MLB: 10 Pitchers That Can Save the Boston Red Sox
Despite a terrible end to the season, there is one thing the Boston Red Sox excelled at: offense. The team was first, amongst all MLB teams, in runs scored, total bases, and OPS. The Sox also hit the third most home runs in the big leagues. Even if David Ortiz and Marco Scutaro left in 2012, people would agree that the lineup would still be explosive.
However, the Red Sox did have a crux in 2011 which cost them their season: pitching. Down the stretch, the starters were a non-factor, struggling to get quality starts and keep runs off of the board. In September, Boston only won one game with less than seven runs. Due to the rotation's ineffectiveness, the bullpen got overworked and struggled down the stretch as well.
Here are 10 names to get the Red Sox's pitching back on track.
Adam Wainwright (St. Louis Cardinals)
In six seasons with St. Louis, Adam Wainwright has gone 66-35 with a 2.97 ERA, 1.202 WHIP and 8.3 K/9. The right hander is an innings eater, compiling five complete games in 2010. The Cardinals were without their ace in 2011, due to Tommy John surgery, but still managed to fight their way into the World Series.
The Sox need another true ace who can pitch behind Jon Lester. Wainwright would give them that prized No. 2 guy. Since he missed all of 2011, Wainwright could be acquired for little in return.
If St. Louis loses the Albert Pujols sweepstakes, they will be looking for offense. The Red Sox could build a package around Kevin Youkilis, who St. Louis could play at first base, third base, or even left field.
Heath Bell (San Diego Padres)
If Heath Bell hits free agency, which he most likely will, he could be the best closer on the market. In three seasons as San Diego's closer, Bell has never failed to achieve 40 saves. He also owns a lifetime ERA of 3.06. Despite seeing a drop in his K/9 in 2011, Bell did not lose any effectiveness. The big right-hander has a ferocious attitude and is built for durability.
Jonathan Papelbon is a potential free agent and is looking for big money, possibly more than $15,000,000 per year. At 34, the Sox could lock Bell up for two to three seasons at less than $10,000,000 per year. Bell would give Boston a durable closer with a veteran presence in the clubhouse.
Josh Johnson (Florida Marlins)
The Marlins have shopped their ace in the past, and could be looking to move their star pitcher once again. Josh Johnson has been one of the NL's best pitchers. In 70 starts over the last three seasons, Johnson has compiled a 29-12 record, with a 2.39 ERA.
At 6'7" and 252 pounds, Johnson has a stellar pitchers frame. However, despite his build, the righty has been injury prone over his last two seasons. He missed the end of 2010 due to back pain, and his 2011 season was finished after just nine starts due to nagging shoulder issues.
The Marlins completely lacked defense in 2011, and are always looking for some new young talent. Boston could attempt to move Youkilis in a trade, but Florida may shy away from the $25,000,000 left on his contract.
Boston could instead build a package around Jed Lowrie and Josh Reddick. Both have high offensive ceilings, and can play solid defense at multiple positions. If they add in some MLB ready arms, like Kyle Weiland and/or Felix Doubront, and a deal could be made.
Jeremy Affeldt (San Francisco Giants)
The 32-year-old lefty has been a cog in San Francisco's bullpen for three seasons. In that time, he has accrued a 2.74 ERA. Affeldt has a $5,000,000 option for 2012 and all signs point to the Giants not picking that up.
Since converting to full time reliever in 2007, Affeldt has been as consistent as they come. The Red Sox missed out last year on key free agent relievers and their pen fell apart. If they really want to help the pitching, they will need to invest in a reliable arm like Affeldt. With that said, overpaying for a bullpen arm, especially one that is 32, is an easy mistake to make. If Boston has to surrender more than $3,000,000 a year, the signing will not be worth it.
Mark Buehrle (Chicago White Sox)
For the first time in his career, the long time Chicago White Sox ace could be hitting free agency. Buehrle has never been anything but a work horse. Since his emergence in 2001, Buehrle has never started in less than 30 games, or had less than 200 innings pitched. The lefty has a career ERA of 3.83 and career record of 161-119. His peripherals are not amazing, but Buehrle is as reliable as they come.
The BoSox could slot Buehrle in as their fourth starter, and he would instantly bolster their rotation. His affinity for eating innings would also help the bullpen as it would give them less work and more rest. The only roadblock is that Buehrle made $14,000,000 a year for the last four seasons. After signing John Lackey and Carl Crawford, and extending Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett, the Boston owners could shy away from spending big money in 2012.
