Inbox: How is Boston's rotation shaping up?

Beat reporter Ian Browne answers fans' questions

November 24th, 2020

It's time for another Red Sox Inbox, in which will tackle free agency and how Boston's rotation will look at the end of it -- among other topics of interest.

What do you think Boston's starting five will look like next year? Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi and then pray for rain?
-- @steveoconnell

I think it will look better than that. As far as Sale goes, don’t expect him to be part of the equation until at least mid-June as he completes his comeback from Tommy John surgery. At this point, the Red Sox anticipate that Eduardo Rodriguez will be back to lead the rotation. Rodriguez, of course, didn’t pitch last season due to COVID-19 and myocarditis. Having him anchor the rotation until Sale returns would be huge.

At this point, there are no health concerns with Eovaldi, who pitched well when he was healthy last season and didn’t have any arm issues. You also will get a full look at Nick Pivetta, the righty starter who Boston acquired from the Phillies for Heath Hembree and Brandon Workman. Pivetta was impressive in two late-season starts and he has always had good stuff. The Red Sox are confident he now has the tools to be more consistent. Tanner Houck, Boston's No. 10 prospect per MLB Pipeline, certainly created a lot of hope when he made three dominant starts to finish the season. Houck will be a pitcher to watch in Spring Training.

Beyond that, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom will try to find another starter or two on the open market. There are some really interesting short-term possibilities: How about getting Masahiro Tanaka to switch sides in the rivalry? What about a reunion with Jon Lester? Or a reunion with Rich Hill? There is a lot of supply on the starting market, so I think Bloom can do well here.

Any indication as to which free agents the team has focused on?
-- @Bill_Doucet

I think it is still a bit too early to tell, but I do believe the Red Sox are being open minded and waiting to see how the market plays out. If they could get a starting pitcher like Corey Kluber on an affordable, short-term deal, that would be good. You also have the list of pitchers I mentioned above. I think they will mainly be focused on pitching -- both starters and relievers. I also expect them to keep a very close eye on the George Springer sweepstakes. They will have an outfield void to fill if Jackie Bradley Jr. signs elsewhere, and Springer is the best player on that market.

What are the Red Sox's chances at Springer in free agency and what other teams around the league seem like logical fits for him?
-- @Mattd_Edwards

Given Springer’s New England roots and the relationships he has with Red Sox manager Alex Cora, setup man Matt Barnes (his roommate in college) and assistant hitting coach Pete Fatse (fellow UConn alum), you’d have to think Boston is, at the very least, in the mix. I’d be worried about the Mets. They obviously have money to spend and they are also in fairly close proximity to Springer's hometown of New Britain, Conn. The Blue Jays are another team that has already been linked to Springer. He figures to have a lot of suitors.

Would love to see the Red Sox get Javier Báez to play second base. What are the chances of that? I understand they will be looking for pitching, but a player like him could help solidify Boston's lineup.
-- @ChristianJr__

I don’t doubt that Báez would be a great upgrade for the Red Sox at second base while giving them a big lineup boost. I believe this despite Báez having an offensive decline in 2020 that was as dramatic as the one J.D. Martinez had. I sort of take ’20 stats with a grain of salt. The problem that I’m having is seeing where the sides match up. As you say, the Cubs would probably be looking for pitching and the Red Sox need to add in that area rather than subtract.

What are the Sox going to do with Andrew Benintendi? Especially if he struggles out of the gate, it will be hard to keep him as a regular.
-- @xannnnder

Watching Benintendi in Spring Training and in Summer Camp last year, it was obvious that he still has plenty of athleticism and hasn’t lost his skills overnight. Once the season started, things sped up on Benintendi, then they snowballed and then he got hurt. It was just a perfect storm that led to a tough shortened season. I think Cora can once again get the most out of Benintendi and he can get back to being the type of player he was in 2017 and ’18. The big question is where he fits in the lineup. Is he a No. 1 or 2 hitter, or more of a No. 5 or 6 guy?

Any insights on Theo Epstein?
-- @terrylyons

I’ve known Epstein for nearly two decades, so I take him at his word when he says that he doesn’t think he will be working in a baseball front office next season. With that said, I fully expect his competitive juices to be flowing by this time next year and he will land a top job -- assuming he wants one. Will the Mets hire a placeholder under their team president Sandy Alderson for this season, simply to keep the seat warm for Epstein? I wouldn’t rule that out.

The Phillies situation also bears watching. Will they hire a president of baseball operations type this winter, or just go with a general manager in hopes they can lure Epstein in 2021? It was interesting to hear Epstein in his farewell to the Cubs press conference talk about the possibility of being involved in ownership in the future. I do think that is further down the road. I think we all look forward to seeing what Epstein’s next step will be.