Why the Red Sox Need to Trade for an Ace
The Boston Red Sox came into the 2015 season with talent oozing all over the field.
They had a lineup that was littered with promising young players and established veterans and a bullpen that featured a nice mix of hard, young throwers and veteran savvy. And they had a rotation of nice, complimentary arms, with one or two potential number-two starters in the mix.
But what they didn't have was a true "ace" in the rotation, a true number-one pitcher.
Instead, the Red Sox came into the season trying to make everyone believe that they could make do with what they had, that the arms lined up for that rotation were good enough to get them through at least the first part of the season. But as we've seen throughout the season's first two weeks, Boston's rotation needs help.
Red Sox starters came into Friday's action with a collective ERA of 6.16, 14th out of 15 American League teams (only Seattle was worse), having given up an AL-worst 36 runs in nine games. Their 18 walks allowed was third-most in the AL so far, and even though their Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) of 3.82 suggests they're better than they've been, they've had a lot of trouble wriggling out of jams, stranding an American League-worst 49.5% of runners on base (LOB%).
Specifically, here's what the five starters have done so far this year.
And here are some other little "fun facts" about the Sox starting rotation.
An interesting stat of the day: In the last four games, the Red Sox starters have a combined 12.93 ERA in 18.1 innings— Red Sox Info (@inforedsox) April 16, 2015
In 9 games, 3 different Red Sox starters have allowed 7+ ER. It didn't happen ONCE last year until game #46. @Sean_McAdam— High Heat Stats MLB (@HighHeatStats) April 15, 2015
Of course, we're just two weeks into what is a very long season, and it's possible Boston is just having one very bad week after an opening week that was actually quite good. But make no mistake, Red Sox starters got bombed in the season's second week.
While Boston needs all of its pitchers to do better, save for Porcello, who has a 3.86 ERA in two starts after signing a four-year, $82.5 million contract extension, the team's glaring lack of an "ace" is noticeable for a team with playoff aspirations.
But this is not a surprise. There is a reason why there were so many rumors this off-season connecting the Red Sox to the Philadelphia Phillies' Cole Hamels.
Hamels is off to a rocky start himself in his first three starts of the season. After Thursday night's 5-2 loss to the Nationals, Hamels has a 5.00 ERA this season. But this is not too surprising, given Hamels' career April ERA of 4.04, higher than any other month.
Still, it's hard to see how a deal between these two teams, centering around Hamels, doesn't happen at some point this season. The Phillies want catcher Blake Swihart, as well as other pieces from Boston, but the Red Sox have been unwilling to meet the Phils' steep asking price. But one thing that shouldn't get in the way is cash.
The Red Sox print their own money and routinely go over the luxury tax. This year, their payroll was $184 million on Opening Day. And consider that, counting his salary this year, Porcello is set to make $95 million through 2019. Hamels, meanwhile, is due $94 million through 2018, with a vesting option that could push it to $118 million through 2019. That's not a whole lot more than Porcello is making, so essentially, Boston would be getting an "ace" starter for what is essentially the cost of a low-end No. 2 or high-end No. 3 starting pitcher in today's market.
And keep this in mind, Boston fans, when considering Hamels.
Cole Hamels has a 2.87 ERA over his last 63 starts. He has a 17-22 (.436) record. The #Phillies are 29-34 (.460).— Ace of MLB Stats (@AceballStats) April 16, 2015
No, that doesn't include Thursday night's contest, but it's a large enough sample size for you to get the point.
(And by the way, if you're a savvy fantasy general manager, now would be a good time to make a couple low-ball offers to anyone in your league who might be panicking about Hamels, unaware he is traditionally a slow starter.)
Boston can certainly muddle along for a little while longer to see just what they have. Certainly, giving up a player like Swihart and others would be tough, and they won't do it if they don't have to. But given the lack of star power and the availability of an "ace" in Hamels who can truly make a difference, it's hard to understand why a deal hasn't been locked in by now.
Cole Hamels is a perfect solution for a Red Sox rotation that definitely needs a true No. 1 arm.