Starting pitching was one of main weaknesses that plagued the 2012 Boston Red Sox, and making the starting rotation better this offseason has been a priority. Although finding one or two starters is a priority, the Red Sox have yet to act.
Boston finished last season with the fourth-worst ERA in baseball, the fourth-most walks and the fifth-highest opponent’s batting average. The Red Sox traded Josh Beckett midseason and Daisuke Matsuzaka’s contract has finally ended, so Boston is now left with Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront and John Lackey.
With the Toronto Blue Jays vastly improving their rotation with a blockbuster deal, the Red Sox have to do something to make theirs even better. Whether it be signing a top free-agent starter or trading for one that intrigues them, they have to make a move now more than ever to avoid finishing in the cellar of the American League East in 2013.
Boston definitely has one starting job to fill, but who will fill it? Here’s a look at a few free agents and trade targets who could end up wearing a Red Sox uniform come Opening Day.
One of the few moves that the Red Sox have made this offseason was signing free-agent catcher David Ross to a two-year contract, giving Boston a surplus of catchers.
With Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Lavarnway already on the roster, one of them could be on the move since so many teams need catchers and the Red Sox don’t really need to keep all three. As it turns out, the Red Sox are willing to deal Saltalamacchia and have been shopping him for weeks, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
That brings us to the New York Mets, who need a catcher and could be willing to trade a pitcher, according to Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. Mets general manager Sandy Alderson brought up the idea of dealing Jonathon Niese, according to Andy Martino of the New York Daily News.
Niese, who went 13-9 with a 3.40 ERA in 190.1 innings last season in New York, was rewarded with a five-year extension at the beginning of the 2012 season that will pay him at least $25.5 million and as much as $46 million.
The Red Sox already have two left-handers in the starting rotation—Jon Lester and Felix Doubront—but he’s a good middle of the rotation guy who could eat a lot of innings. Adding a pitcher who’s only 26 years old also wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Hiroki Kuroda pitched extremely well for the American League East champion New York Yankees last season on a one-year deal. Now that he’s a free agent again, the Red Sox have the chance to pry him away from their division rivals.
The Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers both have interest in signing Kuroda, but the Red Sox have reached out as well, according to Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Kuroda has expressed interest in returning to his homeland of Japan eventually, but has said that he’s not limiting his choices, according to Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times.
Bringing Kuroda to Boston would be a major boost to a struggling rotation, but the Red Sox would have to reach deep in their pockets to get him. Kuroda earned $10 million last season with New York, and already declined the $13.3 million qualifying offer that they extended to him.
Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe reports that Kuroda is willing to sign another one-year deal, but it would have to “significantly” beat the qualifying offer.
Overpaying for Kuroda’s services is not a smart choice. The Red Sox have to find a reasonable amount that would bring Kuroda to Boston while making sure that he’s worth the risk of signing a 37-year-old to a big deal.
Gavin Floyd seems to be one of the Chicago White Sox pitchers who the team is willing to trade away.
Chicago general manager Rick Hahn will listen to trade offers this offseason and Floyd could be one of the names that comes up, according to Dan Hayes of Comcast SportsNet Chicago.
The White Sox were eager to move Floyd toward the July trade deadline, according to Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi of FOX Sports, but ended up hanging on to him instead. With Chicago’s veteran catcher A.J. Pierzynski on the free-agent market, they could use one of Boston’s “extra” catchers.
Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald reports that the Red Sox could pursue Floyd in a deal that would send either Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Ryan Lavarnway to Chicago.
Floyd, who went 12-11 with a 4.29 ERA in 168 innings for the White Sox last season, recently had a club option for 2013 exercised on him that will pay him $9.5 million in 2013. Floyd will hit free agency after next season, unless the White Sox lock him up for longer.
Floyd was inconsistent in 2012 pitching against American League East teams, controlling the Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays while having issues against the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles. Not having to face the Detroit Tigers often would most likely help Floyd, but none of the AL East teams are a walk in the park.
The Red Sox were in hot pursuit of Ryan Dempster toward the July trade deadline last season, but eventually lost interest and he was later dealt to the Texas Rangers. Now that he’s a free agent, they’re looking at him again, according to Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald.
Dempster was having a great year with the Chicago Cubs, going 5-5 with a 2.25 ERA in 104 innings. He also had a steak of 33 consecutive innings without allowing a run. That streak eventually ended, and the Rangers were the team to pry him from the National League and hope that he could help their World Series hopes.
He ended up going 7-3 in 12 starts, but also posted an ugly 5.09 ERA.
Dempster has always been a National League pitcher before the second half of the 2012 season. One general manager suggested to ESPN’s Buster Olney before the midseason deal that Dempster would’ve been better off avoiding deals to the American League, although that didn’t happen.
The Red Sox now have the opportunity to convince Dempster that the AL is where he belongs, but for the right price. He earned $14 million last season and $13.5 million in each of the two years prior, and that rate is bound to increase this offseason.
Boston needs to find a reliable starting pitcher to add to the rotation, but a 35-year-old Dempster who doesn’t have a lot of experience pitching in the AL may not be the way to go; especially if it means paying him more than $15 million per year.
Anibal Sanchez is one of the top free-agent starting pitchers currently on the market, and for good reason.
Sanchez has always been a good pitcher, but never had much run support from the struggling Marlins clubs that he played for. After being traded to the Detroit Tigers in the middle of last season, he improved his ERA and pitched well during the postseason.
Sanchez is going to cost a ton, and reportedly is looking for a six-year, $90 million deal, according to Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Do the Red Sox have that kind of money? Yes, but it may not be smart to spend so much money on just one starting pitcher.
Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald reports that the Red Sox do have interest in signing the right-hander but are also exploring trades for starters. Boston is just one of several teams pursuing Sanchez and a bidding war is bound to happen.
Should the Red Sox try to outbid the competition to land Sanchez’s services?
Sanchez has a handful of experience in the American League, and there’s no guarantee that he’s going to be a star for any AL team—let alone the Red Sox. The price tag to land him will be high, but the risk could end up being worth the reward.