What if Jon Lester’s Red Sox Career Continued?

The Prologue

In 2014, Boston was at a crossroads with their franchise pitcher. Jon Lester’s Red Sox Career was in question due to his then upcoming free agency. He had claimed to be willing to take a “hometown discount” so he could stay in Boston. But when Red Sox brass reportedly offered him a 4-year/$70-million-dollar contract, the two sides never reached an agreement. Jon Lester's Red Sox Career

Lester stayed with the Sox for the beginning of the 2014 season and made the All-Star Game. However, the team was seemingly out of it at the trade deadline, and Lester was shipped to Oakland as a rental with Jonny Gomes in exchange for Yoenis Cespedes.

At the end of the season, Cespedes was traded to Detroit for Rick Porcello. Meanwhile, Lester still became a free agent. The Red Sox were in talks to re-sign him but faced huge competition from the Chicago Cubs. Thus, Jon Lester’s Red Sox career was in jeopardy.

Eventually, the Cubs won the bidding and signed Lester to a six-year, $155 million deal with a vesting option for a seventh year at $15 million. The move reunited him with both David Ross and Theo Epstein. John Lackey, who was also traded in July 2014, would join the club the following year.

What if Jon Lester’s Red Sox Career Continued??

But what if John Henry and Co. had signed Lester to a big deal of their own? Let’s say at around the same price the Cubs paid, or more.

Well for starters, David Price would either be a Yankee, a Cub, or a Cardinal.

Rick Porcello may or may not be on the roster. Depends on how comfortable they would’ve been with Lester, Clay Buchholz, and prospects like Rubby de la Rosa, Brandon Workman, and Anthony Ranaudo.

Only one of those guys (Workman) remains on the 40-man roster today. Eduardo Rodriguez, though still very young then, could have been another compliment.

Both Justin Masterson and Wade Miley wouldn’t have been acquired. Obviously, they were only placeholders until Price came along. But, of course, with Lester who needs Price?

Additionally, David Ross would’ve stayed with Boston for the remainder of his career. He and David Ortiz would’ve retired at the same time.

Dave Dombrowski wouldn’t have been hired because the Ben Cherington would’ve had less pressure to succeed if he had kept Epstein’s guys, like Lester, around to help. Likewise, I believe the Sox would’ve won more games in 2015 with one ace as opposed to five #4 starters.

So would the Cubs win the World Series in 2016 without Lester? Nope.

Instead, I bet Theo would’ve chased Price or Zack Greinke in the 2015 offseason. Especially if Lester had slipped away and the team failed to reach the NLCS. The ’16 Cubs would then, of course, have a similar campaign and reach the postseason. Only to lose Game 5 of the NLDS to the Giants with David Price on the mound.

The Giants would’ve made the World Series and played the young and exciting Red Sox (of course). Jon Lester would pitch Game 7 against Madison Bumgarner in an epic duel. Almost as good as the Cubs-Indians duel.

It’s a shame that the team who drafted, developed, and gave him everything didn’t resign him. Jon Lester is a hero to many – and his resilience through cancer, dominance on the mound, and consistent sportsmanship is legendary.

We may never know.

Kelly the Key to Red Sox Rotation

The Red Sox rotation is an interesting collection of starters. There’s David Price, the obvious ace and former Cy Young winner (not to mention the richest pitcher in history). Behind him are potential number twos Rick Porcello and Clay Buchholz, who have frustrated Boston fans and media with their uneven performance. There’s Steven Wright, the enigmatic knuckle-baller who’s been the team’s best pitcher thus far in 2016. Then there’s Joe Kelly the key to Red Sox rotation.

Is Joe Kelly the Key to Red Sox Rotation?

It might seem crazy to call a number five starter the key to any rotation, let alone one of a first-place team, but that’s what Kelly isKelly the Key to Red Sox Rotation. When he;s right, the Red Sox go five deep in the rotation, with each member capable of churning out a quality start on any given night. But when he’s not (or hurt), the back of their rotation suddenly looks much thinner. That much was clear during Kelly’s month-long absence earlier this year due to a shoulder impingement, during which time Sean O’Sullivan started twice. No offense to O’Sullivan, but he should not be starting for a postseason contender or any team that wants to win..

At least you know what you”re getting out of O’Sullivan, even if it isn’t much. The same can not be said of Kelly, who like his rotationmate Clay Buchholz is still an unknown quantity despite spending several years in Major League rotations and possessing dazzling stuff. While both have shown flashes of greatness, neither has evolved into the consistently great starter everyone hoped they’d become based on their obvious talent. Most recently, Kelly showed how dominant he can be in his return from the disabled list last Saturday, when he limited a red-hot Indians lineup to one hit over 6 2/3 innings.

The problem with Kelly is that he’s just as likely to endure a stinker. In his first three starts of 2016  he had more earned runs than innings pitched and nearly as many walks as strikeouts. If anything, his month-long DL stint was a welcome reprieve, allowing him to work on becoming the pitcher who finished last year 7-0 with a 2.35 ERA over his final eight starts rather than the trainwreck with a 6.11 ERA in 17 starts leading up to that run.

