Who should start for this team in 2021?

nvalvo

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 16, 2005
17,590
Rogers Park
The 2020 Red Sox had a horrible starting rotation. In 60 starts, they averaged 4.1 IP* and a 5.34 ERA. They conceded 49 HR, and had a K/BB ratio around 2. The team as a whole had an 85 ERA+. None of that is good.

There were some bright spots, however. The last few weeks of the season saw Eovaldi finish strong (returning from the IL, he posted a 0.64 ERA in 14 IP across three starts), a great debut from Tanner Houck (21 strikeouts in 17 IP, all against playoff teams!), a pair of promising outings from Nick Pivetta (13 SO in 10 IP), and at least presentable outings from Chris Mazza (a misleading 3.00 ERA across his last two tightrope act starts) and Martín Perez (whose September was four good starts and a shelling), whose option was not picked up but is rumored to be in discussions about a return.

That good news, along with positive reports about the health of Eduardo Rodriguez, after his scary bout of COVID-induced myocarditis, and Chris Sale, who is throwing again, offer us at least a tentative sense that there are the ingredients of a good starting rotation here.

But clearly more personnel will be needed. For much of last season, Perez was our best starter almost by default. He's not a bad pitcher, but a good rotation would be one where he was a fourth starter. But because it seems like a bunch of teams may be in rough financial shape and trimming payroll, there may be some pretty interesting pitchers available in post-non-tender free agency or via trade.

Here's how I think things should shake out.

Boston Rotation
Rodriguez
Eovaldi
FA1 (Quintana/Odorizzi/Morton/Minor type) ($10-15m AAV)
FA2 (Perez/McHugh/Leake/Walker type) ($4-8m AAV)
Pivetta

It looks to me like what we need are two FA SP anticipated to be more reliable than Pivetta. I'm rather less confident than usual that I know what players will cost this offseason, so those price ranges are estimates after eyeing the Fangraphs crowdsourced estimates. Who knows?

Injured List
Sale

Worcester Rotation
Houck
Mata
Seabold
Mazza (or mlFA)
Weber (or mlFA)

Something very exciting is that we again have actual prospects who are also big league SP depth. Guys like Mazza and Weber are of course fungible, and I would not be at all surprised to see them replaced with other comparable pitchers in the 7/8/9 depth slots.

Portland Rotation
Ward
Reyes
Raudes
Groome, maybe?
etc., etc.

What do you all think? Am I right about the shopping list here? Who would you target? Which trade candidates and non-tender possibilities are you interested in?
 

johnnywayback

Member
SoSH Member
Aug 8, 2004
1,218
I think Morton (with Odorizzi as a backup plan) and Perez (on a much cheaper deal) make sense as a pair of FA acquisitions, and I still want to see what Pittsburgh would want for Joe Musgrove. But I think there are likely to be a lot of non-tenders -- Jon Gray, Trevor Williams, Steven Matz, etc. -- and I would wait to see how that shakes out before making any firm plans.
 

Sandy Leon Trotsky

Member
SoSH Member
Mar 11, 2007
2,783
I think Houk deserves a shot in the rotation after how he looked last year. What's the point in not?
I'd still add Pivetta and another FA.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

Well-Known Member
Silver Supporter
SoSH Member
Jan 23, 2009
12,854
Maine
I think Houk deserves a shot in the rotation after how he looked last year. What's the point in not?
I'd still add Pivetta and another FA.
He definitely deserves a shot. But they're going to need more than five starters in the rotation over the course of the season. Houck and Pivetta give them the luxury of being able to stash some of that rotation depth in Worcester if need be. Not to mention that it's not as though either can or should be counted on to give 150+ innings just yet. Better to plan for them to be the #5 or #6 starters and let them force the issue in terms of staying up full time than slot them into the rotation from the jump and get caught short if either they flop or there are injuries (Eovaldi being the prime concern). Easier to sign big league pitchers to slot into the April rotation (who can be jettisoned if forced out) than to find guys who can serve as quality depth on the AAA shuttle.
 

