Desiring a power left-hander for their bullpen, the Boston Red Sox tapped into their pitching depth once again to acquire Robbie Ross from the Texas Rangers on Tuesday.
Boston sent 25-year-old right-hander Anthony Ranaudo to Texas. A former supplemental first rounder (39th overall out of LSU in 2010), the Texas native was No. 67 on Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects list entering the 2011 campaign. Earlier this offseason, the Red Sox packaged fellow promising young pitchers Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster to Arizona for 28-year-old left-handed starter Wade Miley.
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington told reporters in recent weeks that the club was searching for a reliever who could retire right-handers and record strikeouts. Though Ross is a left-hander, he limited right-handed hitters to a .211 in 2013, a season that saw him strikeout 8.4 batters per nine innings, walk 19 and post a 3.03 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP in 65 appearances and 62.1 innings.
A second round selection out of high school in 2008, Ross endured an atrocious 2014 campaign when he recorded a 6.20 ERA and a 1.70 WHIP in 27 outings (including 12 starts) and 78.1 innings. In 2012, he was one of the top relievers in baseball with a 2.22 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP in 58 games and 65 innings.
Not including last year, when he scuffled against hitters from both sides of the plate, Ross held righties to a .223/.292/.282 batting line in 2012-2013 compared to .276/.347/.425 against left-handed batters.
Even with Ranaudo, De La Rosa and Webster wearing different uniforms, the Red Sox have significant starting pitching depth in the high minors with left-handers Henry Owens, Eduardo Rodriguez and Brian Johnson; and right-hander Matt Barnes projected to open the season in the Triple-A Pawtucket rotation. Miley is expected to join Rick Porcello, Clay Buchholz, Justin Masterson and Joe Kelly in the Red Sox rotation. Brandon Workman, a 26-year-old right-hander, is projected to fill a swing man role.
Ross, who does have an option remaining, will compete with fellow lefties Drake Britton (who is out of options) and Tommy Layne (who logged a 0.95 ERA in 30 appearances for the Red Sox last season) for the final spot in Boston’s bullpen. Veteran left-hander Craig Breslow was re-signed and will likely join closer Koji Uehara and right-handers Junichi Tazawa, Edward Mujica, Anthony Varvaro and Workman in a pen that is stocked with relievers that induce an abundance of grounders.
The Red Sox hope that returning Ross to a full-time relief role will restore his velocity, which ranged from 94 to 96 out of the pen in 2013 but slipped to 92 to 94 last year when he split time between the rotation and the pen.
The Rangers believe that Ranaudo will bolster their rotation depth. He made his Major League debut with the Red Sox last year and finished with a 4-3 record, a 4.81 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP in seven starts totaling 39.1 innings. Command was an issue for the 6-foot-7, 230-pound Ranaudo. He issued 16 walks compared to 15 strikeouts. Yet Ranaudo does own a 2.67 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP to accompany a 17-5 record and 7.1 strikeouts per nine innings over 30 Triple-A appearances (including 29 starts).
In Texas, Ranaudo will contend for a back of the rotation spot. Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Yovani Gallardo are projected to anchor the rotation while the Rangers hope that veteran right-hander Colby Lewis will regain his health and effectiveness. The No. 5 role will likely be occupied by free agent signee Ross Detwiler, 24-year-old right-hander Nick Martinez or Ranaudo.