Which version of Kelly is going to show up this year remains to be seen. The Red Sox would like to open their series against the Blue Jays with a win tomorrow, but for that to happen they’ll likely need a good start from Kelly. In fact, they’re going to need quite a few of those from him in order to get where they want to go this year. That might be asking too much of the erratic 27-year-old, and if it is then they should stick him in the bullpen where belongs and trade for a more established starter. They might even explore trading Joe Kelly the key to Red Sox rotation.

Henry Owens, Brian Johnson Soon to Join Rotation

Prior to a third straight pitching debacle against the Chicago White Sox, manager John Farrell just casually mentioned to the media that both Brian Johnson and Henry Owens should get the call in the next week. These starters are ranked No. 4 and No. 5 respectively overall in the Boston Red Sox farm system

“We’re going to stay on turn through the weekend,” Farrell said according to NESN’s Ricky Brian Johnsondoyle. “Monday being the off-day, we’ve got the ability to adjust going forward. But as we’re taking a look at (recently recalled outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr.), our goal and our intent is to see Brian Johnson and probably Henry Owens at some point. So, all that is on the horizon.”

With pitchers Joe Kelly (2-6, 5.94 ERA), Justin Masterson (4-2, 5.62 ERA) and Rick Porcello (5-11, 5.81 ERA) struggling for most of the season and knuckleballer Steve Wright being a 30-year-old journeyman who is more of a spot starter than a long-term option in the rotation, it makes sense to bring up the young pitchers to see if they should be kept or dealt this off season.

Eduardo Rodriguez has proven that he has some work to do, but has pitched admirably while up with the Boston Red Sox this season to the tune of a 4.26 ERA in 11 starts to go along with a 6-3 record and a 52:20 K:BB ratio. The 22-year-old should be in the starting rotation to start the 2016 season

The Red Sox already got a look at Johnson last week as he went 4.1 innings while allowing four earned runs. He may have walked four batters in the outing and thrown more curve balls than fastballs, but the prospect proved he could pitch even with less than stellar stuff on the mound. The fastball topped out at 90 and he can’t blow away anyone, but he showed strong composure for a 24-year-old.

As for Owens, the 23-year-old had a tough go of it to start the 2015 season in Pawtucket, but is 1-4 with a 2.86 ERA over his last 10 starts. Over that span, he has walked just 18 and struck out 54 in 63 innings of work, including a couple nine strikeout contests on July 10th and July 18th in which he allowed three earned runs over 13 innings of work.

The Red Sox need to see which of these lefties will be a mainstay going forward and what better time than now when the team is all but mathematically eliminated from postseason contention.

A Switch to Relief is a Relief for Brandon Workman

Brandon Workman

Unable to capitalize on the opportunity at hand this spring, PawSox pitcher Brandon Workman hopes to get back to the Majors in a timely fashion.
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This year, for the first time in his career, he will serve as a full-time reliever after making 15 starts for the big league club last season.

“Yeah, you know, that’s my role for the season—being used out of the pen—and I’m excited to get brandon workmanto work,” he said. “(I’m) excited to get this thing started up and see where we go from there.”

Some saw the move coming from a mile away and many were surprised that the move did not come a year earlier— after he tossed 8.1 scoreless frames for the Red Sox in the 2013 post season. With high hopes the team tried Workman out as a starter last year, but the results were not great.
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He went 1-10 with a 5.17 ERA in 19 appearances (15 starts) and although he was not a standout, he was not a 1-10 pitcher. He had some outings where the team should have won or where they could have won, but it just did not happen for him. As a result, his WAR suffered— finishing the year at -1.1.

“Last year was a frustrating year for me on a lot of different fronts,” said Workman. “I came out of the beginning part of the year, throwing real well, but things really tailed off for me in the summer. Like you said, there were times when I threw the ball well later in the summer. Things didn’t work out all the time, but that’s part of baseball. I took my share of losses when I didn’t throw the ball well. I got a lot of the tough luck out of the way, but I’m set up for a strong year this year.”

In his big league career, Workman owns a 6.07 ERA in 21 regular season games as a reliever. Knowing that he pitches well at times and poorly at others, Workman’s goal for this year reflects that.
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“Working on bringing some consistency to the table,” he added. “Like you said, there were some times when I threw the ball well, but there were times I didn’t and I’m trying to get myself in a position where I can consistently perform on a day-in day-out basis over the course of this season.”

A starter not too long ago, it is fair to say that Workman might have a little bit more stamina than many other relievers. With that in mind PawSox manager Kevin Boles makes it clear that Workman will not be a one inning guy in AAA this year.
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“We really don’t have too many one inning guys,” Boles said. “I mean as far as development goes, we usually have guys who will go one and then parts of an inning.”

