As things stand headed into the new year, the Red Sox have five viable options to make up their starting rotation next season in Chris Sale, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, and the recently-signed Martin Perez.
However, with it looking more and more likely that chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom will eventually trade Price away to a club like the Los Angeles Dodgers or St. Louis Cardinals, a hole in that rotation may open yet again.
Because of that possibility, it’s not all that ridiculous to think that the Sox could pursue using an opener in 2020 if they do not add another starting pitcher. Remember, Bloom was at the helm in Tampa when the Rays began employing the opener strategy in 2018.
Going off what The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey said in a predictions piece last week, Boston would be more prepared to implement an opener next season than they were this past one, when they had to turn to the strategy out of necessity due to injuries.
With that, right-hander Travis Lakins presents one potential name who could fill that opener role for the Sox come the spring.
In 16 appearances, three of which were starts, in 2019, the 25-year-old rookie posted a 3.86 ERA and 5.22 xFIP over 23 1/3 innings of work spanning five stints with the big-league club.
A 5.22 xFIP in the majors is certainly nothing to write home about, but when you narrow Lakins’ numbers down to when he appeared as an opener for the first time on September 7th against the Yankees, the results improve greatly to the tune of a 2.25 ERA, a 4.45 xFIP, and a .650 OPS against over six outings (three starts) and eight innings pitched.
It’s a small sample size, sure, but if Bloom and Co. are going to be looking for a creative way to fill Price’s spot in the starting rotation once he is eventually dealt, Lakins certainly checks that box.