The Boston Red Sox have agreed to a minor league deal with free agent righty Aaron Cook, according to Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports. The move is yet another example of the highly conservative route the team is taking in building a better rotation for 2012. Cook, who played for the Colorado Rockies to this point,has been renowned for his sinker and its ability to keep the ball earth-bound. He has struggled to stay healthy for much of his career,however, making 30+ starts in just two seasons over his ten year career.
Cook will try to prove he is healthy and earn a spot in the Major League roster this spring inFort Myers. If he is healthy, his prodigious groundball rates will be the key to him sticking in the rotation. He has never been much of a strikeout pitcher, with just 3.83 K/9 on his career. With a 2.80 BB/9 rate, he isn’t the stingiest hurler either. He has survived on the strength of a 57.4 groundball percentage, one of the game’s best.
Given that incredible groundball rate, Cook will be a test for the infield. Adrian Gonzalez and Dustin Pedroia are both superb fielders on the right side. Marco Scutaro and Kevin Youkilis are both around average, but the newly signed Nick Punto should see a fair amount of time at third as well, giving the defense their a boost. Should Cook make the 25-man roster, it would not be surprising to see Punto playing behind him regularly, with Youk either resting or in at DH. That is not say that Youk couldn’t handle playing with Cook on the mound, though. With or without Punto playing, the Red Sox are a good fit for Cook’s style. With Fenway slightly suppressing home runs, the former Rookie should be entering a good environment for his skill set. However, the punishing AL East will be an issue. The those walks and the lack of punch-out ability to mitigate them will be a handicap against lineups like the Yankees, the Rays and the Blue Jays, who were all in the top half of the league in OBP.
The competition for the last two spots in the rotation will be a top story line heading intoFort Myersthis spring. At the moment, former setup man Daniel Bard, former swing man Alfredo Aceves and an increasing number of players on minor league deals will all have a shot at the back end starter roles. The Red Sox have also been connected to ex-Pirate free agent Paul Maholm and ex-Dodger Hiroki Kuroda recently. I would expect the team to sign at least one more player in the search for starting pitcher depth this off-season. Maholm seems most likely at this point, as he will almost certainly cost less then other reliable starters, but I would not rule out a minor league deal like this. The team is going to keep trying to turn quantity into quality.