Red Sox President and CEO Larry Lucchino told WEEI that, when you analyze the merits of the team's signing of Rick Porcello to a 4-year, $82.5 million extention, "you might have to step back a little bit and look at the entire portfolio of contracts that we have." Let's do that.
When we look at the contractual makeup of the Red Sox, you see that they are both preparing for the future and positioned to be very flexible. With the Porcello signing, they essentially have three of their five starters under contract and only one, Wade Miley, with a financial commitment of any real significance (Joe Kelly is the other but he's still a year a way from his first year of arbitration eligibility). Clay Buchholz has a club option for each of the next two years for $13 million each, so it's really anyone's guess right now if they keep him or not. Justin Masterson is a free agent again after this year.
Thus, the Sox are the most committed to the two starters on their roster - Porcello and Miley - with the best combination of age (26 and 28, respectively) and talent. Meanwhile, they have control but minimum investment in the player with the highest ceiling: Joe Kelly.
This roster construction of the starting rotation allows the Sox to see which of these pitchers deserve to come back in 2016, leaves room to fill in gaps (due to injury or lack of performance) with new additions and/or rookies during or after this season.
The bullpen is even more flexible, as it should be. Koji Uehara is the only reliever under a significant contract for 2016 (at $9 million). Anthony Vavaro and Robbie Ross are one year away from arbitration eligibility. Alexei Ogando and Junichi Tazawa are in their second year of arbitration (meaning they have one more). Craig Breslow is a free agent after this year and folks like Tommy Layne, Steven Wright, and folks in the minors are years from arbitration.*
This bullpen make up reflects the fact that relief pitchers are notoriously unreliable year-to-year. Craig Breslow was great in 2013 and pretty horrible in 2014. Vavaro has been good throughout his career but might not be in the new league. The old logic has been that if they were better pitchers and more reliable, they would be starters. Part of this also may be that relief pitchers often have only one or two good pitches - again, this is why they aren't starters because they can't face the same guy three times in one game with only one or two good pitches - so if they are not spot on with that pitch, lose confidence in it, or a scout picks up something, their effectiveness can turn on a dime.
So, we did as Larry "Evil Empire" Lucchino instructed (at least for the pitchers) and it seems the verdict is that he is right. The Sox have some pitching talent and a ton of flexibility both to act in-season and in the next post season.
We'll have to do this again soon, for the position players.
*Players are eligible for arbitration after accruing three full years of service time in the majors. After six, they can be free agents. In practice, rather than a team and player going to a hearing at which an arbitrator determines a fare salary, teams and players tend to come to agreements based on what they think the arbitrator will come up with. Or, a team will give more money to a top player up-front (pre-free agency) in exchange for extra years post-arbitration. That's what happened with Miley, Pedroia, and Buchholz. There's also the "Super Two" rule that essentially incentivizes teams to keep super prospects in the minors until 22% of the season has passed and thus avoid giving those top players a 4th year of arbitration eligibility (i.e. a lot more money). This is the Kris Bryant situation the Cubs faced.