The trade is done and the dust is settling over new Red Sox starter Drew Pomeranz. I’m not going to analyze the trade here any more than to say it was a good trade for both sides and while the Red Sox gave up a lot of skill they also lost some risk the same time. That said Pomeranz is not a sure thing and what he will be is a big question still.
After starting his career in Colorado Pomeranz has pitched in several pitcher friendly parks of Oakland and San Diego. Last year his ERA was pretty bad on the road in the American League, but this season he’s carried a 2.32 ERA on the road as well as a solid 2.54 K/BB in those games. He doesn’t seem to be only excelling thanks to San Diego, but being in the NL West hasn’t hurt him either.
Looking big picture Pomeranz has been solid accruing an ERA of 3.66 and a xFIP of 4.01. That’s good, but not what you want when you give up a high ceiling pitcher like Anderson Espinoza. The Red Sox are betting on the breakout number Pomeranz has posted in his first full season as a starter. His current ERA stands at 2.47 while his xFIP is at a 3.66 showing San Diego and the NL West has benefitted him a bit by preventing some home runs.
The bad news here is pretty obvious. I don’t believe he’s an elite pitcher like his 2.47 ERA suggests. He’s going to struggle moving to the AL and I can’t imagine his ERA continues to beat his xFIP by more than a full run. Also while he is striking out more than 10 batters per nine innings this is his first season anywhere that high. He also has control issues and has posted a BB/9 over 3 every season, normally a breakout season correlates with a drop in walks, but that is not the case for Pomeranz.
I fully expect unless he makes some changes, and lets be honest I’ve seen no evidence John Farrell and the Red Sox staff can effectively make those changes, that Pomeranz will be a 3.50 to 4.00 ERA pitcher. A solid, but not great pitcher much like Rick Porcello has been this year.
There is some good news here though and that has to do with his age and contract. He’s still right at the heart of his prime and highly possible he improves now and in the next few years. Decline often comes around 30 and the Red Sox control two of those three prime years remaining.
He will be arbitration eligible for those two years, but that beats paying another pitcher $20 million a year for those results as they have done with Porcello. If he turns the corner perhaps they attempt a longer term deal during arbitration next year, but for now they can be glad his cost makes up for the fact they lost Espinoza. They can also be glad this is another step in keeping Clay Buchholz and Joe Kelly out of the starting rotation, which can do nothing but help the team push for the playoffs this season.