With Steven Wright (Knee) and Eduardo Rodriguez (Knee) doubtful for Opening Day, the options for the last spot of the rotation is an internal option.
On Sunday, Dave Dombrowski hinted to the notion that Steven Wright would not be ready for Opening Day 2018. He is also confident in what the Red Sox have internally with Roenis Elias, Brian Johnson and Hector Velazquez. Dombrowski was quoted by the Boston Herald as saying “If (Wright) is not ready, no, we feel comfortable with our internal options.”
This is the right move from the acquisition trigger-happy Dombrowski. There are viable options available to fill in that last spot of the rotation in free agency (Arrieta, Lynn, Cobb etc.). However, having a competition for the final spot is the best thing possible for the club. Acquiring another pitcher in free agency will likely bump the club into the next tier of the luxury tax threshold. This would increase their tax to 62.5%, as well as have their first round draft pick moved back ten spots. Elias, Johnson and Velazquez have what it takes to fill that void.
The Front Runner
As of now, contractually, Brian Johnson seems to be the front runner to snag the last rotation spot. He will be designated for assignment if he is left off of the Opening Day rotation. Elias and Velazquez both have options to start the season in Triple A.
In 2017 Boston caught lightening in a bottle when Johnson pitched a shutout on May 27 against the Seattle Mariners. However, his other four starts were nothing special as he gave up 3+ runs to the Phillies, Blue Jays (twice) and Tigers. If they do well in Spring Training Cora might take Elias or Velazquez. It will be early enough in the season where this decision isn’t pivotal as Rodriguez and Wright are already close to pitching off a mound. Comparing the three pitchers over the spans of their respective and young Major League careers, we find some similar results.
All three pitchers have similar SO9, BB9 and SO/W numbers, as well as WHIP figures that aren’t so great. Elias clearly is the most seasoned member of the three, with 287 Major League innings pitched compared to 31 from Johnson and 24 from Velazquez. If Cora picks Elias, we will probably know what we are going to get from him. He is a below average starter that does not strikeout a whole lot of batters. Elias and Velazquez, however, still have yet to show us who they really are. The sample size of the amount of innings they’ve pitched in the majors doesn’t give an accurate representation of the kind of player they are or can be, but it’s a start. The point is that the Sox just need a decent starter until either Wright or Rodriguez is fully ready.
What to Expect from Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright
In 2017 Eduardo Rodriguez posted a 4.19 ERA with a 1.2 WHIP in 24 starts, which is far more superior to Steven Wright’s 8.25 ERA and 1.8 WHIP in only five starts. Rodriguez will be the front runner for the last spot in the rotation once both players are healthy. He has a lot of potential being only 24 years old, and has a higher ceiling for success than Wright.
Granted, Rodriguez will be on a short leash. Although Wright doesn’t have the most appealing numbers in the world, he has also shown instances of brilliance with his Phil Niekro-like knuckleball. Wright brings a lot of variety to the table with the potential for maximum longevity and a unique arsenal of pitches that batters don’t tend to see in today’s game. This Red Sox rotation has a lot of potential to be the best rotation in the Majors, but they have to bring their A game this season.