Red Sox could try to claim Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo López, but should they bother?


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BOSTON — Top of the third inning, bunch of crooked numbers on the top line of Fenway Park’s manual scoreboard, and already the Red Sox bullpen door was swinging open to send a relief pitcher jogging toward the mound. By the time he got there, it was basically over. Down by six runs in the game. Trailing by 6 1/2 games in the wild-card race. What was Joe Jacques supposed to do to fix it?

Consider this story, then, the third in an ongoing series about the inevitable, slow-motion demise of the Red Sox season. Part 1 was the wasted opportunity against the Blue Jays less than a month ago. Part 2 was the second-straight loss to the last-place Nationals two weeks ago. And this installment comes after a 7-4 loss on Wednesday to complete a three-game sweep by the Astros.

Did we say 6 1/2 games out of the wild card? The Red Sox are now 7 1/2 games out, and FanGraphs is giving them roughly a 4 percent chance of making the playoffs. That’s basically what they were giving the Mets when the Mets got rid of their best pitchers at the trade deadline.

“We didn’t pitch, that’s the bottom line,” Alex Cora said. “I think since after New York (10 days ago) the starters have been grinding through it, and we’re not getting deep enough, and we’ve been paying the price the last 10 days.”

On paper, this is the best staff the Red Sox have had all season — based on some of the names, it could be the best staff they’ve had in several seasons — but despite getting Chris Sale, Tanner Houck and Garrett Whitlock off the injured list this month, the Red Sox have still had trouble having anyone pitch deep into games. No one, it seems, is anywhere close to full strength, and at a time when the schedule has been difficult and the off days limited, early deficits and an exhausted bullpen have taken a toll. It may very well have run the Red Sox right out of the playoff race.

Oddly enough, the Red Sox might have an unusual opportunity to restock their pitching staff on Thursday. The Angels have put pitchers Lucas Giolito, Matt Moore and Reynaldo López on waivers, making them — and others — available to any team willing to put in a claim and pay their remaining salaries. The Red Sox have done some internal digging on Giolito and López, though it’s unclear whether they’ve made a claim, nor is it a slam dunk that they should make a claim.

Fact is, adding one of those guys might be a waste of money, or at best, a fairly expensive PR move. It would suggest the Red Sox are willing to spend and trying to win.

While ignoring the almost impossible odds of actually playing meaningful games the rest of the way.

Alex Bregman and the Astros bludgeoned the Red Sox this week. (David Butler II / USA TODAY)

At the trade deadline, the Red Sox had roughly a 30 percent chance of making the playoffs. At the time, pitching depth was a problem, but the team felt confident that Sale, Houck and Whitlock would return to steady the ship. Potential rental arms, Chaim Bloom has said, seemed little better than what they had in-house, and so the Red Sox acquired a middle infielder and stayed the course.

Within a week their playoff odds were down to 10 percent. Those odds rebounded a bit, but going 1-5 this homestand has been devastating. The offense wasn’t great this homestand, but it seems little coincidence that their one win came in the only game in which they allowed fewer than six runs. Monday’s calamity in which Kyle Barraclough was left to suffer a 10-run embarrassment was more of a symptom than a cause.

As their playoff odds shriveled, the Red Sox played 28 games in August and had a starting pitcher (or bulk reliever) pitch at least six innings only six times (four of those were Brayan Bello). As good as Nick Pivetta’s been since becoming a hybrid starter/reliever, even he has pitched more than five innings only twice since being dumped from the regular rotation in the middle of May. Sale, Houck and Whitlock have been limited since returning from the IL — none has been stretched out to 100 pitches, Whitlock has been in the bullpen — and Crawford has been capped at 85-90 pitches most of the year.

The Red Sox have had 10 rotation/long relief options cycle through the pitching staff this season (that’s not counting starter-turned-reliever Josh Winckowski or emergency call-ups Barraclough, Matt Dermody and Dinelson Lamet). Most have pitched well at various times, but almost all also have been hurt at some point, and the selection of Corey Kluber as the big offseason rotation addition proved a total bust (both in terms of health and performance). What the Red Sox have often needed is a stabilizer in the middle of the rotation, and Kluber’s not been able to fill that role.

The current waiver situation could provide an unusual opportunity for a re-do. The Angels, Mets and White Sox have made some viable starting pitchers readily available, and the Red Sox have the highest waiver priority of any American League team with a winning record. Unless the sub-.500 Guardians want to chase an unlikely run at the AL Central, no American League contender can claim one of those pitchers ahead of the Red Sox.

But there are two problems.

The first is the National League. The Reds and Marlins have worse records than the Red Sox (but better playoff odds), and the Padres, too, have waiver priority over the Red Sox (and might figure “why not?” given how much they’ve already paid in an attempt to contend this season). So, it’s entirely possible the Red Sox will never have a chance to claim any of these pitchers anyway.

But the second problem is a far bigger one.

Even if the Red Sox could add one of these suddenly available pitchers, given how far out of the race they’ve fallen, what would be the point?

(Top photo of Giolito: Cole Burston / Getty Images)

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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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