Thursday, January 29, 2015

So Long, Ranaudo. Welcome Robbie Ross.

While New England was prepping for Snowmaggedonpocalypse earlier this week, the Red Sox dealt away one of their younger arms for some bullpen help.

In their quest to acquire more left-handed bullpen depth, the Red Sox dealt away one of their top starting prospects, trading Anthony Ranaudo to the Texas Rangers in exchange for Robbie Ross.

A three-year big league veteran, Ross made 123 appearances out of the Rangers’ bullpen from 2012-13, posting a 2.62 ERA in 127.1 innings with a 2.5 strikeout to walk ratio. But the 25-year-old struggled in 2014, as the Rangers used him both out of the bullpen and in the rotation, and Ross saw his ERA balloon to 6.20 in 27 appearances – 12 of them starts.

I will admit, up front, that it is a little hard for me not to be biased against this deal. I have watched Ranaudo come up through the Sox system. He was the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year for the Portland Sea Dogs in 2013 and International League POY for Pawtucket last year. He wasn't spectacular in his Boston call-up last year but he was 4-3. I watched this kid develop, and that will give you rose-colored glasses.

But when you dig into the Boston numbers, you get a sense of why he was available. For a team that signed pitchers that can induce ground balls, Ranaudo is a fly ball pitcher. A 4.81 ERA that translates to an ERA+ of 81. A WHIP of 1.4 and more walks than strikeouts. That, combined with his dominance in the lower leagues paints a picture that maybe Ranaudo was the classic AAAA player; too good for the minors but not quite able to translate that talent into a major league career. But even if he never moved beyond what he did last year, that could be good enough for a fifth pitcher in a rotation if he was also an innings eater.

What will make or break this is whether the Sox get 2012-13 Robbie Ross or 2014 Robbie Ross. The first Ross was dominant out of the bullpen with a K/BB ratio of 2.5, a 1.257 WHIP and an ERA of 2.62 (ERA+ 163). The other Ross is a mess, with a 6.20 ERA and a WHIP of 1.698.

What is clear is that Texas screwed Ross up by moving him into a starting role. What isn't clear is whether Ross can regain his earlier form as a dominant bullpen arm. The Sox desperately need that kind of lefty in their pen.

This obviously doesn't threaten Boston's depth in minor-league pitching, though I considered Ranaudo the best of the bunch to stay with Boston come Opening Day. And I always worry about trading with Texas for a bullpen pitcher, since the last time we did this we got Eric Gagne. And the less said about that, the better.

But if Ross can find his old form, this could end up working out quite well for Boston.

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