Jonathan Broxton (Los Angeles Dodgers)
The 6'4", 300-pound fireballer is on track to hit free agency for the first time in his career. At 27, the big righty could have the most upside of any reliever on the market.
Broxton has come out of the bullpen in Dodger Blue for seven seasons. In that time, he has a 3.19 ERA, 11.5 K/9, and 84 saves. Broxton's first season as a full time closer was 2009, and it was a good one. In the first half of 2010, Broxton was lights out, but struggled down the stretch. After just 14 apperances in 2011, Broxton was shut down with elbow issues. Though he hoped to return, the nagging injury eventually brought his season to a close.
When healthy, Broxton features a blazing fastball and a devastating slider. However, his arm has compiled a lot of mileage over the last few seasons. If Boston took a shot on Broxton, assuming he would be healthy, they would add a shut down arm to their arsenal. If paired with Daniel Bard, Boston could have the hardest throwing setup men in baseball.
Matt Cain (San Francisco Giants)
Matt Cain has been a huge part of the San Francisco Giants' rotation. In seven seasons, he has compiled a 69-73 record, but has a career 3.35 ERA. Over Cain's last five seasons, he hasn't failed to break 200 innings pitched. The 28-year-old will be a free agent in 2013. Combine his expiring contract with the emergence of Madison Bumgarner, and Cain becomes expendable.
Cain's peripherals have been strong in San Francisco, and his work horse pitching will give the Red Sox the innings they desperately need. However, Boston should not be wasting prospects for a rental player, so it would be smart for them to conduct a sign and trade. This could be risky if Cain does not transition well.
In a trade, the Giants will be wanting offense. With Pablo Sandoval at the hot corner, and Brandon Belt at first, Kevin Youkilis might be disregarded (unless they want to experiment with him in left). The Red Sox could try building a package around one of their offensive minded shortstops; either Marco Scutaro or Jed Lowrie.
Alex Wilson (Boston Red Sox Farm System)
The 2011 Soxprospects.com minor league pitcher of the year has been deemed the "closer of the future." Wilson possesses a devastating repertoire featuring a changeup, curve, fastball, and a swing-and-miss slider. His arsenal is supported by stellar command. Wilson has been used as a starter in the Sox system, but projects more as a late-inning arm at the Major League level.
After struggling in 2010, Wilson came back in a big way in 2011. Between AA and AAA he posted a 3.11 ERA with a 2.80 K/BB ratio. The 24-year-old righty will favor from more seasoning at AAA, but could be used in a mid-season call up, mirroring Daniel Bard's season in 2009.
Though he will not be ready to take over closing right away, Wilson will give the Sox a young and devastating bullpen arm. He also poses the cheapest option, since the Sox would only be required to pay him the league minimum.
John Lackey (Boston Red Sox)
Amongst Boston Red Sox starters, the biggest liability was John Lackey. The 32-year-old had the worst season of his career in 2011, going 12-12 with a 6.41 ERA. Not only was that ERA the worst of his career, it was also the worst ever by a Red Sox starter.
The right-hander has constantly escaped accountability, often blaming the defense or off-field distractions for his poor play. At $15,250,000 per year—for the next three years—it would be hard for Boston to get a team to pick up his contract.
Either way, Boston is going to have to eat a lot of money. If they manage to trade him, they will have to add a lot of cash. The other option is to flat out release Lackey. Either way, Boston has to do something to rid themselves of John Lackey and his terrible pitching.
Despite all of Boston's pitching woes, there was one shining light. No matter how ugly things got, Alfredo Aceves could be relied on all season long. Aceves posted a 2.93 ERA across 114 innings, spanning 55 games and four spot starts. The Sox righty compiled a 10-2 record, marking the second time in his career that he has achieved double digit wins as a reliever. Aceves does not have devastating stuff, but he makes his pitches and always finds a way to get the job done.
In 2011, the Boston Red Sox signed Aceves to only a one year contract. In order to bolster their pitching, they'll need to re-sign the swingman. His numbers are solid, and he was the most reliable pitcher the Sox had all season. At just 28, a two or three year extension is a wise investment. Whether used as a starter or a reliever, the Sox will be getting good return for their dollar.