It will take a lot more that prohibiting beer and fried chicken in the clubhouse for the Boston Red Sox pitching staff to perform better than it did at the end of 2011.
Even without the controversy surrounding Boston’s collapse at the end of last season, this group has its share of questions entering 2012.
Will Andrew Bailey adjust to a bigger and brighter spotlight as the replacement for departed closer Jonathan Papelbon? Can Daniel Bard successfully transition from setup man to starter? Are Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz capable of staying consistent and healthy for a full season?
Like all teams with playoff aspirations, the Red Sox could use more depth in their rotation and bullpen—the former in particular. Even though the trade deadline is well over four months away, here are five pitchers Boston should consider dealing for.
The 37-year-old Dickey has been one of the Mets’ few bright spots over the past two seasons.
Although he hasn’t exceeded 11 wins in either campaign, Dickey has been durable (383 total innings pitched) and effective (career-best 2.84 ERA in ’10 and 3.28 ERA in ’11). As far as potential suitors are concerned, Dickey is in the final year of a two-year contract and the Mets will likely be on the outside looking in come the stretch run.
Dickey’s experience pitching in a big media market and the relatively low price he’d fetch as a trade commodity makes him an appealing option for the Red Sox. There’s also the added bonus of him taking the reins from retired Tim Wakefield as Boston’s resident knuckleballer.
Blanton’s availability and attractiveness as trade bait is dependent on two sets of circumstances:
1. Whether he is supplanted by 2011 rookie sensation Vance Worley and the newly extended Kyle Kendrick in the Phillies’ starting rotation.
2. If he can stay healthy after last season, during which he was limited to eight starts while battling elbow soreness.
When healthy, Blanton is extremely durable (170+ innings pitched in each season from 2005-10). If he’s moved at the deadline to Beantown, his groundball style would be a great fit for an infield with two reigning Gold Glove winners, Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez. And Blanton wouldn’t be expected to be a savior but rather the same solid, back-of-the-rotation guy he is in Philly.
There was talk this offseason of the Cubs unloading Garza before they signed the righty to a one-year, $9.5 million contract and avoided salary arbitration. Trade possibilities are still on the table, especially if team and player are unable to agree on a contract extension before the summer.
Garza certainly has the pedigree for doing battle in the rugged AL East. He was a thorn in the Red Sox’ side during his three seasons with the Rays—which included an MVP performance in the 2008 American League Championship Series. And imagine how imposing a hard-throwing quartet of Garza, Beckett, Lester and Buchholz would be both during the stretch run and the postseason.
Of course, the biggest obstacle for this trade possibility is the Cubs’ front office—now headed by former Sox general manager Theo Epstein (Chicago’s team president) and assistant general manager Jed Hoyer (Chicago’s general manager). They’ll ask their former employers for a steep price in any trade talks, particularly those involving a pitcher of Garza’s caliber.
The 31-year-old Myers has had an inconsistent career but has proven versatile.
As a starter with Houston in 2010, Myers went 14–8 with a 3.14 ERA and finished 10th in Cy Young voting. Three years before that, he had 21 saves for the NL East-winning Phillies, and he was recently named the Astros’ closer to start 2012.
Houston holds a club option for Myers in 2013, making the righty trade material at this year’s deadline. And Boston has a track record of doing business with Houston; the Red Sox sent infielder Jed Lowrie and starting pitcher Kyle Weiland to the Astros this past offseason for reliever Mark Melancon.
Thornton’s name was mentioned a few times in late 2011 as being part of an off-season fire sale on the South Side. Thornton is 35 and owed $12 million over the next two seasons, so while those previous rumors didn’t come to pass, talk of moving him hasn’t been completely silenced.
Thornton is durable (60+ innings pitched in each season since 2006), and the value of a lefty reliever who hits the mid- to high-90s on the radar gun cannot be understated.
Offseason acquisition Mark Melancon is the primary setup man entering the season, but there’s definitely room in the bullpen for a hard thrower—particularly with Daniel Bard and his triple-digit fastball now residing in the starting rotation.