It's no secret that the Red Sox need starting pitching -- and lots of it.
That would be the case after any season in which the Red Sox finished next-to-last in staff ERA in the American League. But given the physical question marks attached to some of their starting candidates, that goes double for the Sox this winter.
When the season begins next April, the Red Sox will likely still be two months away from the return of Chris Sale, currently recovering from Tommy John surgery. A second projected starter, Eduardo Rodriguez, didn't pitch at all in 2020 after being diagnosed with COVID-19, then contracting myocarditis (inflammation of the heart) as a side effect.
Tanner Houck was phenomenal in his September callup, but has just three major league starts to his credit. And Martin Perez, who was thought to be a sure thing to return as a result of a team option, is instead a free agent and appears close to signing elsewhere.
That leaves Nathan Eovaldi as the lone established holdover for 2021, and as his career path suggests, he's never been exactly durable.
"We need to make sure that we are aggressive in amassing both short- and long-term depth,'' said chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom. "We clearly didn't have what we needed in that regard in 2020. I think, by the end of the (past season), looking ahead, we could feel better about it than we might have on Opening Day. But we still have a lot of work do to.''
The Sox aren't boxing themselves in or pre-planning much beforehand. The idea is to acquire a lot of quality options and then deploy them in the best way possible. That means depth is more important than ever.
"I'd like to be in a spot where we feel pretty good about what we have and then when (Sale) comes back, that's upside,'' said Bloom. ''We know that's not going to be at the beginning of the season. Even when you might choose to do some non-traditional things, you still want to do it from a position of strength where you have credible starting pitching and you might decide to open in front of them or to do different things to give yourself a better chance to win on a given night. But you're doing that as a choice, not out of necessity.''