The Red Sox are making an effort to retain free agent starter Eduardo Rodríguez, but the club has myriad avenues to potentially address their rotation. Right-hander Garrett Whitlock could be an option, as chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom told reporters (including Alex Speier of the Boston Globe) the team is open to the possibility of stretching him out as a starter in 2022.
The 25-year-old Whitlock spent essentially his entire career in the Yankees’ system as a starter, topping out with 120 2/3 innings across three levels in 2018. After plucking him away from their archrival in the Rule 5 draft, the Sox moved him into a bullpen role. That’s typical for a Rule 5 draftee, since teams often prefer to break those unproven players in with lower-leverage innings. But Whitlock proved to be one of the better Rule 5 selections in recent memory, earning himself a role of higher import as he continued to thrive. Ultimately, Whitlock tossed 73 1/3 innings across 46 relief outings (with another 8 1/3 frames in five postseason appearances). He posted a 1.96 ERA with a strong 27.2% strikeout percentage and a tiny 5.7% walk rate.
Moving Whitlock out of the relief role in which he’s been so effective isn’t without risk, but public scouting reports have long suggested he might be a viable starter. His debut campaign offered support for that idea, as Whitlock worked with a three-pitch mix and demonstrated plus control. He did have pronounced platoon splits — lefties hit .293/.349/.475 off him, while righties managed just a .199/.243/.278 mark — that could suggest he’s better deployed situationally, but it’s sensible for the front office to keep the rotation possibility open.
Looking outside the organization, the Sox are also among the teams with early interest in free agent starter Steven Matz, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter link). Boston is certainly one of many clubs in contact with the southpaw’s representatives at Icon Sports Management, and Sherman adds the Tigers and Angels as other potential suitors, in addition to the incumbent Blue Jays.
Matz is coming off his third solid season in the past four years, having worked to a 3.82 ERA/4.12 SIERA across 150 2/3 frames with Toronto. The Jays didn’t issue him a qualifying offer, so signing Matz wouldn’t cost a team draft pick compensation. Entering his age-31 campaign, he looks to have a strong case to land a three-year deal.
While the Sox have seemingly focused primarily on the rotation during the first couple days of the offseason, Bloom tells Speier (separate post) that Boston could look into options at second base as well. It doesn’t seem bolstering the keystone is an absolute must, though, as Bloom went on to express faith in Christian Arroyo’s ability to handle the position. The 26-year-old was limited to just 181 plate appearances this past season because of injuries, but he hit at a slightly above-average level (.262/.324/.445) in that limited time. Jonathan Villar, Josh Harrison and César Hernández are among a few of the lower-cost free agent options available.