came off for good in 2014. He pitched a full season — 61 G, 48.1 IP with a 4.29 FIP— but his velocity was declining and his command was awful. 29 walks, and 5 HR — when you consider that those were only the 18th through 22nd HR of his nine season career, you see the issue. When he was good, Wilson had succeeded by spotting a hard fastball on the black, which he could also cut and sink. He'd walk people when he didn't get called strikes (4.1 career BB/9), but he was hard to square up (0.4 HR/9 pre-2014). But in 2014, he threw more and more walks, and didn't have enough velocity or location for the four-seamer to be much of an option. He threw more and more cutters, and until he became Shitty Mariano Rivera, and conceded more hard contact.

And that was it.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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I guess the question is, why do pitchers come back from second TJs so much less often than from initial ones? And does the answer to that question imply a permanently heightened risk, or just a lower success rate?
I imagine part of it is the second TJ surgery comes later in their career when it's more difficult to come back from any injury and be the same player. Eovaldi may be different only in that his first surgery came as a teenager, so he had a significant run of success (drafted and made it to the bigs in that time) before his second surgery, and he's still under 30.

A lot of guys who have had two TJ surgeries end up having them later in their careers or in a couple cases, more or less back to back (like Jonny Venters) and miss multiple seasons in a row in what should be their prime. Could be all the time off is as big a factor in their struggles as the surgeries themselves.
 

Plympton91

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I learned a little about TJ surgery from Jeff Passans book, The Arm, which I highly recommend. The key is the quality of the tendon they transplant. They use one from the wrist that apparently we humans don’t need, and so, not everyone has quality ones, let alone two. So, the first time you have surgery, they use the “better one” and then the second time, they either use the “worse, remaining one” or one from a donor / cadaver.

I got to thinking that perhaps a live donor could make some money. Wonder if I have a good one to contribute? Joking. ... sorta ... yeah. Joking.

On that note, the Sox and everyone else will know what’s in Eovaldi’s elbow now. I would think the fact that he came back and pitched so well helps with the worry that he’d be like all the others who never got back from #2.

Daniel Hudson is a warning sign. He came back from #2 and looked good for 1 year, then fell off a cliff.

Some thoughts on the numbers/options in this thread:

Going into 2020, the Sox can’t afford deadwood. That means I would shy away from Eovaldi if he gets multi-year offers, which he will. The availability of Wright, Velazquez, and Johnson makes the rotation a secondary priority. Save the 8-figure salary commitment and put it toward a true ace in 2020.

They put Pomeranz on the World Series roster as a reliever, which I assume means he recovered some effectiveness with 3 weeks of rest and rehab. He was a above average set up man for 2 years with the A’s. I would first talk about him coming back with a promise he could compete for a rotation slot as the presumed 5th starter, while making clear the bullpen was a possibility if he faltered or someone clearly outperformed him. Then, if, under those conditions, they can get him for “reliever money” — 1 year, $5 million or less — I’d do it.

Another reason I’m not freaking out about the rotation and advocating spending a lot to upgrade the 3 spot this winter is because I really think Edro took a huge step forward, which was masked by the fluke injury on the play at 1B. They’ve got a ton of pitching depth, top to bottom.
 

Dewey'sCannon

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I think they like Eovaldi (and based on Brian Bannister's recent statements, they like him a lot), and will try to bring him back if they can make a reasonable deal. But they likely will be outbid for him.

Otherwise, I agree that the rotation does not need to be a high priority - figuring out the back end of the bullpen is #1.
 

bankshot1

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I'd pursue Evo, with the thought, that given Price's opt-in, re-signing Sale and/or Porecello, after '19 may be too expensive.

Pom and Kim-gone.

I might give serious thought for Kelly as set-up/closer, and take the chance at a Barnes-Brasier-Kelly back-end.
 

sean1562

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I’d think I’d rather have Brasier as the closer than Kelly. I’d lean towards signing eovaldi since I don’t think we will/should re-sign Sle
 

Plympton91

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Who else might be available after 2019 as an alternative to Sale if they want to go in a different direction.

One name that could be a trade target if the Mariners end up also rans again, and a couple of the Sox prospects take a leap forward, is James Paxton.
 

chawson

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I hope DD gets proactive this winter. It seems like there are more and better options available now rather than later (in trade and FA). Plus, I figure one of the 2020/21 seasons will be the tax reset year, and I don't think DD will want to dip too hard into the SP free agent market. Besides Sale and Cole, there isn't a single pitcher in next year's FA class I want the Sox to sign.

This offseason, I'd sign Eovaldi and trade for someone else (possibly trading Porcello to make room), then hope Darwinzon/Mata/Schwaryn/Houck takes a big step forward in 2019. If no one does, go hard for Sale or Cole. 2020 rotation is Sale or Cole/(trade)/Price/Eovaldi/Rodriguez or (trade)/Price/Eovaldi/Rodriguez/Hernandez.
 

BaseballJones

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According to (https://www.spotrac.com/mlb/free-agents/2020/), here are some starters that are free agents after the 2019 season:

Name (age as a FA)
Verlander (37)
King Felix (34)
Hamels (36)
Porcello (31)
Bumgarner (30)
Chacin (32)
Sale (31)
Cole (29)
Gray (30)
Odorizzi (30)
Wheeler (30)

Bumgarner has dealt with injuries but is still solid (last 2 years: 3.29 era, 1.17 whip, 7.9 k/9), with obvious playoff pedigree.