Sandy Leon Trotsky

Member
SoSH Member
Mar 11, 2007
2,783
He definitely deserves a shot. But they're going to need more than five starters in the rotation over the course of the season. Houck and Pivetta give them the luxury of being able to stash some of that rotation depth in Worcester if need be. Not to mention that it's not as though either can or should be counted on to give 150+ innings just yet. Better to plan for them to be the #5 or #6 starters and let them force the issue in terms of staying up full time than slot them into the rotation from the jump and get caught short if either they flop or there are injuries (Eovaldi being the prime concern). Easier to sign big league pitchers to slot into the April rotation (who can be jettisoned if forced out) than to find guys who can serve as quality depth on the AAA shuttle.
Well sure... I have always just figured 6 "starters" for any ML team, assuming that there's likely to be an injury. If I had to just say 5, then yeah, The Incredible Houk* should start in AAA.

* Yeah, it's terrible but kinda funny, no?
 

nvalvo

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 16, 2005
17,590
Rogers Park
I think Morton (with Odorizzi as a backup plan) and Perez (on a much cheaper deal) make sense as a pair of FA acquisitions, and I still want to see what Pittsburgh would want for Joe Musgrove. But I think there are likely to be a lot of non-tenders -- Jon Gray, Trevor Williams, Steven Matz, etc. -- and I would wait to see how that shakes out before making any firm plans.
Yes, exactly! I was hoping that this thread could be a place for us to think about potential trade and non-tender targets. There are some worthwhile FA, but with a bunch of teams talking about slashing payroll, who knows what might shake out.

A long shot example: I live in Chicago, and some of the media here think that the Ricketts are about to impose pretty serious payroll cuts on the Cubs. If so, the back half of Yu Darvish's deal might become available, coming off a season in which he finished second in the CY voting. The Cubs have some interesting SP prospects they could plug into their rotation spots, and if the money crunch is real, it might make sense for them to shift some of the money they're spending on the rotation to extensions for position players like Baez.

Do I actually think that particular situation is likely? Not really. I don't think it would be an especially smart move for the Cubs, because it looks like so few teams are looking to add payroll, and if you were to do a rebuild well, you'd want to use the trades to buy prospects more than shed dollars, which makes us not the right trade partner. Still, Theo's departure is making people here think that austerity is on, and that a rebuild may be coming sooner rather than later. If true, taking over Darvish's 3/$59 might be more appealing than signing Jake Odorizzi to 2/$38 or whatever.

Or, as you say, Musgrove (good one!), or any of a dozen other possibilities I hope we can identify and consider.

I think Houk deserves a shot in the rotation after how he looked last year. What's the point in not?
I'd still add Pivetta and another FA.
Houck did amazingly well in his debut, and I think we're all excited about him. The command was better than advertised, and he's tantalizingly close.

But I think it's pretty clear that, given his arm slot, he needs another pitch or else lefties will demolish him once they actually get to watch him on video and learn to lay off the back foot slider. Apparently he's been working on an assortment of changeups and splitters, but nothing's quite clicked.

Also, the lesson I have taken away from last year is that we need depth.
 

Mr. Wednesday

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Jul 27, 2007
1,134
Eastern MA
But I think it's pretty clear that, given [Houck's] arm slot, he needs another pitch or else lefties will demolish him once they actually get to watch him on video and learn to lay off the back foot slider. Apparently he's been working on an assortment of changeups and splitters, but nothing's quite clicked.
I've been wondering, given the obvious comparison in arm slots, what's Chris Sale's pitch mix to get right-handed batters out? Is the conventional wisdom that Houck needs another pitch accurate?
 

Rovin Romine

Johnny Rico
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Jul 14, 2005
11,735
Miami (oh, Miami!)
Pivetta and Houck will be in the rotation. You don't sign mediocrities to start and hope your younger pitchers will displace them by tearing up AAA - it's the other way around.
 