4 Questions as Red Sox Head to Spring Training

spring training

While New Englanders will be braving the cold weather this February, the Boston Red Sox will be preparing for the start of spring training. Red Sox pitchers and catchers have to report to Fort Myers, Fla by February 20.

Boston has added a number of new faces to its roster over the off-season. While it appears the team has improved, there are a number of questions the team needs to answer if they are expected to contend in the American League East. Here are four key questions for the Red Sox as they enter spring training.

Can Xander Bogaerts live up to expectations?

Spring Training

This is a huge spring training for Xander Bogaerts. Last season, the shortstop came into spring training with lofty expectations after an impressive 2013 postseason where he hit .296 in 12 games.

In 2014, Bogaerts struggled as he batted .240 with 12 home runs and 39 RBI in 144 games. While he is only 23-years-old, the pressure is on Bogaerts.

Boston doesn’t have a backup plan if he continues to struggle. Even with an improved lineup, the Red Sox need Bogaerts to play better this season.

Can any of the pitching prospects earn a spot on the 25-man roster?

While the Red Sox added pitchers Rick Porcello, Wade Miley and Justin Masterson in the off-season, the team still lacks an established No. 1 starting pitcher. Because Boston lacks a true ace, this will be a great opportunity for one of the team’s young prospects to earn a spot in the rotation.

Henry Owens is regarded as the Red Sox best young pitcher in their minor league system.  The left-hander started last season in Double-A before being promoted to Triple-A late last summer.

Owens has to improve his command this spring before he has any chance of being on the opening day roster this April. Other pitchers to keep an eye on this spring are Danny Rosenbaum, Eduardo Rodriguez and Brian Johnson.

How will the Red Sox handle their crowded outfield?

The expected starters in the Red Sox outfield are Hanley Ramirez (left field), Rusney Castillo (center field), and Mookie Betts (right field). That leaves Shane Victornio, Daniel Nava and Allen Craig to battle for the remaining outfield bench spots.

In 2013, Victornio was a key member of the Red Sox World Series Championship team. Last season, he was limited to only 30 games. It wouldn’t be surprising if Victornio were to beat out Betts for the starting right field spot if he can remain healthy throughout spring training.

The more interesting decision for manager John Farrell is who will he choose to be the fifth outfielder? Craig was an All-Star in 2013, but he only hit .215 and eight home runs a season ago.

Nava is a switch-hitter that batted .270 last season in 113 games. Given his previous role off the bench and his production on the left side of the plate (hit .293 when batting left-handed in 2014), Nava is probably the better fit as a fifth outfielder

How much longer can David Ortiz produce at a high-level?

David Ortiz had another All-Star season in 2014 as he hit .263 with 35 home runs and 104 RBI. Now at age 39, how much longer can the designated hitter produce at a high-level?

While no one knows how much longer Ortiz can continue to hit over 30 home runs and 100 RBI, you can’t rely on his spring training numbers to answer that question. Last spring, he batted .054, but he hit five home runs and 14 RBI in the first month of the regular season. Ortiz probably has another season or two left in him, but we truly won’t know until April or May.

Rubby De La Rosa Poised For Strong 2015 Campaign

rubby de la rosaHigh on young pitching talent and low on spots, the Boston Red Sox have the framework for a solid rotation next season. Of course, they will likely add a big name to help their young talent, but there is still plenty of talent nonetheless. Among this talent is 25-year-old flamethrower Rubby De La Rosa who is in position for a breakout season.

2014 has been a productive year for Rubby De La Rosa who is proving himself as one of the most reliable pitchers on the team. Posting a 4.01 ERA in 16 starts totaling 92 innings, he has struck out 64 men while walking 33 giving him the lowest ERA on the starting staff. Joe Kelly trails him shortly with a 4.13 ERA. As time goes on, De La Rosa who will be 26 next year will only get better.
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In his last outing on Sunday, De La Rosa tossed four innings surrendering three runs on seven hits while all the runs came off of one swing — a Jose Bautista home run. In addition, he fanned and walked a pair of batters. Other than one pitch, De La Rosa put together an impressive outing.

As for his goals for next season, De La Rosa keeps it simple and does not mince words.
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“Health and championship,” he said in an interview via Twitter when talking about his goals.

This year also marks the first year De La Rosa has been fully healed from his Tommy John surgery he underwent in 2011. He sat out the majority of 2012 tossing just a few relief outings and in 2013, he was on an innings limit and ended up tossing just 91.2 innings because of it. 2014 marks the highest workload ever for Rubby De La Rosa as he has now tossed 152 innings between Boston and AAA Pawtucket. In 2015, that number will be pushed even further as De La Rosa will be tested as a full-time member of the Red Sox rotation.
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As for a championship, that is a great goal. Boston may be in position to bring home another title next season with all the young talent that is emerging, along with the veterans who are already there and may be brought in. Of course, the 2015 roster could use another front-line pitcher, but other than that it looks to be shaping up well.