Verlander probably will still be effective but his age worries me. Felix is toast. Porcello will likely still be a solid major league starter, but not an ace. Cole likely will be one of the highest-sought-after starters in this class. Wheeler would be a nice pickup (3.31 era, 1.12 whip, 8.8 k/9 this year).
 

BaseballJones

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I'm going to assume that after 2019:

- Price is still really good and in the Sox' rotation for several more years,
- Porcello is a solid starter with another year to go for Boston,
- Sale is a FA and hasn't signed an extension,
- EdRo has taken the next step and is one of the better lefty starters in the AL,
- Eovaldi is elsewhere (not even with the team in 2019),
- Wright, Johnson, and Velazquez are what they are - decent but not reliable arms for one reason or another.

So after 2019, I can see the top of the rotation being: Price, Rodriguez, and Porcello, all three of whom will be solid to very good.

That means they need to fill two spots. One of them could be filled this offseason, if they signed Eovaldi or another starter to a multi-year deal.

Who knows? Maybe they'll extend Sale. To me it's a risky proposition. Obviously when he's healthy, he's absolutely elite and utterly dominant. And he's not old by any stretch. The question is whether he can get back to throwing 99, and whether he can stay healthy.
 

bankshot1

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I think we find out pretty early next year, if Sale is even a consideration for a L-T deal beyond 2019. After a winter's rest and ST If he's not pitching deep into games (6+) and throwing 97+ by May, we may our answer on him.
 

Danny_Darwin

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Where are you getting the extra year for Porcello from? Are you figuring they re-sign him if he’s decent?
 

bosox79

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I'm going to assume that after 2019:

- Price is still really good and in the Sox' rotation for several more years,
- Porcello is a solid starter with another year to go for Boston,
- Sale is a FA and hasn't signed an extension,
- EdRo has taken the next step and is one of the better lefty starters in the AL,
- Eovaldi is elsewhere (not even with the team in 2019),
- Wright, Johnson, and Velazquez are what they are - decent but not reliable arms for one reason or another.

So after 2019, I can see the top of the rotation being: Price, Rodriguez, and Porcello, all three of whom will be solid to very good.

That means they need to fill two spots. One of them could be filled this offseason, if they signed Eovaldi or another starter to a multi-year deal.

Who knows? Maybe they'll extend Sale. To me it's a risky proposition. Obviously when he's healthy, he's absolutely elite and utterly dominant. And he's not old by any stretch. The question is whether he can get back to throwing 99, and whether he can stay healthy.
Porcello is a FA after this year.
 

MikeM

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Who knows? Maybe they'll extend Sale. To me it's a risky proposition. Obviously when he's healthy, he's absolutely elite and utterly dominant. And he's not old by any stretch. The question is whether he can get back to throwing 99, and whether he can stay healthy.
Sale isn't old, but the signs that he's trending away from being the horse he was in his 20's are there, as is the expected career arc factor in play that is all but screaming big contract bust waiting to happen. As others have pointed out, like Pedro before him I just don't see Henry and co paying the guy for essentially being Chris Sale of the past. Somebody else not coming off a recent championship and more desperate for the short term payout potential probably will though.

It doesn't have the same sexy home run signing type appeal, but I generally think people are too quick to dismiss the possibility that the Sox simply extend Porcello at market $$$ and keep him in the mix beyond 2019. Especially with the market trending away from mid-tier overpays. In grander scheme of thing and regardless what approach they take (which at the very least isn't going to include a full blown rebuild), he's the much more likely potential resign imo.
 

BaseballJones

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Hmmm weird because I put in free agent 2020 in the pulldown menu as you can see from the title of the link. I guess I was thinking free agent after 2020.

Ok whatever.
 
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BaseballJones

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Well from b-ref (to clear this up):
- Porcello gets paid $21.12m in 2019, and is a free agent after that.
- Sale gets paid $15m in 2019, and is a free agent after that.

So whether the site is screwy or I'm just an idiot (not necessarily mutually exclusive things, of course), the actual situation is that Porcello has one more year left on his deal with the Sox (2019) and then is a FA after that.
 

Papelbon's Poutine

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Yes, I think most were aware both are FAs after next season before the mix up even started; and I don’t think it was you because like I said, it seems to have changed since your original post.
 

patoaflac

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Sox won this year, 2019 looks great. I´ll think about 2020 at this time next year (was Sale healthy, which Porky appeared, how did X performed, has Devers matured, were Sox buyers or sellers at mid-season, etc, etc). A lot of questions to be answered in the next 12 months and DD will let us know.
Michael Corleone: just be patient........ There are things being negotiated now that are gonna solve all your problems and answer all your questions. That's all I can tell you now...
 
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Would really prefer to have Eovaldi back, but only on terms we can live with.

As long as 1-4 are good for 150-200 innings each, we have good depth in Johnson, Velasquez and Wright.

If Eovaldi is too high a cost, I'm good with going for cheap flyer and that could be Pomeranz if he's sound.

Eovaldi does have that magic though, those displays at the toilet were timely and great for morale when needed.
 

Max Power

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A report just came through MLB.com that Steven Wright had knee surgery and is preparing to pitch next season. That doesn't sound like Opening Day to me. He can't be planned on for next season.