Sonny Gray is the Missing Piece to the Red Sox Rotation

The Boston Red Sox are on a historic pace offensively. However, some nights even the offense is incapable of bailing out the runs given up by the starting rotation. With Price rounding into form to go along with the solid seasons put together by Steven Wright and Rick Porcello, the Sox are two starting pitchers away from being serious World Series contenders. One of those starters is Eduardo Rodriguez who is nearing a return in theSonny Gray rotation. The other starter should be Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Sonny Gray, a guy the Sox must target at the 2016 MLB trade deadline.

Gray has had his struggles this season after posting a 2.73 ERA last season. The Sox
offense recently lit him up for seven earned runs in 3.2 innings pitched. However, the talent is there and the resume is there with Gray. He’s had two consecutive seasons with over 200 innings pitched and has been a reliable arm for the Athletics. He comes at a reasonable price for the Sox as well.

Gray is under team control through 2020. The Sox would likely have to ship out one of the top prospects in our farm system. The guy I would ship out would be Andrew Benintendi, the outfielder who was just recently promoted to Double A Portland. Benintendi would provide Oakland with a centerfielder to build an offense around. While it would be tough seeing Benintendi go, the Sox have the guys in place to deal him away. After all, starting pitching is essential to winning a world series.

Without a strong starting rotation, it is very tough to win it all, even with an offense as potent as the Red Sox. With Gray and Price, the Sox would have a solid one-two punch at the front end of their rotation, something the Sox have lacked for years. Acquiring him would also slide Porcello into the third spot in the rotation, a much more comfortable place for him to pitch. Porcello would be followed by Rodriguez and Wright in a very improved starting rotation. The pieces are there to pull it off, the question is whether or not Dave Dombrowski will do it.

Why the Red Sox Need an Ace

need an ace

The Red Sox’ lack of a discernible ace has been one of the most hotly-discussed issues this spring. Whilst some fans have shown considerable frustration, a disproportionate amount have tried to glorify what is, essentially, the messy result of blowing negotiations with Jon Lester, crediting the front office for concocting a genius master plan that somehow wound up with Clay Buchholz likely taking the mound on Opening Day. Ultimately, if the Red Sox are serious about making, never mind lasting deep into, the postseason, I believe they need an ace. Right now, they don’t have one, which is a major problem.

John Farrell doesn’t see it that way. The manager has typically been very vocal in need an acebranding his rotation ‘underrated’ and expressing pleasure at his new found ability to send a proven Major League starter to the mound every day. Similarly, the media has, by and large, defended the Sox’ decision not to acquire an ace, pointing to the recent success of the ace-less Orioles and reminding people that none of the past 26 Cy Young Award winners have led their team to a World Series championship in the same year.

I understand that view. I respect that view. I just do not agree. Yes, specialized, hard-throwing bullpens and depleted offenses have diminished the need for elite starting pitching, but that need hasn’t entirely disappeared. In my opinion, every team still needs that one reliable warrior; that one defiant horse; that one true stopper anchoring the rotation. Right now, the Red Sox simply don’t have that guy.

With a 4.30 career ERA and a 1.359 career WHIP, Rick Porcello is the quintessential third or fourth starter. Wade Miley will eat innings, but his 4.34 ERA and 1.401 WHIP last year are less than inspiring. As for Buchholz, Joe Kelly and Justin Masterson? Well, nobody truly knows what to expect. They could be great; they could be horrible. There’s no way to tell.

What we do know is that none of those guys will overwhelm a rival lineup; none of them will throw the ball past opposing batters with consistent regularity; and none of them are likely to have an ERA below 3.00. In short, none of those guys is an ace befitting the Boston Red Sox.

I know we live in a highly analytical age, where an opinion unsubstantiated by sabermetric proof is scoffed at by the masses, but, quite frankly, I still believe there is a lot of value in the tangible, human, element of the game. Without doubt, there is value in having at least one starting pitcher everybody else is petrified of; one pitcher who opposing teams hope to avoid when they roll into town for a four-game series. Every great Red Sox team has had that scary warrior, that fire-breathing ace, from Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez, to Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett and, most recently, Lester. Essentially, this current crop just isn’t in the same class, which is a sad departure from tradition.

All of the aforementioned legends were extremely adept at stopping regular season losing streaks, and each wrote a brilliant legacy in the postseason, when the value of an ace becomes truly apparent. We saw it last October, when Madison Bumgarner, a thoroughbred leader, put the Giants on his back and carried them to a third World Series title in five years. After watching such an incredible display, every baseball fan asked “who can do that for us?” With the season less than two weeks away, the Red Sox are still to provide an answer.

The Expectations Of The Red Sox Starting Rotation

red sox starting rotation

Last season, the Red Sox starting rotation was one of the biggest reasons the team won the AL East, and eventually the World Series. With the roster changes by the New York Yankees and other teams in the division, the expectations for the Red Sox starting rotation will be at an all-time high. Here is what I expect out of the five starters in 2014.

Jon Lester: If spring training is any indication on how Lester will perform in 2014, then he could have one of the best seasons of his career. In three spring starts, the 30-year-old has allowed one run in 12 2/3 innings. The second half of the 2013 season, Lester was among the best pitchers in baseball, as he finished with a 7-2 record and 2.57 ERA. Lester is the Red Sox’s ace and I expect the nine-year veteran to have an all-star type season.

John Lackey:  Prior to the 2013 season, many considered the John Lackey signing one of the worst in Red Sox history. Last season however, he became one of the Red Sox better pitchers. Lackey finished the 2013 postseason with a 3-1, which was capped off by his game six clinching victory to win the World Series. While I don’t expect him to finish the regular season with a 3.52 ERA again, I do expect Lackey to finish with about 12-14 wins for the Red Sox.

Felix Doubront: Doubront came to spring training in the best shape of his career. He finished the 2013 season with a record of 11-6. Last season, he also had a stretch of 19 games with a 2.99 ERA from May to August. Expect more of the Doubront we saw late in the season and also in the playoffs. With Buchholz moving down to the fifth spot in the rotation, more will be expected from Doubront in 2014.

Jake Peavy: Peavy’s production has never been a question, his health has. Despite the fact he remained healthy after he came over in a trade from the White Sox last season, the 33-year-old has had a number of trips on the DL in years past. In 10 starts after the trade, Peavy compiled a 4-1 record with a 4.04 ERA. If he can stay off the disabled list, I expect more of the same from Peavy.

Clay Buchholz: Some Red Sox fans ask why manager John Farrell would make a former two-time All-Star with a 12-1 record last season the number five starter in the rotation. Buchholz is the team’s fifth starter because he hasn’t shown the ability to stay healthy. In 2013, it was a neck strain that kept him out until September. In June 2011, Buchholz suffered a stress fracture that kept him out for the rest of the season. When he pitches, he is one of the better pitchers in baseball. If the Red Sox can limit Buchholz’s starts at the fifth spot, this could provide a boost at the back of the rotation.