Minneapolis Millers

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 15, 2005
2,496
Twin Cities
Pivetta and Houck haven’t proven anything. They’ll get their shots, but Nate freakin Eovaldi is currently this team‘s most reliable starter. That’s frighteningly awful. They need one more good, reliable arm and another innings guy. If everything goes well, they’ll have the good problem of “too many” starters when Sale comes back mid-season.
 

nvalvo

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 16, 2005
17,590
Rogers Park
I've been wondering, given the obvious comparison in arm slots, what's Chris Sale's pitch mix to get right-handed batters out? Is the conventional wisdom that Houck needs another pitch accurate?
(Numbers via Brooks Baseball)

Against LHH, Sale throws 50% sliders, 33% four-seam fastballs, and 16% two-seamers. He mixes in a handful of changeups: like 2% most years. He's basically a fastball-slider pitcher when he has the platoon advantage. Against RHH, however, he works in a healthy contingent of changeups: about 20%, which replace some of the sinkers and sliders: so it's still ~35% four-seamers, but ~35% sliders, and a bit less than 10% two-seamers. In some of his seasons with the White Sox, he threw as many as 32% changeups to RHH.

That's pretty similar to Houck's approach, although Houck throws more two-seamers than Sale does. Against LHH, he's worked in an offspeed pitch. That had been a changeup, but recently it's been a split. In his brief time in the majors, Brooks Baseball has him throwing 6 splitters of the 96 pitches he threw to LHH, and 0 to RHH.
 

chawson

Member
SoSH Member
Aug 1, 2006
1,953
Some of the austerity crunch trade targets I liked are Musgrove, Taillon, Marquez, Jon Gray, Boyd and Carrasco. Darvish is a fascinating one I hadn’t seen coming.

Marquez is the prize of that bunch, to me, and a longshot. Colorado would seem likely to be done shedding payroll after flipping Arenado, but I wonder if Bloom could build a deal for Marquez taking back Ian Desmond’s final year ($14m AAV).

Putting aside all the real world horror of the moment — if that’s possible — it seems like a good time for Bloom to leverage the uncertainty to find a long-term rotation anchor/ace rather than a stopgap.
 

effectivelywild

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 14, 2005
299
Pivetta and Houck will be in the rotation. You don't sign mediocrities to start and hope your younger pitchers will displace them by tearing up AAA - it's the other way around.
But the advantage of the younger pitchers in AAA is they can be ready when needed. If you start with the assumption that Pivetta and Houck will start off in the MLB rotation, what happens if they flounder? Are you going to sign 2 viable major league starters and then tell them they are in the minors or serving as long relief. One of the real benefits of having Pivetta and Houck as depth is that they can actually serve as depth. Do both of them want to be up in the MLB rotation? Of course. But you can have them in AAA with the understanding that it's their time to work on a few things and impress so that they can be called up when needed.

That's a lot harder to do with a free agent signing; the guys who are willing to do what the Sox can do with Houck and Pivetta are...having to accept minor league deals for a reason. You saw what happened last year.
 

Rovin Romine

Johnny Rico
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Jul 14, 2005
11,735
Miami (oh, Miami!)
But the advantage of the younger pitchers in AAA is they can be ready when needed. If you start with the assumption that Pivetta and Houck will start off in the MLB rotation, what happens if they flounder? Are you going to sign 2 viable major league starters and then tell them they are in the minors or serving as long relief. One of the real benefits of having Pivetta and Houck as depth is that they can actually serve as depth. Do both of them want to be up in the MLB rotation? Of course. But you can have them in AAA with the understanding that it's their time to work on a few things and impress so that they can be called up when needed.

That's a lot harder to do with a free agent signing; the guys who are willing to do what the Sox can do with Houck and Pivetta are...having to accept minor league deals for a reason. You saw what happened last year.
Sure. If they sign a 1-5 rotation better than Pivetta and Houck are projected to be. Otherwise I'd rather have the best pitchers in the org logging MLB innings. First week counts just as much as the last week - or have we already forgotten the dismal beginning of 2019 which effectively sunk the entire season?

PS - as to the bolded, I realize a lot of folks didn't bother to watch the end of 2020. But you know what those guys did, right?
 

sean1562

Member
SoSH Member
Sep 17, 2011
2,924
If the Rockies trade German Marquez for a year of salary relief without getting a prospect on the caliber of Casas at least every Rockies fan in Colorado should boycott the team until they win a WS. Trading Arenado alone will devastate that fanbase(he is literally the only player most people in Colorado recognize). Getting rid of their 25 year old ace pitcher signed cheaply through 2024 so they can save $8 million would be the final nail in the coffin for every Rockies fan in the area(does AAV matter for them when their payroll, without Arenado, would be under $100 mil?).
 

