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The Red Sox could be cool to the idea of signing Greinke after their last deal with a former Angels pitcher (John Lackey) turned out so poorly.
The Boston Red Sox won’t be quick to squander their new-found financial flexibility following a blockbuster trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers in August. However, adding Zack Greinke to their starting rotation could expedite the team’s plans to build another World Series contender.
After a 69-93 record left Boston with its worst record since 1966, expectations for 2013 will be tempered. But two World Series titles in the last eight years has spoiled Red Sox fans, making them among the most demanding fanbases in baseball.
General manager Ben Cherington doesn’t have the luxury of taking a slow and steady approach to rebuilding the roster. The Red Sox will be expected to start challenging the New York Yankees for AL-East supremacy again beginning with the 2014 season.
After shipping Josh Beckett to Los Angeles in August, the Red Sox are without a true No. 1 starter, and their starting rotation overall is full of question marks.
Jon Lester had the worst season of his seven-year career in 2012, bringing into question his future with the team beyond 2013. Boston holds a $13 million team option on him for 2014, but it’s unlikely to exercise it unless Lester shows substantial improvement next year.
Clay Buchholz has shown flashes of becoming the ace the Red Sox hoped he’d become after a stellar 2010. But he too had one of his worst seasons as a pro, posting a 4.56 ERA in 189.1 innings pitched over a career-high 29 starts.
Boston has some promising young starters to fill the back end of their rotation.
Twenty-five-year-old flamethrower Felix Doubront struck out 167 batters in 161 innings during his rookie campaign. While he needs to harness his power into greater control—he also walked 71 batters this season—his spot in the 2013 rotation is secure.
Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster, both acquired in the trade with the Dodgers, could eventually develop into stars at the front of Boston’s rotation.
De La Rosa should compete for a starting role in Spring Training after missing most of 2012 recovering from Tommy John surgery. Webster will likely start the season in the minors but could be ready for a call up by midseason.
Adding a young, established pitcher like Greinke would take some pressure off of the younger pitchers and allow them to develop at a slower pace. Still just 29, he could remain an important member of Boston’s rotation well after Doubront, De La Rosa and Webster flourish.
Given the Red Sox’s recent history with high-priced free agents, I doubt that Greinke will be targeted by them this winter. Ownership will understandably be gun shy after expensive imports like John Lackey, Carl Crawford and Daisuke Matsuzaka provided marginal returns on Boston’s investment.
Even if the Red Sox do come calling, Greinke may very well decide that the media scrutiny and high-pressured atmosphere in Boston is more than he can handle.
It’s been nearly four years since Greinke was last troubled by the anxiety issues that haunted him early in his career. But pitching in one of the league’s most intense media markets, in front of a terribly unforgiving fanbase, might cause those issues to resurface.
That would be a worst-case scenario for the Red Sox and for Greinke.