The Red Sox are in the market for an Ace for their starting pitching staff. The staff they have at this point, which was terrible the first half of the 2015 season, had started to come around in the last third of the season.
The Sox have seven starting pitchers from 2015 returning as of this writing. On November 3, they announced they were exercising their contract option and thirty-one year old Clay Buchholz would be returning for at least one more year, at a salary of $13.5 million.
The exercising of the option does not mean that the Sox could not trade Buchholz if the right deal was available but I am sure there are not a lot of teams out there who will want to take a chance on his health. While his record for the last five years is 61-37 with a 3.61 ERA, he has only made 105 starts in those five years because of injuries.
He missed the second half of 2015 after being placed on the disabled list with a right elbow strain on July 11. He had been 7-7 with an ERA of 3.26 at that time. In his last four starts, before the injury, he was 4-0 in 31 innings, almost eight innings per start. He is reported to be over that injury and expected to be ready to start the season.
Right hander Joe Kelly, 27, with his fastball consistently in excess of 96 miles per hour, was 10-6 with a 4.82 ERA and finished the season with eight consecutive wins, six in the month of August, and a 3.00 ERA for that period.
Rick Porcello, a 26 year old right hander, who failed to win 10 or more games for the first time in his seven year career, finished at 9-15, but won four of his last eight starts and, at the end of the season, began to look like the Rick Porcello the Red Sox thought they were getting when they got him from Detroit.
Wade Miley, acquired from the Diamondbacks, won 11 and lost 11 with a 4.46 ERA but won three of his last five starts. Miley, despite his high ERA, averaged more than six innings per start and pitched more than 193 innings for the fourth year in a row.
Rookie Eduardo Rodriguez, a 23 year old, left hander, who made his debut on May 28,
won 10 and lost 6 with a 3.85 ERA. He averaged more than six innings per start in his 21 starts and struck out 98 batters while compiling a 3.85 ERA. He had a problem with
tipping pitches when he first came up and, before he fixed he problem, gave up 15 runs in 8 1/3 innings in two starts against Baltimore. Without those two games, his ERA would have been 2.94.
Rookie Henry Owens, a 23 year old, left hander, made his debut on August 4 and went 4-4 with a 4.57 ERA after winning 17 and losing just 5 between Portland and Pawtucket in 2014. Both these rookies have the ability to be front line starters as they develop.
Rich Hill, a 35 year old left hander, signed as a Free Agent the day Torey Lovullo took over the team, went 2-1 in four starts with a 1.55 ERA in 29 innings pitched at the end of the season. Hill had been with the Sox earlier in his career and is the only starter eligible for Free Agency this year.
Four of the seven potential starters for 2016 are left handers which may affect the way the Sox approach the signing of or trading for a Free Agent Ace. The top Free Agent on the market, David Price, is a left hander. In addition, if Closer Koji Uehara or new acquisition Craig Kimbrel should be unavailable, Joe Kelly is looked on as being the logical replacement which would reduce the number of right handed starters to two. No team can afford to go into a season with four left handed starters and only two right handers.
There is a potentially solid nucleus here to go with the potent offense and solid defensive players. It’s hard to believe that Kelly, Miley, Porcello and Buchholz will start the season as badly as they did last year. If they are able to pick up a front line starter to go with those four and the two youngsters, they could have as capable a rotation as anybody in the American League.