What does the Red Sox rotation look like this season without Chris Sale?
The Boston Red Sox have lost Chris Sale for the year, leading to plenty of questions on how they will fill out their weak rotation moving forward.
It was a disaster season and offseason for the Red Sox in 2019, as their repeat attempt was met with their first season missing the playoffs since 2015. Their offseason may have topped it, however, as they lost their manager Alex Cora, former American League MVP Mookie Betts and starter David Price. At the end of March, with the beginning of the 2020 season already postponed, it was announced that Chris Sale would undergo Tommy John surgery, putting him out for the hopeful 2020 season and beyond.
With everything working against them, they are hoping to piece their rotation together for the possible season.
The Red Sox finished 84-78 in 2019 and much of the blame went to the pitching staff as it struggled all season. Removing the likes of Sale, Price, and Rick Porcello is not going to necessarily improve the already aching staff. From the outside looking in, the rotation has few guarantees with a lot of question marks.
Thankfully, they will have presumed Opening Day starter, Eduardo Rodriguez. Rodriguez had a career year in 2019, going 19-6 with a 3.81 ERA. He finished sixth in the AL Cy Young voting, showing how dominant he was for the Red Sox as he established himself as their best pitcher.
After Rodriguez in the rotation, it begins to get a bit cloudy for the Red Sox.
Nathan Eovaldi figures to fit into the No. 2 role for the Red Sox. In the 2018-19 offseason, Eovaldi signed a four-year, $68 million to be the fifth man up in a rotation consisting of Sale, Price, Porcello, and Rodriguez. With the payment of a No. 2, he will now have to deliver in that spot.
Eovaldi appeared in 23 games last year, starting just half while delivering a 5.99 ERA and became an instant fear in the eyes of Red Sox fans. In his spring training appearances, he seemed to find the form of the 2018 postseason, so there is hope that Eovaldi could be a key contributor to the rotation this season. For now, fans will likely take a wait-and-see approach.
In the offseason, the Red Sox added some minor names to the roster including starter Martin Perez. Perez is coming in to fill in as an innings eater, the same role that Porcello had filled for the Red Sox in recent years. Perez shined at times for the Minnesota Twins last season as his newly developed cutter proved to be one of his best pitches. His final season stats included a 5.12 ERA, but many analysts around the league believe he could be one of the best, more underrated additions of the offseason. Time will tell.
The final two spots in the rotation seem to be a toss-up at this point. Ryan Weber has had his praises sung by the new manager, Ron Roenicke, as recent as spring training. Weber, 29, showed signs of success for the Red Sox last season as an opener and bullpen arm. He is the favorite to serve as the No. 4 starter of the rotation this season.
Brian Johnson has been on the Red Sox roster full-time for the better part of the last two seasons. His 2020 season was difficult, as his ERA jumped from a 4.17 in 2018 to 6.02 in 2019. After a decent spring, he was on track to earn himself a spot on the Opening Day roster and ultimately serve as the opener in the No. 5 spot in the rotation.
This is certainly not something that is set, as Collin McHugh was a late signing by the Red Sox. McHugh, a former starter for the Houston Astros, has switched between the bullpen and rotation since 2018. After finishing with a 4.70 ERA, the Astros let one of their most trustworthy arms of the past five years walk. If he is able to recover from his elbow injury by the time the season starts, he would instantly become an option for the Red Sox in the rotation or the bullpen.
Red Sox fans could be in for a rude awakening this season when it comes to their rotation as the question marks have no firm answers moving forward.