Drellich: No need for Red Sox to decrease starting pitching depth
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — At the winter meetings this week, in a suite surrounded by wrappers of junk food, an anxiety-ridden executive muttered about pitching in his sleep.
Presumably, anyway. Because as everyone knows, you can never have too much pitching.
Everyone except the Red Sox.
The Sox have seven starters. This is a baseball blessing. Great job, Dave Dombrowski. Extra arms equate to flexibility and insurance, but only if those pieces are held on to (or traded for arms that could similarly help).
The Sox are open, if not fully inclined, to thinning out that depth.
Heaven forbid the Sox get creative with their roster space and stash guys like Drew Pomeranz and Clay Buchholz in relief for a time if needed, or at the very least, wait to see what spring training brings health-wise.
By Dombrowski’s own assertion, the Sox don’t have a glaring need right now. That’s a reasonable assessment.
An upgrade at catcher might work, but the Sox also seem keen on finding out what they have in Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart.
So what, then? Trade Pomeranz for prospects after the Sox dealt a bunch for lefty Chris Sale and reliever Tyler Thornburg?
Adding prospects — more specifically, prospects unlikely to contribute this year — is great, in a vacuum. But in a win-now season with win-now pieces on hand, the Sox don’t need to rebalance their portfolio at the expense of the big league team.
First of all, unless you start talking about Eduardo Rodriguez and up, the prospect haul isn’t going to be impressive.
Righty Anderson Espinoza, who was traded to the Padres for Pomeranz midsummer, or Espinoza’s equivalent, isn’t walking back through that door if Pomeranz is traded again, not after health concerns arose.
“Probably Rodriguez,” one American League source said yesterday when asked which Sox pitcher they would move first. “Higher return than Buchholz to recoup some of the prospects traded.”
Another, more bold suggestion came from another AL talent evaluator: trade Buchholz or sell high on Steven Wright or Rick Porcello.
But here’s what will happen if the Sox go for prospects.
Come July, someone will be underperforming, someone else will be hurt — what, you don’t think the innings could ever catch up to David Price and Sale, or even Porcello? — and they’ll need help. Dombrowski will then deal prospects for a pitcher, and we’ll be back where we started.
It’s like changing currency for no reason, and in this case, the wasted conversion fee is time, and possibly talent.
If you’re intoxicated by the sweet aroma of Roenis Elias or Henry Owens, you might think the Sox will be fine depth-wise if they deal a bigger name.
Then you’ll remember that sweet aroma isn’t coming from those guys, it’s just your Glade candle in the corner.
There is a baseline truth to consider. If the Sox do not clear some of their major league pitching, be it lesser relievers or some of their starters, they will likely wind up losing some players for nothing by the end of spring training. That’s not good planning.
Righty Heath Hembree, for example, is out of options. So is Fernando Abad, a lefty.
So why doesn’t Dombrowski get creative and clear out some of the lesser names, and in an era where rotations are constantly in flux, ask some starters to be flexible out of the ’pen to start the year?
Trade Abad and open up a spot for a lefty, Pomeranz. Trade Hembree, open up a spot for a righty, Buchholz.
How’s this for a seven-man bullpen on Opening Day? Craig Kimbrel, Thornburg, Joe Kelly, Robbie Ross, Matt Barnes, Buchholz and Pomeranz. The latter two have relief experience, remember.
Then, cross the Carson Smith bridge when he’s done rehabbing and healthy, and begin the season with a rotation of Sale, Price, Porcello, Wright and Rodriguez, in whatever order.
Or not. Trade a pitcher for prospects just to revive the “get more pitching now!” song and dance by midsummer.