By midnight tonight, the Red Sox will have to make a decision on how to proceed with Aaron Cook this season. Aaron Cook’s contract has a May 1st opt-out clause if the Red Sox decide not to promote him the big league club. In 5 starts in Pawtucket this season, the sinker-baller is 3-0, posting a 1.89 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 2 Complete Games.
Before signing with the Red Sox in the off-season, Cook played 10 seasons in Colorado where he went 72-68 with a 4.53 ERA in 238 Games. Cook’s great numbers this season in Triple-A could just be the result of a veteran pitcher who knows how to get young, inexperienced players out, but he is definitely proving worthy of a call up.
The Red Sox will have 48 hours from the time Cook decides whether or not to opt-out to make a decision. There are 4 possibilities for how this goes:
1 – The Red Sox call Cook up to the majors and place him in the starting rotation. This seemed like the best option a week ago, but the rotation has settled down and pitched well of late and forcing Cook into the rotation as a 6th starter or taking out someone like Buchholz, who has struggled late in games, may cause unneeded issues at this point. Cook would probably pitch best as a starter, and if someone goes down for any period of time, he would be a very solid fill-in.
2 – The Red Sox call Cook up to the majors and place him in the bullpen. This is the most pressing need for this team right now, but it is uncertain how Cook would adjust to the move and pitching 3-4 times a week instead of once every five days. If Cook could adjust well, he could be a great asset for the Sox pen. Being a sinker ball pitcher, Cook pitches to contact and could be best used coming into games with people on base where you need a double play to keep a lead or keep the game close.
3 – The Red Sox try to extend the opt-out deadline. This would require Cook to allow this to happen, which I just cannot see happening. Cook is pitching too well in Triple-A, and would have immediate calls into starting rotations around the league. There would be no reason for Cook to stay on with this team in Triple-A instead of starting for team such as the Yankees who are in need of another starter.
4 – The Red Sox let Cook opt-out. Again, this would mean Cook would be free to pitch for anyone right away and would not have a shortage of suitors who would come calling.
I think the best option for the Red Sox right now is to call up Cook, put him in the bullpen and try to work it out from there. Whether he stays there or eventually moves into the rotation, he is too valuable to let go right now. Will Cook have an ERA under 2.00 in the majors? Of course not, but you cannot risk him going somewhere else and being a great piece to a contending team.