Boston Red Sox: 6 Pitchers Who Could Be at Bargain Prices Now

Christopher Benvie@CSBenvie81Correspondent IIDecember 28, 2011

Boston Red Sox: 6 Pitchers Who Could Be at Bargain Prices Now

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    Using the term "bargain" as an adjective for anything in regards to the Boston Red Sox just feels wrong to write. However, with the team holding its spending to a minimal this offseason, a winter of frivolous spending has escaped the brass on Yawkey Way.

    We have reached a point during the winter whereby most of the eye-popping contracts have been signed and what is left are solid players hoping for a modest payday.

    This is exactly where the Red Sox could make their proverbial splash.

    It was obvious that the team was not going to shell out loads of cash for C.J. Wilson. As much as I personally wanted to see them make an offer to Mark Buehrle, it became clear that they were never serious suitors for his services either.

    While the Red Sox have been kicking tires and making offers on the trade market, true value is still out there to be had with free agency. Moves can be made that could afford the Sox the luxury of keeping the prospects they still have (for now) while filling out the rotation and bullpen.

    Here is a look at six potential pitchers that the Red Sox could add to their roster for the right price.

Joe Saunders, LHP

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    Bazooka Joe is a big lefty that has spent a majority of his career pitching in the AL West for the Angels and most recently in the NL West pitching for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

    Listen, I know how our last Angel signing went (and is going.)  However, I think Joe Saunders could be a nice pick up for the Sox right now. 

    His career ERA is 4.16 with a 1.374 WHIP.  These are numbers you can expect from a bottom of the rotation starter, exactly what we are looking for.  While in Anaheim, he posted a career record of 54-32.  In 2010 he was traded to the Diamondbacks and struggled to pick up significant wins.  His record in the desert ended up being 15-20.  However, his ERA and WHIP were both lower in the NL and one could argue that he was not getting the run support he saw in Anaheim.

    Against the AL East average out to be a record of 13-9 with a 5.32 ERA and 1.566 WHIP in 30 games.

    Broken down: Against Boston: 4-2, 4.17 ERA, 1.611 WHIP in nine games.  Against Baltimore: 5-0, 4.73 ERA, 1.675 WHIP in seven games.  Against New York: 2-1, 6.28 ERA, 1.570 WHIP in five games.  Against Tampa Bay: 0-2, 7.59 ERA, 1.781 WHIP in two games.  Lastly, against Toronto: 2-4, 3.83 ERA, 1.191 WHIP in seven games.

    The numbers look decent, but not spectacular right?  Here's the rub, his numbers playing on the road against the AL East are better than his career numbers might suggest.  Take a look:

    Against Boston: 3-1, 4.60 ERA, 1.705 WHIP in five games.  Against Baltimore: 3-0, 4.58 ERA, 1.698 WHIP in three games.  Against New York: 1-0, 3.00 ERA, 1.333 WHIP in one game. Against Tampa Bay: 0-1, 1.50 ERA, 1.333 WHIP in 1 game.  Against Toronto: 1-2, 3.98 ERA, 1.131 WHIP in three games.

    His stats "on the road" against the AL East: 8-4, 3.53 ERA, 1.440 WHIP in 13 games.  Now THAT is a line I like in my 4/5 starter.

    Saunders made $5.5 million in arbitration in 2011, so one could assume he could be signed for somewhere in the $5-8 million per season range.  In a league that typically witnesses pitchers being paid essentially $1 million per win, this could be a steal.

Paul Maholm, LHP

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    Another big lefty, the 29-year-old Maholm has known nothing but playing for the Pirates in his seven year career.  

    In 185 games for the Pirates, Maholm has posted a 53-73 record with a 4.36 ERA and 1.424 WHIP.  Numbers that may not exactly blow you away, but lets not forget, he's been in Pittsburgh... a team that has put up a .406 winning percentage on the average of 66 wins per season his entire time in the majors.

    All of that losing has to wear on a guy, right?

    His sample size of work against the AL East is minimal, but here is the overall average: 3-2 with a 2.82 ERA, 1.445 WHIP in six games and 38.2 innings pitched.

    With so few appearances against the AL East I don't feel that his numbers are a large enough sample size to judge exactly how he would do in Fenway, considering he's never actually pitched here either.

    Having said that, his entire inter-league numbers are not half bad: 5-10 with a 4.63 ERA and 1.562 WHIP in 19 games and 112.2 innings pitched.

    I feel that Maholm has some real potential and is the prime of his career.  He also should be affordable, having just come off of a three-year contract that carried an average annual salary of $4.58 million, making $6.25 million in 2011.  Maholm would be another affordable option somewhere in the $5-8 million dollar per year range, I venture to guess.

Jeff Francis, LHP

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    Are you starting to see a trend here?  Big, strong, left-handed pitching.  The Red Sox need it and there is an affordable surplus on the market.

    Standing at 6'5" and 220lbs, Francis is an imposing figure on the mound.  The 30-year-old is also in the prime of his career.

    His career numbers are a lot prettier than the numbers he put up in 2011 with the Kansas City Royals, I can assure you of that.  Overall, in his seven seasons, Francis is 61-66 with a 4.78 ERA and a 1.430 WHIP.  

