It’s been a few years since the Red Sox have been able to ask this question: who gets the ball on Opening Day? Last year, the answer was David Price, essentially the minute he signed that contract way back when. It was Clay Buchholz in 2015, because he was legitimately the best pitcher that they had at the time. Of course, the few years before that was Jon Lester, though John Lackey was the close second. But, you get the idea.
The Red Sox have some of the best American League pitchers on their roster, hands down. Having this trio of Rick Porcello, David Price, and Chris Sale is never an issue, especially in today’s MLB. Very few teams have the type of quote unquote “problem” that the Red Sox have right now. Sure, the ace/starting rotation means, in the end, absolutely nothing, but it’s just something that needs to be settled before April comes and goes. In my opinion, Boston could give the ball to any of those three and it would be a logical decision. Let’s look at the three possibilities.
First off, Rick Porcello. To say that Porcello had a bounce-back year would be the definition of an understatement. He had a career year in every sense. Porcello led the league in wins with 22, posting a .846 winning percentage. He managed a 3.15 ERA, good for fifth-best in MLB, also dipping below 3 a couple of times throughout the season. He started and played in 33 games and, as far as we know, was completely healthy the entire time. He owned a 1.009 WHIP and 3.40 FIP. Unfortunately, Pretty Ricky didn’t pitch a shutout in 2016, but did pitch 3 complete games. Those were just a few of Porcello’s amazing feats last season. I could keep going. Best of all? Handsome Richard brought home some hardware at the end of the season, winning the AL Cy Young to top off a beyond spectacular year for him, much to Kate Upton’s disdain.
One thing that does hurt Porcello’s case here is that he’s only been good for one season, though it was his most recent. I love Ricky as much as the next guy, but we all know that what he did last year isn’t something that he can replicate. It’s just not sustainable.
Another thing is that in his latest start, against Cleveland in Game 1 of the ALDS, he got shellacked, to put it nicely. Porcello gave up three home runs in an inning and five earned runs in a measly 4.1 innings of work. To his defense, players on the Red Sox not named Andrew Benintendi played like total garbage in that three-game series. Porcello didn’t help, though.
At Winter Weekend, both Chris Sale and David Price said that Porcello deserves to be the Opening Day starter. Who knows whether either of them actually meant it or not, but it’s cool, nonetheless. Mutual respect is always a plus on any team.
Next on the list is Chris Sale. You may or may not have heard of him before. He’s pretty good. He’s the best pitcher in the AL, and has been for quite some time. Therefore, he’s easily the best pitcher that the Red Sox have. He had a pretty Chris Sale-type season last year, consisting of above-average numbers. He’s pretty much a combination of Rick Porcello and David Price, but even better: has tons of experience under his belt, tons of past and recent success, has stood the test of time, and is in his prime. Sale’s entire career has been one big Rick Porcello 2016 season, and unlike Porcello, has never had/needed to have a bounce-back season because of his continued success. Also, unlike Price, Sale possesses a very low number of flaws and needs no comeback season.
In his last five seasons, Sale has been in the top-6 of Cy Young voting, and also got some MVP votes in his last two seasons. It’s kind of crazy to think that both Price and Porcello have won the Cy Young, while Sale hasn’t. Though, Sale doesn’t need hardware to prove that he’s stupid good. But, that’s not meant to take away from Porcello and Price in any way.
Aside from the numbers that he puts up and all of that fancy stuff he does, he’s a true leader, as far as I’m concerned. The Red Sox needed some balls not only on their pitching staff, but team as a whole now that Ortiz is retired. Sale gives you just that on the mound, in the dugout and in the clubhouse. He could definitely give mostly everybody on this team some motivation, just by being there. That’s the kind of guy and player that he is. Plus, unlike some people *cough* David Price *cough cough* Sale doesn’t have a Twitter account, so there’s no need to worry about any of that nonsense.
Speaking of motivation, Sale has some of his own. Boston traded the best prospect in baseball, a pitcher who recently clocked in at 110 MPH, and and not to mention two other prospects for Chris Sale alone. I don’t know about him, but that’d make me feel pretty damn good about myself.
I was reluctant to mention this, but it’s relevant, to a degree. Like any player playing in their first year with a new team, there’s always a chance for first-year struggles, I.E. David Price. I think Sale will have an easier first season compared to Price, but anything can happen.
Last but not least, David Price. During his career, wherever he is, he’s been the ace. He’s accustomed to that role. That being said, similar to Sale, Price has serious experience in this league. Price is, of course, the highest paid player on the team and notably signed one of the largest baseball contracts for a pitcher, ever. As I previously mentioned, he also won the Cy Young award, back in 2011 with Tampa Bay. He’s always been one of the AL’s better pitchers for the majority of his career, and even with his down 2016 season, is still above average. Unfortunately, he’s not the mentally toughest guy you’ll see in professional sports.
Price had a career-worst season last year in many categories. That’s just not ace-worthy. I understand if you think that he should be the guy, say because of the money and whatnot, but I just don’t think he deserves it after his failure of a first season in Boston. Honestly, I think it’s better that he’s either the number two or three starter, to lift some of the weight off of his shoulders. It’s cliche, but we could see some staggering improvements made across the board if he isn’t the number one guy. That guarantees that his 2016 vs. 2017 seasons will be as different as night and day, as far as I’m concerned. It can give him the opportunity to make baby steps towards again becoming the pre-Boston, dominant David Price, if he really is going to stay here for the entirety of his 7-year contract.
All of that being said, it’s a tough decision for the Sox, undoubtedly. You’ve got a guy like Porcello coming off of a career, Cy Young winning year, who helped lead his team to first place in the division after being stuck in the basement for two previous seasons. On the other hand, you have Sale, who you traded for a little over a month ago, giving up a decent haul for one of the best in the business. And, finally, of course that guy you’re paying $31 million a year for over a seven year span. That’s why I sit on the couch watching the games and not making the executive decisions like these.
If I had to choose, gun to my head, I’d probably go with Sale. But, you can truly argue any of the three and it would make sense. It all depends on your viewpoint. In the end, it will be fun to see who Farrell chooses. If he manages to somehow screw this up, I officially give up with him.