The Boston Red Sox just bolstered their 2013 starting rotation by signing free-agent right-hander Ryan Dempster to a two-year deal. Despite his addition, the team still need more starting pitching depth, but the answer may already be on their roster in the person of Alfredo Aceves.
FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal first reported the Dempster signing via Twitter.
Sources: Dempster close with #RedSox on two-year, $26.5 million free-agent contract.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 13, 2012
The story was later confirmed in a separate report by ESPN.com’s Gordon Edes.
Dempster joins Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront, John Lackey and possibly Franklin Morales in the rotation this upcoming season. With Lackey and Morales coming off injuries, the team could still use another starter to shore up the rotation. Career .500 pitchers Kyle Lohse and Edwin Jackson are the best of the remaining free agents and don’t generate much excitement.
A potentially intriguing and cheaper option for the Red Sox would be giving Aceves a chance to win a rotation spot. He may be coming off a rough 2012 season, but there are plenty of reasons why he could flourish in such a role.
Aceves became the Boston closer by default last season after Andrew Bailey was ruled out for half the year because of an injured thumb. Aceves started out strong, posting a 3.57 ERA and 22 saves through July, but bombed the rest of the way with an alarming 8.42 ERA and a highly publicized three-game suspension.
With Bailey back and Mark Melancon having closing experience, Aceves won’t see the end of many games in 2013. The rest of the bullpen looks plenty deep enough to allow him to transition to the rotation. Craig Breslow, Andrew Miller, Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa and a hopefully rejuvenated Daniel Bard round out the rest of the relief corps.
All but nine of Aceves’ 183 career major league games have come in relief. Despite it being a small sample size, he proved to be a very capable starter, posting a 2-1 record and 4.18 ERA. That ERA is better than what any full-time Red Sox starter had in 2012.
Aceves’s varied arsenal is more typical of a starter than relievers, who often operate with only two or three offerings. FanGraphs.com shows he pitches with a low-90s fastball, changeup, splitter and curveball.
The ability to get out both right-handed and left-handed hitters is a skill required of any successful starter. Aceves has been nearly identically successful against both. For his career he has allowed a .223/.296/.368 slash line to righties and .224/.298/.357 to lefties.
In addition to possessing the repertoire, Aceves has wanted to start for some time. His agent, Tom O’Connell, told WEEI’s Alex Speier last offseason, “You know the kind of competitor he is, so I like his chances of being in the rotation.”
Aceves made just $1.2 million in 2012 and is now arbitration eligible. He will receive a bit of a raise but would provide a relatively low-cost option at the back of the Boston rotation, allowing them to spend their money elsewhere.
It is interesting to see how many fans appear reluctant to forgive Aceves because of his suspension, which was the result of an emotional outburst with then-manager Bobby Valentine. That same outrage seems to be lacking for the other players who supposedly undermined the skipper last season, according to Yahoo!Sports’ Jeff Passan.
Amazingly, Aceves’ fantastic 2011 season in Boston seems largely forgotten. That year he went 10-2 with a 2.66 ERA in 55 games, 10 times pitching on no rest. It’s time to forgive him and see if he can regain his previous success.
New manager John Farrell has already publicly stated he is willing to forgive the competitive pitcher.
ESPNBoston.com’s Gordon Edes reported Farrell comments from a group interview session indicating the strategy he plans to utilize with Aceves involves being honest and defining a clear role.
From my standpoint, the approach taken is to be candid with him, to be consistent with him, both in terms of what we value in guy's approach, but as best can be communicated to him in his role. That will evolve going forward, but I think the most important thing is for him to understand where he sits with us, how we view him, and what his role is, then he can best prepare for that.
To be fair, Aceves has had little permanence during his time in Boston. He has been a long reliever, a temporary closer and even started a few games. No matter how well he's pitched, he has never been allowed to settle into one role.
If the Red Sox and their fans are willing to give Aceves another chance, they may reap the benefits. There are many reasons suggesting he should be given a chance to start, which could allow him to earn his redemption the old fashioned way—through hard work and results.
Statistics via BaseballReference