November 18, 1997- The Boston Red Sox trade Carl Pavano and Tomy Armas to the Montreal Expos for Pedro Martinez
November 23, 2003- The Boston Red Sox trade Michael Goss, Casey Fossum, Brandon Lyon, and Jorge De La Rosa to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Curt Schilling
November 24, 2005- The Boston Red Sox trade Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, Jesus Delgado, and Harvey Garcia to the Florida Marlins for Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell, and Guillermo Mota
For all you reading, I hope you have enjoyed this history lesson. As you can see, these three trades all have similarities. First, they were all blockbusters. Second, they were all for "difference makers." Boston has a great track record with building pitchers from within; but, when they really need some extra firepower, the organization has never been shy about going out and landing their man.
Heading into the 2012 season the Red Sox could definitely use some more starting pitching. Boston's pitching fell to pieces in September, and with Lackey out for 2012 they have an open roster spot. Now is Ben Cherington's time to get that difference maker.
Can Boston do it? With their organizational depth they could make a trade with ease. Spending has never been an issue, and the books should be ripe with financial flexibility as contracts are retired over the next two seasons.
The bigger question is who is available? Who can Boston go after? The market is not particularly abundant with talent. Some guys we can speculate about, but most pitchers who have been made openly available do not fit the "difference maker" mold.
Boston already has a solid front three of Beckett, Lester, and Buchholz. What they really need is a high-upside guy who can eat innings. That, Boston can certainly find on the trade market. Here are some blockbuster options for the Boston Red Sox heading into 2012.
Obviously, Felix Hernandez fits the profile of a "difference maker." However, I really doubt a trade like this happens. Seattle has a lot of great young pitchers, but they have King Felix locked up for the long haul. Plus, the Mariners are not exactly ripe with marquee players these days.
Hernandez would require a king's ransom and Boston might have to empty all their upper level talent to haul in the righthander. The dividends could be worth it, but it means punching holes in the organization's future. Felix Hernandez would be great, but the King in a Sox uniform is just a mirage.
I do not consider Cain a "difference maker." He has solid stats, but he rides backseat to Tim Lincecum for a reason. Lincecum is an ace with ridiculous stuff and a fierce pitcher's mentality. Cain's control makes him a sniper of the strike zone, but he lacks that last little oomph.
It was a lot easier to predict a Matt Cain trade before the Giants moved Jonathan Sanchez. Now that Sanchez has departed San Francisco could become selfish with their starters. So, the first bump in the road is that the guy might not even be available. The second, is that Boston will have some tough competition in the trade market; particularly, those chipper crosstown rivals in New York. The Yankees can offer a proposal wrapped around Jesus Montero, and Boston cannot match a prospect like that.
Who is the better option for Boston?
The availability of Sanchez is flying under the radar, but there are certainly rumors. Sanchez has been an underrated pitcher his entire career, but 2011 was a breakout campaign.
He posted career numbers in BB/9 (2.9), K/9 (9.3), and innings (196.1), while sporting a solid 3.67 ERA. Sanchez's season was mired in an ugly July-August stretch, in which he posted a combined 5.94 ERA. But, xFIP is pretty generous; because of Florida's lackluster defense Sanchez's ERA should have been closer to 3.25.
2012 could be a return to familiar ground for the 27-year-old. Sanchez was raised in the Boston farm system and was moved in the Josh Beckett trade. What better way to bring him back to the team.
Sanchez is young with plenty of room to grow. He has great numbers in Florida, and his numbers can only favor from the solid Boston defense. Florida wants to compete in 2012, so Sanchez could mean a high price; but, Boston has the pieces to fill some of Florida's more pressing holes.
The Braves have made it clear they are ready to move their pitchers. They certainly have an excess amount of young arms and need offense and prospects. This makes them an ideal trade partner for the Sox. Jair Jurrjens has been said to be available. The young righty has ace like numbers, but a diverse injury history has held him back.
The injury history could mean that Jurrjens can be acquired at a premium; however, speculation says that Frank Wren is looking for a huge package of players. Jurrjens is only 25-years-old and has shown amazing promise in his career; the upside could be huge.
However, with his injury history Boston should avoid spending big. If they wait out the market and can acquire him at a premium, it could be a "different maker" in disguise for the Red Sox rotation.
Gio Gonzalez is up for grabs this winter, that we know. Gonzalez had a career year in 2011 (16-12, 3.12 ERA, 8.8 K/9) and he has exhibited plenty of upside in his career.
However, things might not be as amazing as they seem. Gonzalez is only 26-years-old, and that means there is still a lot of potential he can grow in to.
But, at the same time, going deep into the numbers warrants concern. In his career, Gonzalez is 21-14 with a 3.56 ERA at home; away, he is 17-18 with an average 4.32 ERA. Once again we can turn to xFip, which says that Gonzalez's numbers were supported by good defense in 2011.
If he is the best Boston can get, then Gonzalez is still a worthwhile acquisition. However, if it means emptying the farm, then Boston should look to other options.