Boston Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington is currently in the midst of a search for a starting pitcher who can replace Clay Buchholz in the franchise’s rotation.
Peter Gammons of MLB Network reports a few players the Red Sox are scouting:
Red Sox have scouts most everywhere:Norris last night, Gallardo, Volquez, Peavy and ? Today— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) July 25, 2013
Buchholz started the season on fire and was up there was some of the best in the league. The right-hander was 9-0 through 12 starts and had allowed just 16 earned runs in 84.1 innings of work (1.71 ERA). He also racked up 81 strikeouts while walking 29 batters on the year. But he hasn’t pitched since June 8.
Buchholz has been experiencing pain when he’s tried to throw lately, and while he’s been the recipient of good news from Dr. James Andrews, there’s still no clear indication as to when he’ll be pitching again for Boston, according to Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe. The righty is targeting late August or early September.
The Red Sox have the sixth-best rotation in baseball at the moment in terms of WAR, according to FanGraphs. Boston has been using internal replacements to pitch in Buchholz’s place since he last took the mound more than a month ago. Right now, Brandon Workman is the team’s No. 5 starter.
While Workman has been great in his lone two starts, Boston really needs to land someone from outside the organization. Based on the players Gammons listed as potential targets, here are the top three external replacements for Buchholz.
3. Yovani Gallardo, Milwaukee Brewers
The Red Sox would be smart to stay away from Gallardo in the next few days. While he’s been good in the past, he’s struggled to get into a groove this season. Through 22 starts, the right-hander is 8-9 with a 4.88 ERA. He’s averaging 7.28 strikeouts and 3.49 walks per nine innings.
Jayson Stark of ESPN recently discussed Gallardo, and the scribe pointed out why he’s probably not worth taking a chance on:
Gallardo’s velocity is down about 2 mph. His strikeout rate (7.2 per 9 IP) and WHIP (1.42) are at career-worst levels. And three scouts who have seen him recently all describe him as just a No. 4 or 5 starter.
Two years ago, said one scout, he was "close to an ace. [But] lots of pitches on that arm from then to now. He can really pitch, but his stuff [has gone] way back.”
Well, that doesn’t sound very good at all. The last thing the Red Sox need right now is someone who’s only going to pitch in the back of the rotation. Buchholz was the team’s best starting pitching this season, and the team is looking to add someone comparable to what he’s capable. Gallardo doesn’t fit that mold right now.
If Boston is going to make a deal for a starting pitcher, it’s advised to land someone who has more experience against the teams on the bulk of the remaining schedule. Gallardo only has two career starts against teams in the AL East, and one of them was against the Red Sox.
For those keeping track at home, cross Gallardo off the list.
2. Bud Norris, Houston Astros
Norris is an intriguing option.
The right-hander has spent his entire career with the Astros but has made the most of his time there. Through 21 starts this season, Norris is 6-9 with a 3.93 ERA. He isn’t a huge strikeout pitcher (6.43 K/9) but doesn’t walk a ton of opposing batters either (3.07 BB/9). Opponents are hitting .273 off him this year, which isn’t great.
But the point is that Norris has survived pitching in Houston for this long, and the guy has quite a bit of value. If he didn’t, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports wouldn’t have reported that he’s drawing considerable interest. Players who aren’t worth anything don’t draw interest. He could make a big difference down the stretch.
Norris made what might be his last start at Minute Made Park on Wednesday night against Oakland, and the starter told Angel Verdejo Jr. of the Houston Chronicle about his emotions after receiving quite the ovation from the fans:
They’ve been great all along. I have played here four years, and they’ve always had my back since day one. I really, really appreciate when you get that support from the people in the city.
It’s really exciting. I thank them for everything. Whatever my future holds, it holds for me. But my focus is still here.
While Norris might be a better option than the likes of Edinson Volquez or Gallardo, he still isn’t exactly what the Red Sox need. Boston needs someone who can pitch atop the rotation. If Norris gets traded to the Red Sox, he’ll likely be a middle-of-the-rotation guy. He’d help Boston’s playoff odds but not by much.
If the Phillies don’t make Cliff Lee available before the trade deadline, Jake Peavy needs to be Boston’s No. 1 priority. While the righty has spent some time on the disabled list this season, there’s no question that he’s the best starter on the market. If the Red Sox are going to get anyone, it needs to be Peavy.
Which starter should Boston look to land?
Through 13 starts this season, the veteran is 8-4 with a 4.28 ERA. In 80 innings of work, Peavy has 76 strikeouts and 17 walks. While he isn’t the ace he used to be—winning the NL Cy Young back in 2007—he still has ace qualities. There’s no question he’d be the No. 1 guy in Boston’s starting rotation.
Peavy is under contract through next season, and the White Sox aren’t sure what they want to do with him yet, according to Buster Olney of ESPN (Insider subscription required). Olney reports that the price tag is going to be very high if a team wants to land him in the next few days.
But of the starters out there who Boston could land, Peavy is the only one who would be worthy paying a lot for. The Red Sox have plenty of good prospects who could interest the White Sox, and Scott Merkin of MLB.com reports that Boston could send Will Middlebrooks Chicago’s way.
In reality, Cherington should be thinking Peavy or nothing.
All statistics used in this article were obtained via FanGraphs unless otherwise noted and are current through July 26. All contact information was obtained via Cot’s Contracts and all injury information was obtained via Baseball Prospectus.