The much anticipated 2014 Baseball Winter Meetings have come and gone, and despite the Red Sox finishing second in the Jon Lester sweepstakes to the Cubs, the Sox returned home from San Diego with a new five man rotation in place..... for now.
The Red Sox did sign a former Boston pitcher to a free agent deal, but it was Justin Masterson for a one year $9.5M contract rather than the $155M or so Lester received from Theo and the Cubs. The Red Sox also made two trades to acquire young starting pitchers with MLB experience. Rick Porcello came from Detroit for Yoenis Cespedes and Alex Wilson. Arizona sent lefty Wade Miley to Boston for Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa, and a minor league infielder.
The new acquisitions are penciled into the rotation with holdovers Joe Kelly and Clay Buchholz. Despite the apparent filling of the rotation, many observers are still clamoring for the missing ace. Ben Cherington publicly seems to be saying the Sox will go into '15 with this group, but will keep their eyes open for any way to improve the team further. The only obvious aces who may be available include, Cole Hamels, Jordan Zimmerman, and Johnny Cueto. The Reds have all ready traded 2/5 of their 2014 rotation, so Cueto may not be available, and the Nats are reportedly looking for a second baseman for Zimmerman, so the Sox may not match up there.
The Hamels rumors still abound, and the crux of a deal still seems to be the Sox offering Philly an acceptable deal that does not include Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, or Blake Swihart. The latest rumor floating is the Sox may include Kelly in a package with two or three minor leaguers to get Hamles and keep the kids that they want to hold. Even if this happened, Hamels still has a no trade clause to Boston. This deal could still happen, but I think it is less than 50-50.
All three of the newcomers fit a single description: relatively young ( all will be 30 or under in 2015-as will Buchhoz and Kelly), have all pitched 200 inning season(s) in the majors, and throw the ball down in the zone getting many ground balls. They also walk few hitters, especially Porcello who averages only 2.2 walks per nine innings in his career.
Porcello has a chance to grow into the missing ace the Sox do not seem to have. Despite turning 26 later this month, he has pitched six full MLB seasons, and his best year was 2014, with 15 wins, 3.43 ERA and only 1.8 BB/9. Porcello has been overshadowed by pitching in the Tigers rotation with names like Verlander, Scherzer, Sanchez, and most recently David Price.
Miley is sort of unknown to Sox fans due to his career being spent in Arizona. But he also, like Porcello, has a chance to be entering the prime of his career. His best year was his first full season in 2012, when Miley went 16-11, 3.33 ERA and pitched 194 innings ( which Miley has bested the last two campaigns hurling 202.2 and 201.1) and finishing second in the National league Rookie of the Year balloting. Chase Field in Arizona is a notorious hitters park and Miley's road ERA was a full run lower than at home. In fact since 2012 on, Miley is tied for fourth in wins by a NL lefty with Cole Hamels at 34. The three pitchers ahead of him are Clayton Kershaw. Madison Bumgarner, and Gio Gonzalez.
Masterson was the Cleveland ace from 2011 through 2013 and he averaged over 200 innings pitched and averaged 12 wins per year. Masterson is well known as a great clubhouse guy, and will be looking to revitalize his career after a poor, injury plagued 2014. This is why Masterson was looking for the one year deal. Both Porcello and Masterson could be free agents after 2015, Miley is under team control through 2017.
The other news to come from the meetings concerning the rotation is for now the Sox have kept who they apparently consider the high end starting pitching prospects: Henry Owens, Eduardo Rodriguez, Brian Johnson, Matt Barnes, Anthony Ranaudo, and Brandon Workman. Though Workman is very likely heading for the bullpen all of the others will be at AAA ready to fill in as the year goes along.
Webster and De La Rosa were considered by many to be in the lead for the fifth rotation spot, if the Sox imported two new starters. But by bringing three and keeping so many other kid pitchers the two former Dodgers were expendable.
The winter meetings of 2014 lived up to the hype not only for Boston, but across the game. But there are still nearly four months until the next season begins and we will continue to watch Ben Cherington and his baseball ops department to see what else is up their sleeves.