Why Red Sox's Recent Additions Don't Mean Young Pitchers Will Be Dealt

Evan Brunell@evanbrunellFeatured ColumnistJanuary 13, 2009

The Boston Red Sox have made a few sensational low-cost, high-reward moves lately, bringing in Rocco Baldelli, Brad Penny, Takashi Saito, and John Smoltz.

This has led several people to posit that the Red Sox may now be more amenable to dealing Michael Bowden, Clay Buchholz, or Justin Masterson for a catcher such as Texas' Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Taylor Teagarden and Arizona's Miguel Montero.

Really? Take a look at this rotation and try to guess what it is:

Josh Beckett
Jon Lester
Daisuke Matsuzaka
Clay Buchholz
Justin Masterson
(6. Michael Bowden)

Give up? It's the Red Sox's current projected 2010 rotation...just a year from now.

Smoltz might be heading into his final major league season...he might not. Either way, to pencil him into the 2010 rotation is foolhardy. Brad Penny is looking for this season to be a bounceback season so he can go on the market again next year and rake in the cash. Sure, he could rake in the cash from Boston, but what if he leaves or this season is a failure?

Then there's Mr. Red Sox, Tim Wakefield. The Red Sox hold a perpetual option for Wake's services, but there's no telling when the day will come that Wake will either hang them up or the Red Sox will bid him adieu.

Oh, and Josh Beckett will be a free agent after 2010, so the 2011 projected rotation gives you the space for Michael Bowden. Not looking so deep now, is it?

Just because the Sox are stacked with pitching depth now doesn't mean they'll be stacked later. Heck, it doesn't mean that for 2009, either. What if Smoltz and Penny can't come back? What if Wakefield's injury issues strike again? Jon Lester regresses? Josh Beckett gets hurt as he used to do in Florida? Dice-K had his own problems in 2008, too.

All of these are certainly worst-case scenarios, but here's the thing: they're also feasible ones.

And that's why the Sox would keep Masterson, Buchholz and Bowden.

Masterson can be an effective two-inning reliever that can keep the pressure off the other pitchers when one fails to go long (looking at you, Dice-K).

Buchholz will likely be on the I-95 shuttle all year as he attempts to firm up his fastball command and get back to his impossibly high ceiling.

Bowden? Bowden is just entering his age-22 year! It's not like he's banging on the door at age 25, demanding a shot.

We have a luxury: a deep pitching staff. Time and time again these last few years, we have been reminded how important it is to have pitching depth. (I still cannot fathom that Kevin Jarvis started even one game—let alone multiple ones—for the Red Sox. I boycotted those games out of abject horror at who was patrolling the mound.)

Of course, I realize the flip side: the Sox will continue to bring in low-risk, high-reward players...could trade for a starting pitcher down the line...could sign one as a free agent the next couple years...but all of these are not set in stone, just like it's not set in stone that John Smoltz will throw 220 innings of a 3.50 ERA and resign for an additional year in Boston.

What IS set in stone is that the Sox have a surplus of young, cost-controlled, quality pitching that should only be moved for the appropriate package. Considering Theo Epstein refuses to trade Bowden straight up for Miguel Montero (a package the Diamondbacks would do), you can see the value teams place on pitching.

It would be more worth it to bring Jason Varitek back for a year or two than it would to give up a valuable piece one, two, three years down the road for a catcher you aren't convinced will succeed. For Joe Mauer? Sign me up. For Montero? I understand the hesitation.

Could these moves have been a precursor to dealing away a young pitcher? Sure, of course. Maybe there's a tacit agreement in place for a trade and Epstein is moving to bolster his pitching depth as the trade gets hammered out. But. Maybe not. Maybe he's making these moves to improve the 2009 team completely independent of the young pitching the Sox have.

So don't be so quick to assume the Sox may be more likely to ship out some of their younger pitching because of these deals. They may choose to hang onto all their pitching to ensure that the Sox have the deepest and most efficient pitching staff in all of the majors in 2009.

Originally written at: http://firebrandal.com/2009/01/12/soxs-recent-additions-dont-mean-young-pitchers-will-be-dealt.html


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