With the recent signing of Aaron Cook to a split minor league/major league contract (read the details here), Red Sox GM Ben Cherington shows that he is sticking to his guns about avoiding big-ticket free agents.
He is living up to what he said in his initial press conference: that he would approach this off-season patiently, not overreact to the September collapse, and focus on low-risk, high-reward signings and trades. "But we need to add some pitching depth," he said. "Most likely, we'll do that through some good, creative, perhaps buy-low acquisitions."
Taking him at his word, I am going to remove three of the highest profile (and most expensive) starting pitchers from consideration in this slide show: Edwin Jackson, Hiroki Kuroda and Roy Oswalt.
Jackson is 28, and he turned some heads with his performance down the stretch (5-2, 3.58 ERA in 13 games) for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011.
He is another one of those average pitchers (4.46 ERA over nine seasons, with an unremarkable WHIP of 1.476) who has an over-inflated sense of his own value. He is seeking a five-year deal at approximately $12 million per year according to Wallace Matthews, and the sad part of it is that someone will probably belly up to the bar with a four-year offer, due to the scarcity of available starters.
Fortunately, that's well beyond the Red Sox price range.
Kuroda, who will be 37 in 2012, is nearing the end of his career. He earned $11.7 million in 2011 and Andrew Marchand of ESPN.com predicts that "Kuroda figures to receive at least $12 million on a one-year deal."
Last summer, the Red Sox expressed interest in Kuroda at the trading deadline, but the Japanese pitcher told the Dodgers he would not waive his no-trade clause. He clearly stated that he did not want to go to an East Coast team.
According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the potential landing places for Kuroda are "wide open," and he is willing to consider all offers, regardless of location.
Hiroki Kuroda also easily be the top starter the Red Sox could pull in this winter on a one-year deal. But he would also eat up what little budget remains. Cherington will not pursue him.
Combine Oswalt's age (34) with the bad back that slowed him down last season and you have a recipe for free agent disaster.
Despite the fact that back pain limited him to 145 innings in 2011, some team will still offer him a multi-year deal for big money. The last thing Boston needs is another highly-paid resident on their pitching MASH ward, which already features a number of walking wounded.
There are a number of other rehab candidates available with equally high upsides at much lower risk…several of whom you will read about on the slides to follow.