By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — In trading Mookie Betts, the Red Sox lineup no longer has a perennial MVP candidate atop the order. That’s kind of a big deal.
“Replacing” Betts is nearly impossible, but at least the Red Sox received a promising young outfielder, Alex Verdugo, from the Dodgers in return for the second-best player in baseball. The 24-year-old, while no Betts, will at least be able to slot into Boston’s lineup in 2020. That’s not a “win” for the Red Sox, but finding someone for Mookie’s place in the lineup is not something they need to consider before spring training begins in roughly 12 hours. They won’t be historic, but overall, the Red Sox offense should still put up some big numbers in 2020.
The same cannot be said for the Boston rotation, which lost David Price in the blockbuster swap. Not many will weep for the loss of Price, his ornery attitude and grotesque price tag, but it leaves a pretty big void in the Red Sox starting rotation. At the moment, Boston has just four starters on the roster, two of whom carry some gigantic injury concerns.
The loss of Mookie stings, and it stings a lot. But the loss of Price may also carry a pretty deep burn during the 2020 season. The man had his warts, but he was still a pretty good pitcher if healthy (always a big “if” with the southpaw). Given the health of Boston’s other starters, it’s not outrageous to think Price would have led the charge in 2020 — again, “if” healthy.
Now Boston will head into the season with a rotation of Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi and Martin Perez. Sale and Eovaldi missed giant chunks of 2019 with arm concerns, and those concerns will follow them into 2020. Either of those two going down would put Boston in a real tight spot, not just in their rotation but in their lackluster bullpen as well. And that bullpen may be called upon to do some un-bullpen-like things as well, considering the Red Sox have no fifth starter at the moment. That slot could go to a variety minor leaguers, or Chaim Bloom could adopt the “opener” strategy that was deployed while he was with the Tampa Bay Rays last season.
Righty Brusdar Graterol, acquired from Minnesota in the deal, will be throwing his gas in the minors to start the season, so he isn’t an option for the rotation when March and April roll around. Internal candidates for that spot every five days include Hector Velazquez, Brian Johnson, Ryan Weber and Mike Shawaryn. If Boston gets really desperate, maybe they’ll look to the free agent bargain bin, where Andrew Cashner and Clay Buchholz are sitting like a $5 Jean Claude Van-Damme quadruple feature DVD. But that is the kind of money the Red Sox are looking to spend this winter, so have at it.
Overall, that fifth-spot in the rotation looks pretty bleak. In Chaim We Trust.
No one will argue against the notion that dealing Price was mostly addition by subtraction. Boston takes away his hefty price tag, though they’ll still be forking over roughly $16 million to the Dodgers for the next three years, so Price can take the mound in blue and white every five days. The Red Sox also get rid of Price’s attitude, which likely would have gotten worse when things go real sideways in 2020. Both of those are small wins for the Red Sox.
While everyone is pretty bummed for the loss of Mookie, and rightfully so, the once-dominant Boston offense should be in OK shape in 2020. The Red Sox situation with the rotation, however, is much, much more dismal.