Chris Sale was undoubtedly the biggest prize of the offseason, and his trade to the Red Sox during this week’s Winter Meetings gave Boston an enviable “Big Three” in its rotation –- not to mention a ridiculous amount of depth.
The Red Sox suddenly are the team to beat in the American League -– at least in December –- because of their rotation, which now is the majors’ best. How the rest of the best stack up in terms of rotation dominance:
USA TODAY SportsPatrick Gorski
The top three is ridiculous with Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello. And there’s suddenly a ton of depth with All-Star knuckleballer Steven Wright as the No. 4 starter and Eduardo Rodriguez, Drew Pomeranz and Clay Buchholz vying for the final rotation spot (or being used as trade bait).
Boston Red Sox/Getty ImagesBillie Weiss
Noah Syndergaard is the unquestioned ace, and injuries always will be a concern with this bunch. But assuming Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz are healthy, this rotation is arguably the majors’ deepest. “Big Sexy” Bartolo Colon is gone, but Zack Wheeler is expected to be fully recovered from Tommy John surgery.
USA TODAY SportsEric Hartline
Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks finished second and third, respectively, in the 2016 NL Cy Young Award voting, and Jake Arrieta won the award in 2015. John Lackey is as solid a fourth starter as there is in the majors, though the fifth spot is in limbo after Chicago declined its option on 15-game winner Jason Hammel.
Getty ImagesJared Wickerham
Corey Kluber is a perennial Cy Young candidate, and Cleveland will have Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar back at full health in 2017. Josh Tomlin stepped up late in the regular season and during the postseason, and Trevor Bauer has ace potential but still is battling inconsistency.
USA TODAY SportsKen Blaze
Madison Bumgarner can match any team’s No. 1 on any given night, and the same can be said of Johnny Cueto. Matt Moore was a shrewd deadline pickup this past summer, and Jeff Samardzija had a decent bounce-back season in the Bay Area. There is some uncertainty at No. 5, however, with Matt Cain, Ty Blach and Albert Suarez in the mix.
USA TODAY SportsNeville E. Guard
Reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer is as filthy and competitive as they come, and Stephen Strasburg is nearly his equal – when healthy. Tanner Roark is coming off a spectacular season and Gio Gonzalez has No. 2 stuff, while Joe Ross is a promising young arm. The trades of Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez will hurt, though.
USA TODAY SportsBrad Mills
Perhaps the majors’ most underappreciated starting five, the Jays’ unit features a budding ace in Aaron Sanchez and solid No. 2 types in J.A. Happ, Marco Estrada and Marcus Stroman. Veteran lefty Francisco Liriano will battle rookie righty Joe Biagini for the fifth spot.
Getty ImagesTom Szczerbowski
Clayton Kershaw –- still the best starter in the majors -- anchors a deep and talented group whose main struggles have been with health. No. 2 starter Rich Hill is back, as is Kenta Maeda. Rookie Julio Urias flashed plenty of potential in his age-19 season, and some collection of Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy, Alex Wood and Hyun-Jin Ryu should be healthy. And then there’s prized prospect Jose De Leon.
USA TODAY SportsBrad Mills
There’s a very good reason these guys are in such high demand when it comes to trades: They’re all very good. That’s true of Chris Archer (even after a down year), as well as Jake Odorizzi, Drew Smyly and 24-year-old Blake Snell. And then there are Alex Cobb and Matt Andriese. The only question is how long this unit –- which lost Matt Moore this past summer -– will remain intact in Tampa.
USA TODAY SportsKim Klement
Carlos Martinez soon will inherit the ace role from Adam Wainwright -– if he hasn’t already. Lance Lynn is set to return from Tommy John surgery, joining a deep group that includes veteran Mike Leake and some combination of young studs Alex Reyes and Luke Weaver. And then there are the curious cases of Michael Wacha, whose recent injury problems could move him into a relief role, and Trevor Rosenthal, who might try to transition back to the rotation from the bullpen.
USA TODAY SportsJeff Curry
The group admittedly is top-heavy with Justin Verlander and Michael Fulmer, but we’re talking about a veteran who has won Rookie of the Year, MVP and Cy Young Awards and the reigning AL Rookie of the Year. Jordan Zimmermann battled injuries and inconsistency in his first season in the AL in 2016 but is a bounce-back candidate. Much will depend on Daniel Norris, Anibal Sanchez and Mike Pelfrey, however.
MLB Photos via Getty ImagesMark Cunningham
This entire group seemed to suffer from the effects of the heavy workload in 2015, when Houston went the distance against Kansas City in the ALDS. However, Dallas Keuchel is a Cy Young Award winner, and Lance McCullers and Collin McHugh are big-time bounce-back candidates. Mike Fiers and Charlie Morton are back-end wild cards, but the Astros have a potentially deep and dominant starting five.
Getty ImagesBob Levey
Everyone knows about Felix Hernandez, but he didn’t even have the best ERA, FIP or K/9 ratio in this rotation last season. Those all belonged to lefty James Paxton, who still won only six games. Hisashi Iwakuma is a solid No. 3 starter, though there are questions in the back end of the rotation with Nate Karns, Ariel Miranda and perhaps Rob Whalen and Chris Heston.