Red(s)HawksFan

Well-Known Member
Silver Supporter
SoSH Member
Jan 23, 2009
12,854
Maine
PS - as to the bolded, I realize a lot of folks didn't bother to watch the end of 2020. But you know what those guys did, right?
They threw 27 total innings. They threw them well, but we're still talking about 27 innings. It's a gigantic risk to hand them rotation spots based on 27 innings. Houck in particular given his 17 innings were the only 17 innings he's thrown at the big league level. At least Pivetta has a couple seasons of experience.

What I'd rather avoid is 2021 Houck being like 2008 Buchholz. He made three starts at the end of 2007, including his no hitter, started 2008 in the rotation, and shit the bed.
 

Rovin Romine

Johnny Rico
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Jul 14, 2005
11,735
Miami (oh, Miami!)
They threw 27 total innings. They threw them well, but we're still talking about 27 innings. It's a gigantic risk to hand them rotation spots based on 27 innings. Houck in particular given his 17 innings were the only 17 innings he's thrown at the big league level. At least Pivetta has a couple seasons of experience.

What I'd rather avoid is 2021 Houck being like 2008 Buchholz. He made three starts at the end of 2007, including his no hitter, started 2008 in the rotation, and shit the bed.
Yes, they could fail - you're quite right to note that. (Dalbec and Benintendi could also suck, and maybe we end up with no bullpen anyway.)

But let's assume our offense and bullpen is at least competitive, and we're not simply punting the season from the get go, and don't want another year of control over Houck. In that environment, the question becomes is it better to sign three maybe-.500-result retreads, has beens, and never-quite-made-its, and so bolster Eovaldi and Erod (FA at season's end)? And for how long? One month of meh? Two? If Sale comes back strong in July, we could have a really great and totally pointless second half.
 

nvalvo

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 16, 2005
17,590
Rogers Park
Yes, they could fail - you're quite right to note that. (Dalbec and Benintendi could also suck, and maybe we end up with no bullpen anyway.)

But let's assume our offense and bullpen is at least competitive, and we're not simply punting the season from the get go, and don't want another year of control over Houck. In that environment, the question becomes is it better to sign three maybe-.500-result retreads, has beens, and never-quite-made-its, and so bolster Eovaldi and Erod (FA at season's end)? And for how long? One month of meh? Two? If Sale comes back strong in July, we could have a really great and totally pointless second half.
This sounds like a situation where some specificity would help. Who are you arguing against signing? Because what you’re describing doesn’t sound like what anyone has proposed.

That said, I can’t say I expect Tanner Houck’s 4th through 15th big league starts to actually be better than the first half we could get from Jake Odorizzi or whichever FA candidate. I watched all his starts last fall, but I’ve also read his baseball-reference page.

Likewise, Pivetta has a long track record of tantalizing potential and terrible results, and while I’d be overjoyed if the Sox fixed him with three weeks’ work at the Alternate Site, that is more optimistic than I am on Pivetta, and I’m very optimistic about Pivetta.
 

Minneapolis Millers

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 15, 2005
2,496
Twin Cities
I’m more optimistic about Houck than Pivetta, likely because Pivetta is older and has already provided 400 weak MLB innings. But his “experience” might also be a reason why Pivetta gets first crack at a rotation spot, if the two end up competing with one another.

I don’t disagree with RR that it makes little sense to get established veteran mediocrities who do not project to be significantly better than Pivetta. You could easily make the argument that Perez is one of those guys, for example. But someone like Odorizzi, mentioned by Nvalvo above, has been pretty clearly better than Perez (or Pivetta) in his career. If the Sox can get him on a big COVID-discount, it’d likely be worth it. Personally, I’m hoping they bring in at least one starter better than Odorizzi. Plus a guy like Odorizzi.
 
