The Red Sox escaped the country, but they can't escape their problems.
Dave Dombrowski is gone and the smoke is starting to clear in terms of that bit of chaos. What is left behind can be construed as an uncomfortable situation, one which was put on display in some ways at Rogers Centre Tuesday night.
Start with the starter.
Nathan Eovaldi didn't pitch terribly, allowing three runs over 4 1/3 innings in what would be a 4-3 loss to the Blue Jays. But we are now almost all the way through Year 1 of this four-year, $68 million deal and this is not trending well. The righty still hasn't pitched as many innings as he did in half a season with the Rays in 2018, totaling just 52 2/3. There still hasn't been more than 154 1/3 innings since 2014. And the ERA for 2019 stands at 5.81.
Eovaldi has shown flashes, which is what got him this contract to begin with. But the way the Red Sox are constituted headed into 2020 they need more than flashes.
He was supposed to be a fail-safe if Chris Sale left. A legitimate top-of-the-rotation option. As it turns out the Sox need to that to be a reality more than ever. But the problem is that few know what is real.
The health of both Sale and David Price have to be questioned heading into next season. Considering those two will make up $186 million of the Red Sox' payroll over the next three years that makes the Eovaldi uncertainty even more uncomfortable. This part of the equation will be the foundation of the new chief decision-maker's anxiety. There is no way around that.
So with the aforementioned question marks, the question is how the Red Sox can find some certainty.
Eduardo Rodriguez is a start. This has been officially a breakout season for the 26-year-old, who is sitting at 17-6 with a 3.73 ERA in 178 2/3 innings. Maybe that is where you start, getting some sort of financial headstart on Rodriguez's situation. Extend a team-friendly extension that buys out his final two offseasons of arbitration in an attempt to manage the starting rotation's financial future.
As for the one final spot Rick Porcello is likely to leave behind -- not including Sale's potential absence -- this would seem to be the opportunity to allocate whatever trade chips as the Red Sox' disposal to identify a young, cheap starter with the kind of upside that will serve as a buffer for those big contracts. We aren't talking free agency. There are intriguing names that would normally be welcome rotation-fillers (Rich Hill would be an intriguing option.) But money is money, and the Red Sox are running out of it when it comes to paying for pitching.
So, where does that arm come from? This brings us to the Mookie Betts conversation.
In case you haven't noticed, Betts is landing with another well-above-average season, having just hit his 28th homer (4 shy of last season) to go along with a .290 batting average and .916 OPS. It is 2018? Nope. But the outfielder's market certainly hasn't taken that much of a hit, whether you're talking trade or contract extension. For Dombrowski's replacement, this is a doozy, but it also shouldn't be that complicated. You offer Betts close to what you believe to be your best proposal this offseason, gauge his response and act accordingly.
Maybe the Red Sox and/or Betts wait until the Anthony Rendon market is defined. Or perhaps the landing spot is simply somewhere between Nolan/Arenado/Manny Machado/Bryce Harper Land and Mike Trout World.
If Betts is digging in on close to Trout money than the likelihood is that this is where that trade for a young, controllable starting pitcher is coming from. If Betts does join Xander Bogaerts as a potential Red Sox lifer than perhaps Jackie Bradley Jr. (who is also eligible for free agency at the end of 2020) represents the path to filling in the pitching gaps.