On Thursday morning, Red Sox President and CEO Larry Lucchino addressed the issue on WEEI, stating that the team had a backup plan, and that they also had a backup plan for their backup plan.
“Of course there is because it’s a long season,” said Lucchino. “You have to have some potential help from your pitching in Triple-A in every season. I think we have some pretty good arms down there and Pawtucket is actually leading the league, part because the pitching has been quite effective down there. There’s that backup plan and then there is another backup plan.
“There’s an old saying, ‘I don’t cross tie my shoes without a backup plan.’ There has to be a backup plan. Third, of course is to acquire some pitching down the road when the opportunity comes for trades. That’s not really generally the case in April.”
Okay, so my first reaction to this is that the Red Sox have this thing ass backwards. Boston’s Opening Day payroll was just under $185 million. With a payroll of that size, if Plan A is to rely on minor league pitchers, with little-to-no major league experience, to come up here and save your rotation, you’re doing it wrong. Granted, that whole PawSox rotation is talented as hell — Brian Johnson has a 0.86 ERA and Eduardo Rodriguez has a 1.93 ERA — but guys like Henry Owens, Matt Barnes and the aforementioned Rodriguez and Johnson are supposed to be complimentary pieces to help supplement your team. It would be unfair to ask them to come up and be the saviors of this rotation. You’d be asking a lot from a couple of 22 and 24-year-old rookies.
Plan A should be to go out and acquire a frontline starting pitcher. Notice how I didn’t use the term “ace” here, because there’s no such thing as a statistical formula that definitively determines what an ace actually is. I hate the label, and the debate over who is and who isn’t. I just want a starting pitcher that the Red Sox can depend on every fifth day to consistently give them the chance to win. Because right now, although we’ve seen flashes here and there from certain pitchers, they do not have that guy. Maybe one will emerge from this group at some point. Maybe. But I haven’t seen any evidence to support that yet.
ESPN’s Keith Law apparently suggested that the Red Sox trade OF Manuel Margot, SS Deven Marrero, Johnson, and Barnes for Cole Hamels and Jonathan Papelbon. Right now, Margot is easily the No. 3 prospect in the Red Sox system behind Blake Swihart and Yoan Moncada. The Red Sox would certainly be forking over a huge trade chip in Margot, but they would be successful in what they’ve intended to do all along, and that’s keep Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts and Swihart off the table in any major trade discussions.
I don’t think many Red Sox fans would balk at the idea of making such a trade, but general manager Ben Cherington is downplaying the most recent wave of Hamels trade rumors.
“Right now, [we’re focused on] the five guys we have here,” he said. “Keep running them out there, and getting better. The first step is just to help our guys — they have to help themselves, they’re a part of it — but get them closer to pitching to what they’re capable of doing. If they do that, they’ll win games.”
They are who we thought they were, Ben. You rolled the dice, hoping to trot out a bunch of middle of the rotation guys, thinking that this potent lineup would score more runs than your mediocre pitching staff would allow. And for twelve games this year, you were right. But you were also wrong ten times. That’s not going to cut it. Just twice in the last week, the Red Sox scored at least seven runs in a game and lost both times. Pitching isn’t a department that you can cheap out in.