When Dave Dombrowski is your president of baseball operations, you are loaded with one of the game’s deepest and most talented farm systems, and there is no clear No. 2 starter behind ace David Price, it is a given that rumors will percolate about potential trades before Opening Day.
In recent days, the Boston Red Sox have been linked to Chicago White Sox left-hander Chris Sale, who has expressed displeasure with team president Kenny Williams’ handling of Adam Laroche; Oakland A’s right-hander Sonny Gray, who Billy Beane insists is not on the trading block; and even San Diego Padres veteran right-hander James Shields.
Dombrowski has a documented record of dealing top prospects for veteran arms during previous stops in Montreal, Florida and Detroit. Highly regarded left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, who will be 23 on April 7, is expected to open the regular season on the disabled list while recovering from a dislocated right knee. Rodriguez was projected to occupy a No. 4 spot, but he has top of the rotation potential. Though is is expected to be ready by mid-April – and the club has right-handed knuckleballer Steven Wright, and left-handers Roenis Elias and Henry Owens, as capable arms to fill a back of the rotation spot while Rodriguez recovers – chatter abounds about a potential deal.
Price is firmly entrenched atop the rotation. Right-hander Joe Kelly has impressed with a 1.38 ERA in four Spring Training starts, allowing two runs in 13 innings. Rick Porcello and Clay Buchholz, who are expected to solidify the starting pitching core behind Price, have struggled this spring. Porcello has a 12.00 ERA in three starts (nine runs in 12 innings) while Buchholz has served up a 6.75 ERA in two starts (seven runs, including four earned runs, in 5.1 innings).
Elias (6.23 ERA) and Owens (6.97 ERA) have not fared well either. Wright, who is out of options and was projected to at least make the Opening Day roster as a long reliever, has posted a 2.79 ERA over 9.2 innings this spring.
Though Spring Training numbers are not always relevant, the Red Sox are uneasy after back-to-back last place finishes in the American League East. The club would like to sprint out of Opening Day with a successful April, which is why Dombrowski could tap into the wealth of prospects and acquire an impact starting pitcher.
Shields is a deal that makes sense. Over the offseason, media reports indicated that the Red Sox could send Pablo Sandoval and prospects to the Padres for Shields. Yangervis Solarte is slated as San Diego’s Opening Day third baseman. Sandoval is owed $70 million plus over the next four years, so the Red Sox would likely have to pay a bulk of that remaining salary to facilitate a deal with any team. Yet with 25-year-old Travis Shaw in the mix at third base for Boston, and the presence of the versatile Brock Holt, the possibility exists that Sandoval could be dealt.