Do Boston’s Pitching Moves Make Them A Good Bet?

The trade deadline might be two weeks away, but the Boston Red Sox are doing their midsummer shopping early. The Red Sox, with pitching problems that were obvious to some of us throughout the season, have worked to bolster their rotation and the bullpen. They added starter Drew Pomeranz from San Diego and reliever Brad Ziegler from Arizona, both in exchange for minor league prospects. Do these moves now make the Red Sox a good bet to win the AL East or more?

Let's begin by looking at the prices. Boston is a tri-favorite in the AL East. They're in a race with the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays and all three teams are currently priced at 9-5. The public will pick the favorite and given the past history in this regard, the public will likely settle on the Red Sox. Getting Boston at this price is likely the best we'll see, unless they dig themselves a five-game hole and you want to bet on a comeback. If we look at bigger prizes, the Red Sox are 7-1 to win the American League pennant (the same as Toronto, while Baltimore is 8-1). Boston is 16-1 to win the World Series (the same as Baltimore, with Toronto at 18-1).

It was apparent that the Red Sox lacked the starting pitching depth to win anything other than a wild-card and maybe not even that. Furthermore, even making the postseason was dependent on David Price returning to his ace form after a shaky first half. Pomeranz is the proposed answer. Let's take a look at him...

He's a 27-year-old lefty who was having a fine season in San Diego, a 2.47 ERA in 17 starts. The downside to this deal is that Pomeranz is being purchased while his value is high--he's never been this good before. He's also going to make three different changes--from Petco Park to Fenway Park, from facing a pitcher in the lineup to facing a DH and from facing NL West lineups to the offense-heavy AL East bats in Baltimore and Toronto. It defies reason to think this won't take a toll on his ERA.

On the flip side, Pomeranz is at the point of his career were you would expect to start seeing peak performance. His career ERA of 3.66 also comes with having made nearly half of his 66 career starts while a member of the Colorado Rockies and pitching in ERA-wrecking Coors Field. And the very nature of the shift to the American League that works against him also mean that Boston will be thrilled if he can give them around a 3.25 ERA in his remaining starts. He's an improvement to the back end of the Red Sox rotation.

Ziegler is a similar coup for the bullpen. He's 36-years-old and got his first chance at closing last year in Arizona, where he rang up 30 saves. But even though he hasn't been a closer his entire career, he's always been quietly effective. His career ERA of 2.48 bears witness to that.

There's no question Boston improved themselves, but they also lost closer Craig Kimbrel for up to six weeks and setup man Junichi Tazawa to a shoulder problem. Keep in mind that the Red Sox are notoriously over-optimistic in public pronouncements on when injured players will return. This means that as much as Ziegler helps, the Red Sox bullpen as a whole is still a down a quality arm from where they were a week ago. And while Pomeranz is a nice addition and Price is likely to pitch better, there's no guarantee knuckleballer Steven Wright will continue to be as good as he's been.

We like the moves Boston has made. But given the public following this team has in Las Vegas, it's still very tough to love the prices. We could justify a wager on them to win the AL East, but "justify" is not the same as saying "recommend." And anything beyond that, the question marks are still just too severe.
 

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