Pitchers and catchers may have reported to Fort Myers on Tuesday, but that doesn’t change the fact that teams can still add to their roster as they see fit.
The Red Sox certainly shouldn’t feel exempt from this. After the trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers, Boston has only four full-time starters in their rotation. A revolving door of right-handed pitchers Ryan Weber and Hector Velazquez, as well as southpaws Brian Johnson and Darwinzon Hernandez, are expected to serve as the No. 5 starter.
With that, as well as the newly-found $30 million in luxury tax space, in mind, the Red Sox should look into adding one of the few remaining starting pitchers on the market.
That arm is a right-handed flamethrower, Aaron Sanchez.
It’s been a whirlwind of a career for the 27-year-old. After showing signs of dominance in both 2015 and 2016, Sanchez has pitched just 272.1 innings across 55 starts in three seasons since. And those innings haven’t been too kind to Sanchez, as he’s posted a 5.29 ERA, a 5.12 FIP, and a SIERA of 5.26.
On top of that, his hard-hit rate was above 41 percent in 2019, which is alarmingly high.
So why should the Red Sox be interested in him?
The primary answer to that, in all honesty, is “Why not? They have nothing to lose in doing so.” The more elaborate response to that is simply the Red Sox do not have any sort of depth in the rotation at all. Even with the names listed above as the “revolving door” at the five-spot, none of them have shown the capability to pitch five-plus innings consistently at the major-league level.
Sanchez, despite injuries limiting him to just 55 starts since 2017, is averaging 4.95 innings per start over the past three seasons (4.86 in 2019). This ranks ahead of Ryan Weber (3.77), Johnson (3.29), Hernandez (3.00), and Velazquez (2.75) –– all of whom make up the Red Sox fifth starter depth.
On top of that, the Red Sox have made it abundantly clear that they will take on guys who can spin a curveball, even if their numbers aren’t particularly impressive. On the 40-man roster, the team already features Colten Brewer (90th percentile), Austin Brice (94th percentile), and Matt Hall (96th percentile). Even with his deficiencies in 2019, Sanchez still ranked in the 91st percentile for curve spin rate and even posted a 1.60 xFIP with a strikeout rate of 38.3 percent on his 532 registered curveballs (23.1 percent usage).
Lastly, he’s going to require nothing more than a minor league deal in all likelihood. He’s 27 years old and already been written off by the rest of baseball. Giving him a minor league deal, given the fact he likely won’t be ready until mid-season, is the epitome of a low-risk, high-reward signing that the Red Sox should pounce on while they have the chance.
If the Red Sox want any chance at competing in a loaded American League this season, they cannot enter 2020 with a gaping hole at the back-end of their rotation. Sanchez not only can provide a definitive option, but he also has the potential to vastly exceed expectations if used properly.
Worst-case scenario, he becomes a vital piece to your bullpen because he has a deadly curveball and a fastball that still averages near 94 miles-per-hour.