Justin Duchscherer And The Red Sox: A Match Not Made At All

The news broke yesterday that the Boston Red Sox are interested in free agent pitcher Justin Duchscherer out of Oakland. And then the other news broke, with Duchscherer saying he would only be interested in starting.

So is there any way this works out?

The Red Sox already have a full rotation between Lester, Buchholz, Lackey, Beckett, and Matsuzaka, but there's plenty of ways around that. We've all seen that there's always a need for more than five starters thanks to the injuries that will almost certainly hit at least one member of the rotation. The last time the Sox didn't need at least 20 starts from starters outside of their rotation was 2004. In fact, it's usually a lot more than 20. Wakefield hasn't exactly inspired confidence in his ability to fill in at a level acceptable in the AL East. And then there's all the talk about Matsuzaka maybe getting shipped somewhere out west in a a salary dump or even for prospects should the Sox pick up his salary.

Still, just because there's a way doesn't mean there should be a will. For all that Duchscherer seems to have earned a reputation as someone who could be great if he could stay heatlhy, well...

He's never done that as a starter.

Duchscherer has started in two years since he's graduated from rookie status: 2008, and 2010. Between those two years, he has 169 innings pitched in 27 starts. If the Red Sox are looking for a sixth starter to protect them from injury, they're going to want a reliable player, not one who's going to force their seventh starter into action on any given day. What else is he there for, after all?

But even if he were healthy, what are we getting? Duch's sub-three ERA is tempting, but at the same time it's not horribly realistic to expect him to keep that up outside of spacious Oakland. Duchscherer's 2008 is certainly still good--a 3.69 FIP and 4.22 xFIP are nothing to scoff at, especially out of a back-of-the-rotation starter--but mix that in with the injury risk, and it's suddenly a lot less appealing. Signings like John Smoltz were low-risk, high-reward, with the possibility of finding a top-of-the-rotation starter for a time. Duchscherer would likely be low-risk, but he'd also come with just a middling reward.

This isn't to say that if the Sox can get Duchscherer as a cheap starter they shouldn't, but that it's impossible for the Sox to give him a situation that he'd likely be agreeable to. The ideal would be to have him as a reliever, but he's not going to accept that, and if they take him on as a sixth starter (not that he'd agree to that, either) they'd need a very solid dependable backup for him. Good luck finding someone like that to sit in the rotation's seventh spot. If he decides he's willing to come out of the pen, the Sox should definitely look him up. Any other situation, and it just doesn't make sense--for him or the Sox.


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