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How Red Sox Can Fill Out Starting Pitching Rotation

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Job one for new Red Sox GM Ben Cherington is shoring up the starting rotation.

A big part of the September collapse was Boston ran out of quality pitchers down the stretch.

Some of that was the result of massive performance failure by “aces” Josh Beckett and Jon Lester – and injury to Clay Buchholz.

For purposes of this post, we will assume the team gets the “big 3” into shape for 2012.

Every season, we see successful teams typically need at least 6 or 7 starters to get them through the season.

Boston can’t count on John Lackey. And shouldn’t count on Daisuke Matsuzaka – anything he delivers in 2012 is an unplanned bonus.

It’s time to thank Tim Wakefield for his service – and move on. He is no longer a quality major league starter.

And while Andrew Miller may be worth inviting to Spring Training – he showed nothing last season.

A Look at Starter Options

Alfredo Aceves.  What a find. While Aceves was super-valuable in the bullpen, he deserves a shot at starting in 2012. Don’t forget – Aceves has a 24-3 career record.

Yu Darvish. It’s tough to offer an opinion on a player I have never seen. Darvish is ranked the top Asian pitcher potentially (it is not official – yet) looking to come to America. Mark me down as skeptical on Darvish’s impact. Dice-K was supposed to be a sure thing – and the combination Japan baseball not big league caliber (so a star there doesn’t equal an MLB star) and the cultural aspects – from training to media scrutiny – make it a tough transition. So today – Darvish is not in the plan.

Farm System. There is no sure thing among starters in the Red Sox minors. Closest to the majors are Felix Doubront – who between injury and conditioning issues wasted 2011 – and Kyle Weiland – who was not impressive in his big league trial. And who knows if Junichi Tazawa is now – or will be ever – ready to contribute. Doubront is the best pitcher among the 3 – pencil him as starter #7 either working out of the bullpen or rotation in Pawtucket.

Trades. The Red Sox should play to their financial strength – and pursue starters that are pricing themselves out of the reach of small market teams. And buy low.

Potentially on this list: Anibal Sanchez (Miami), Gio Gonzalez (Oakland), Brandon McCarthy (Oakland) and Joe Saunders (Arizona).

And then you have pitchers moving up in price on teams with the money but that just may not want to pay – Jair Jurrjens (Atlanta) and John Danks (White Sox). You can add Francisco Liriano (Minnesota) – but I would pass on him. I would love to add David Price to the mix – but don’t see Tampa Bay talking with Boston.

And then you got players with bad contracts. Top of that list are Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers (both on Houston). (Side note: How does Ed Wade keep his job?)

Boston should be able to grab at least one player from the above list – without having to give up too much in return (if the team is really looking to avoid the 2012 salary).

My top 3 choices: Sanchez, McCarthy and Rodriguez.

Free Agents. I don’t see Boston going big on C.J. Wilson or Mark Buehrle. The team has 4 starters locked into long-term deals already – don’t expect them to make that 5.

Roy Oswalt is a possibility – depends on the medical reports. Right now, I would pass. The team has enough medical issues on the staff.

Paul Maholm looks like a good starter for the back-end of a rotation. He was been decent on a poor team. Had some injury issues last season – those would need to check out. Bruce Chen is a comparable alternative for a lefty in the #5 slot in the rotation.

So how do the Red Sox get to 7 starters?

  • Lester
  • Beckett
  • Buchholz
  • Aceves
  • Sanchez, McCarthy or Rodriguez (less likely Rodriguez if Maholm or Chen signed)
  • Maholm or Chen; maybe Oswalt
  • Doubront
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