Red Sox Should Extend, Not Trade, Rick Porcello

Oct 14, 2018; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Rick Porcello (22) reacts after striking out Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa (1) during the eighth inning in game two of the 2018 ALCS playoff baseball series at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Red Sox are in relatively good shape as it currently sits heading into 2019 in their quest to defend their World Series Championship. Postseason hero Nathan Eovaldi was re-signed last week to a four-year, $67.5 million deal and they also re-signed World Series MVP Steve Pearce early on to a one-year deal. Rumors are swirling in Las Vegas for the Baseball Winter Meetings and one popped up that just doesn’t sit well with me. See tweets below for further details.

First of all, let me start with the Xander Boagerts piece. Not happening, why would the Red Sox trade a short stop they drafted and developed into an All-Star caliber defensive and offensive player once he’s finally put it all together and helped the team capture a World Championship? I’m not buying that one at all. Bradley Jr. I could see potentially being dealt with a high value after capturing ALCS MVP and his superb defensive ability as I don’t think the Red Sox will pay him what he will command on the open market as a free agent once his deal is up after the 2020 season.

Back to Porcello. Sure the Red Sox are still in the market for several relievers including bringing back Joe Kelly which could push them over the luxury tax, but who cares you’re the Boston Red Sox for Pete’s Sake. Spare me the crap about the “severe penalties” of exceeding the threshold will you. If the Red Sox want to have contend for back-to-back championships, Rick Porcello is part of that winning formula. I’m going to lay it all out there for you and then we’ll see if people really still want Dave Dombrowski to trade a workhorse from the rotation in Porcello.

First, re-signing Nathan Eovaldi was so critical because it kept the band intact. Not only did they bring back a crucial arm in their championship run who throws gas and nasty stuff, but it solidified their rotation as one of the best in all of baseball with that top four. You can afford to take a gamble on Eovaldi at that money because of a guy in Porcello who is steady every year tossing 200 innings and being a workhorse. You can count on him every fifth day good, bad or indifferent. Eovaldi was great during this run, but the question is still there with the two elbow surgeries in the past then you have your two front-line guys in David Price & Chris Sale who have each missed a significant chunk of time in the past two years respectively with elbow and shoulder concerns.

If you’ve been following me at all, you know I’m probably the biggest Rick Porcello guy out there. With his run this past season, many finally bought in on the veteran right-hander through his leadership and big-game pitching performances out of the bullpen. He was the initial “rover” for Alex Cora that bridged the gap to the closer posting a combined 3.52 ERA in the postseason starting 3 times and coming out of the bullpen twice. He was the first guy that spoke out and was visibly brought to tears following Game 3 of the World Series when Eovaldi gave it everything he had on the mound in the 18-inning marathon.

Ben Cherington traded for Porcello prior to the ’15 season and quickly inked him to a four-year, $82.5M extension before he even threw a pitch in a Red Sox uniform. Despite what many pundits argued and believed, I’d say that deal worked out to be a steal for the Red Sox. Porcello struggled out of the gates in 2015 as it was later revealed he was battling injuries. The righty rebounded with a Cy Young Award winning performance going 22-4 with a 3.15 ERA and tossing 223 innings. Bad luck bit Porcello in 2017, but he was still able to pitch his game every time out and log 200+ innings and this past season went 17-7 for Boston with a 4.28 ERA. He’s a ground-ball two-seam fastball pitcher by trade, but over recent years has ticked up the strikeout numbers with the elevated four-seam fastball. He’s a leader in the room and I vote they extend him now rather than trading him.

Porcello is set to turn 30 later this month, and is entering the final year of his deal. Why not lock him in now and guarantee you’ll have three horses at the front of the rotation set for the next four-plus years? Price isn’t going anywhere after opting-in, Eovaldi is signed, get Porcello done now then focus on locking up Chris Sale after you see another full season under his belt and has the shoulder injury behind him, hopefully. You’ll have a guy who can pitch in big games, be a steady workhorse and be a leader in the clubhouse under contract and pitching for your team for the next few years and championship runs. I mean, did we all see Porcello in the playoffs and during the parade? That’s a guy you want to go to war with to paraphrase old friend Jonny Gomes.

While it’s uncommon in baseball for a player to leave money on the table, perhaps that could be the case with Rick Porcello in an extension here. Let’s say the Red Sox go to him right now and say, “Rick, we want to keep you here long-term, but also want to create flexibility to add another reliever without exceeding the luxury tax.” That could be the opportunity for Porcello to give up money in the short-term to gain the sure-thing long-term while also giving his team flexibility to bring back a guy like Joe Kelly who was also crucial to their championship run. Instead of making $21.125M this season, Porcello reduces his money down to $16M this year on a new five-year, $80M contract that includes this season.

In the case above, everyone wins. Porcello has four more years of job security with a winning franchise locked up and while he takes a pay cut up front, still gets a respectable salary for a middle of the rotation starter through his age 34 season. The Red Sox get the luxury tax flexibility to add another reliever like Joe Kelly or Adam Ottavino with the $5M in savings this year and also have 60% of their great rotation locked up and under control for the next four-plus years.

Of course this scenario is a hypothetical, but it’s a well thought-out solution to the Red Sox current predicament that keeps the band together, so to speak. Don’t trade Porcello and run the risk of alienating his teammates and stripping away a piece of the championship winning formula, reward him with an extension while also creating some flexibility for 2019 to go out and add to the bullpen. That is what I would do, and I believe the Red Sox should look long and hard at extending and not trading Rick Porcello.

Feel free to offer your feedback on my take here on Twitter: @FrankBostonTank

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