One of the Red Sox’ few bright spots sounds interested in staying in Boston
It’s been a disappointing season for the tumbling Red Sox, who sit at 62-66 and last place in the American League East entering Monday. But they’d be even worse if not for starter Michael Wacha, who has delivered a strong campaign – and apparently would like to stick around.
As reported by Christopher Smith of MassLive, Wacha was asked if he’s “open to” re-signing with the Red Sox in 2023. Wacha replied, “Yes, most definitely. For sure, yeah.” That’s four different ways of saying yes, so that sounds good for the chances of a reunion.
Wacha is on track to become a free agent after the 2022 season. Through his own performance on the mound, he’s become more expensive than the $7 million he’s making this year. Through 16 starts, Wacha has posted a 2.53 ERA, which would be a new career-high. He also has a 9-1 record, meaning the rest of the Red Sox’ pitching staff is a combined 53-65.
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Based on his other comments to Smith for MassLive, Wacha is trying his best to leave all options open for free agency. But he reiterated that he’d be happy staying in Boston.
“I haven’t really thought about it like that,” Wacha told Smith. “There’s still a lot of games left to be played. And that is kind of stuff that I can’t really control right now. I try to leave that stuff for the offseason. But as far as how I’m liking Boston, I’m loving it here. The staff here is amazing. The players on this team have become really good friends of mine, and I just jell really nicely with them and get along with everyone. Just really good ballplayers and a good team.
“I love it here. The fans are great. Getting to play in front of a packed stadium every night is something that should never get taken for granted. It’s a very cool place to play. Putting on this Red Sox uni is something I’ll always remember, for sure.”
Wacha’s happiness with the Red Sox is certainly reflected in his on-field performance. But it also signifies one big concern with re-signing him, which is the inevitably increased price tag. Will Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom pay up to retain an asset that worked out? Or will he move on and dig for the next hidden gem?
Bloom hasn’t had enough successes in his three years leading Boston’s front office to just let go of a player that has succeeded, especially in the starting rotation. But we’ll believe he’s willing to keep Wacha around when we see it.
Obviously, another worry with Wacha is whether he’d repeat his 2022 performance over the course of a longer-term deal. It’s possible that the 31-year-old has earned himself a multiyear contract with whomever signs him next.
ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 06: Michael Wacha #52 of the Boston Red Sox celebrates a 1-0 win against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on June 06, 2022 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
But for a team that’s struggled in so many areas and has dealt with another injury-plagued season for Chris Sale, Wacha’s resurgence has been a welcome one – and something worth trying to keep. It sounds like Wacha is receptive to the idea.
The Red Sox hit the road to Minnesota on Monday night to face the Twins. Brayan Bello (0-3, 7.36 ERA) starts for the Red Sox against Dylan Bundy (7-6, 4.56 ERA).
Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @realmattdolloff. You can also email him at email@example.com.
Sox continue to make moves, cut 2 from bullpen
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – AUGUST 23: Hirokazu Sawamura #18 of the Boston Red Sox throws against the Toronto Blue Jays during the seventh inning at Fenway Park on August 23, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
The door is just about closed on the 2022 Boston Red Sox.
But the Sunday loss, which saw the Rays hammer the Red Sox for 12 runs on 17 hits, has also led to some changes, as the Red Sox reportedly hit both Hirokazu Sawamura and Austin Davis with the old ‘designated for assignment’ following the defeat.
PITTSBURGH, PA – AUGUST 18: Austin Davis #56 of the Boston Red Sox pitches in the sixth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates during interleague play at PNC Park on August 18, 2022. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
And like in the case of Davis, Sunday appeared to be the last straw for Bloom & Co., as Sawamura struggled and surrendered three runs on four hits and two walks in just one inning of work.
Sawamura, who joined the Red Sox on a two-year, $3 million contract signed back in 2021, was mostly as advertised for the Sox as a middle reliever, with a 6-2 record with 14 holds and batters hitting .233 off him in 103.2 innings of work over 104 appearances during his two-season run.
But the 2022 season was an especially strange one for the Japanese reliever, as he was outright dominant when pitching anywhere besides Fenway Park.
Hirokazu Sawamura's home/away splits this season continue to make no sense:
Home: 5.83 ERA (29.1 IP, 19 ER) Away: 0.84 ERA (21.1 IP, 2 ER)
It’s worth wondering if this will be the start of a bloodletting of arms from the Sox bullpen, as Boston’s pitching problems obviously go beyond Davis and Sawamura.
One player whose struggles have been straight-up undeniable: Ryan Brasier.
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – AUGUST 26: Ryan Brasier #70 of the Boston Red Sox is relieved during the eighth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park on August 26, 2022. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
On the hill for 54 appearances and counting this season, Brasier has a team-worst 6.34 ERA (he’s the only year-long Red Sox regular to have an ERA over 6.00), and batters are hitting a team-worst .308 off him through 49.2 innings of work in 2022. In fact, Brasier is one of just eight pitchers in all of baseball in 2022 to pitch at least 49 innings and have an opponent batting average of at least .308.
Brasier has been getting absolutely shelled since the Red Sox came out of the All-Star break, too, with 14 earned runs surrendered in 14.2 innings of work, along with a 1.84 WHIP and 8.59 ERA.
So, to say he’s been getting rocked in 2022 feels like putting it lightly.
And if the struggles of a Davis and a Sawamura reached a boiling point for a Red Sox that’s inching closer and closer towards shifting their focus to the future (read as: using the final weeks of the MLB season to get a look at some of their younger, minor-league pitchers), Brasier has to be next, no?
But with Brasier (and the rest of the Sox bullpen) still safe for the time being, the Red Sox needed to make just two additions to the big league roster for Monday, and have apparently found them with the reported selections of Kaleb Ort and Zack Kelly from Triple-A Worcester.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JULY 17: Kaleb Ort #61 of the Boston Red Sox reacts after giving up a hit against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on July 17, 2022. (Elsa/Getty Images)
The right-handed Ort is a name you’ll remember from mop-up duty in 2022, as he’s 12 appearances for Boston this year, with 24 hits, 15 earned runs allowed, and a 9.00 ERA in just 15 innings of work.
Kelly, however, is a new name for Alex Cora’s roster, as the 27-year-old will get the call to the big league roster for the first time in his pro career.
In the minors since 2017, the 6-foot-3 righty has put up respectable numbers for the Woo Sox in 2022, with a 6-3 record, 2.72 ERA, and 72 strikeouts in 49.2 innings of work this season.