    The first thing I have to say in his defense, the man pitched six seasons in Coors Field, arguably the most hitter-friendly ballpark in all of Major League Baseball.  Secondly, he had a winning record with the Rockies, 55-50.

    Against the AL East his numbers are fairly minimal, but at 13 games, it equates to roughly one season's worth of experience.  His line: 5-4 with a 3.96 ERA and 1.437 WHIP.

    Broken down, against Boston: 1-1, 4.50 ERA, 2.200 WHIP in two games.  Baltimore: 0-2, 6.37 ERA, 1.584 WHIP in five games.  New York: 1-0, 1.29 ERA, 0.857 WHIP in one game.  Tampa Bay: 0-1, 5.25 ERA, 1.333 WHIP in two games.  Toronto: 3-0, 2.37 ERA, 1.211 WHIP in 3 games.

    He just finished a one-year $2 million contract with the Royals and posted a 6-16, 4.82 ERA, 1.437 WHIP season.  He very well could be available for identical money, which right now is really attractive to the Red Sox front office.

Roy Oswalt, RHP

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    Until he signs somewhere, Roy Oswalt's name is going to be mentioned in alignment with the Red Sox.  It is no secret he's been on the Sox radar for years.  Just Google "Roy Oswalt Boston Red Sox" and you'll find pages upon pages linking the righty to the Red Sox.

    So, let's run some quick figures.

    First, he is another righty, which they don't really need right now.  However, he is a veteran presence, which they could use and at only 34-years-old, he can still relate to some of the younger players on the staff.

    He is not too far past his prime, either.  The down side to that is the fact that he has to be paid accordingly.  He just made $16 million in 2011 and while he says that he is only looking for a one-year deal, that one year could cost them essentially what they could lock up any of the previously listed pitchers for two to three years for.

    Perhaps that is a good thing though?  Next season, John Lackey will be back and like it or not Sox fans, he is going to have to pitch for this ball club.

    Oswalt is an 11-year veteran with a 159-93 career record and a 3.21 ERA with a 1.194 career WHIP.  In short, he's really good.  It is hard to believe, but in his 11 seasons, Oswalt has only faced the AL East five times.  So, the better measure of the NL veterans statistics is to look at his overall inter-league statistics.

    In 30 games he is 11-11 with a 3.70 ERA and a 1.344 WHIP.

    With that in mind, would you be willing to shell out $11-14 million for one season of Roy Oswalt? 

Ryan Madson, RHP

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    I am not entirely sure that the Red Sox are content rolling Mark Melancon out as their opening day closer.  In fact, I'm pretty sure they're still shopping both via trades and the free agent market for more bullpen depth in the form of a closer, hoping to make Melancon their setup man.

    Enter Ryan Madson.  The 31-year old has exactly one successful season under his belt as a closer.  That season was 2011.  Now, initially you may wonder how Madson might be a bargain?

    The trade market has significantly changed the demand for him. American League teams may be leery of signing him.  Madson has only faced the AL 39 times for a total of 62.1 innings pitched.  His 4-4 record with two saves may not entice higher-paying clubs.

    Players like Huston Street were traded and names like Joakim Soria are being floated around.  The Red Sox have been tied to Soria's name (well, frankly every team without a closer has been tied to him in some fashion) but Madson, though represented by Scott Boras, has to realize that he will not be getting a four-year, $44 million deal like he though was in place in Philly.

    If he can be had for 3-years and $25 million, the Red Sox may be interested.

Francisco Cordero, RHP

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    The 36-year-old Cordero is a three-time All-Star and has significant experience in both the American and National Leagues, and he's still available.

    In his 13 seasons he has amassed a 44-45 record with an astonishing 327 saves on the heels of a career 3.17 ERA and 1.333 WHIP.

    He is probably the best closing option available right now.  He has saved 34 or more games for the past five seasons.  In eight years and 224 games in the American League, Cordero posted 23-22 record with an ERA of 3.44 and a 1.392 WHIP with 117 saves.

    In six seasons in the National League, Cordero has posted a 21-23 record with 210 saves in 333 games.  His ERA has been impressive at 2.88 with a 1.267 WHIP.

    Against the AL East Cordero is 4-4 with a 2.67 ERA, 1.335 WHIP in 121 games with 41 saves.

    He just finished up a four-year, $45 million contract that carried an average annual salary of $11.25 million.  Much like with Madson, the trade market has brought the demand for him down.  

    John Tomase of the Boston Herald reported that the Red Sox were backing away from Cordero's asking price.  Tomase said:

    According to multiple sources, the Sox are backing off of the Reds free agent reliever for a variety reasons, but mainly because the calculus of his age, potential salary, and need for a multi-year deal isn’t adding up.

    Cordero, who turns 37 in May, is seeking a multi-year contract, which the Red Sox were willing to do if the price was right. But the sides weren’t able to agree on a salary the team felt comfortable committing to a player whose strikeout rates have dropped every season since 2007.

    This report was on Wednesday, December 21st.  With each passing day, Cordero may come to realize that he is not going to get the money/years he wants, and perhaps an incentive laden two-year deal in Boston (with a potential club option for a third year) may be a nice fit.