Last edited:

Danny_Darwin

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 19, 2005
1,778
Even if they hand rotation spots to Houck and Pivetta they should still sign a high-floor innings-eater type like Odorizzi or Quintana. A rotation of Eovaldi-Rodriguez-Pivetta-Houck-bullpen sounds like a recipe for exhausting the staff by mid-June. Post-TJS Sale could help, but no guarantees there either.
 

allmanbro

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 19, 2005
153
Portland, Maine
Even if they hand rotation spots to Houck and Pivetta they should still sign a high-floor innings-eater type like Odorizzi or Quintana. A rotation of Eovaldi-Rodriguez-Pivetta-Houck-bullpen sounds like a recipe for exhausting the staff by mid-June. Post-TJS Sale could help, but no guarantees there either.
In general, I think the team should be stockpiling lottery tickets and aiming to compete in 2022, but even with if that's the goal, this seems right to me. They need one starter who is a good bet for 180IP+ just so that they can be more deliberate and thoughtful about how they assign innings to the rest of the staff.
 

DeadlySplitter

Member
SoSH Member
Oct 20, 2015
22,218
No thanks. Guy was a malcontent last year when the Yanks manipulated his innings to void his option. I've always nicknamed him JA Crapp, he's never been much good.

Find another #5, I don't want to root for Crapp.
 

nvalvo

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 16, 2005
17,590
Rogers Park
No thanks. Guy was a malcontent last year when the Yanks manipulated his innings to void his option. I've always nicknamed him JA Crapp, he's never been much good.

Find another #5, I don't want to root for Crapp.
I don't like him much either, but that's a pretty good reason to be a malcontent IMO.

FWIW, Eno Sarris writes on twitter, linking to a so-so article at the Athletic, that he expects 20 or more one-year deals for SP this offseason. That's interesting.
 

jon abbey

Shanghai Warrior
Dope
SoSH Member
Jul 15, 2005
52,016
I don't like him much either, but that's a pretty good reason to be a malcontent IMO.
It was an unusual situation, but to be clear, he was bitching about being skipped after putting up a 10.29 ERA in his first two starts this year. If you want your team to happily pay you $17M the following season, you need to be more reliable than that IMO.

I wouldn't really hold that against him (although he was a bit of a dick about it, bringing it up at multiple press conferences), but NY is mostly moving on from him because he sucked in the postseason for them, shelled against BOS in 2018 and again against TB this year.
 

Minneapolis Millers

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 15, 2005
2,496
Twin Cities
Happ's absolutely gonna want more than the option the Red Sox didn't pick up on Perez. Not saying he's gonna get it, but I doubt he thinks he should get "lowish money." He's still a 30+ starts a year pitcher who throws 160+ip.
Well, MLBTraderumors has him getting 1/$6M, which, I’d agree, seems a little low. Depending on who else is available, I‘d give him more than the $6.8M option that Perez had; he’s better than Perez. But the Yankee option he missed out on was for $17M. The Sox aren’t going to prioritize a 38 yo mid-rotation starter enough to give him anything close to $17M, in this financial environment.

Maybe $8M? That’s closer to the likely ballpark, less than what Happ would get in a normal year but more than a LOT of guys will be settling for this offseason. If I’m getting an old guy on a one year deal, and I’m willing to pay something sizable, I’d prefer Morton. But I might also go after a guy like Kluber, if his shoulder looks sound, as a potentially cheaper guy with a higher ceiling, albeit injury-related lower floor.
 

TonyPenaNeverJuiced

Member
SoSH Member
Jun 7, 2015
222
Well, MLBTraderumors has him getting 1/$6M, which, I’d agree, seems a little low. Depending on who else is available, I‘d give him more than the $6.8M option that Perez had; he’s better than Perez. But the Yankee option he missed out on was for $17M. The Sox aren’t going to prioritize a 38 yo mid-rotation starter enough to give him anything close to $17M, in this financial environment.

Maybe $8M? That’s closer to the likely ballpark, less than what Happ would get in a normal year but more than a LOT of guys will be settling for this offseason. If I’m getting an old guy on a one year deal, and I’m willing to pay something sizable, I’d prefer Morton. But I might also go after a guy like Kluber, if his shoulder looks sound, as a potentially cheaper guy with a higher ceiling, albeit injury-related lower floor.
Valid across the board. It's gonna be a weird winter. Maybe he does end up at 1/$6m, but in that scenario, I'd see Perez taking below 3m. I also prefer Morton or Kluber. These are all dudes who I see taking the top money offered to them, and in at least Happ's case, a 2-year deal if one were offered.