The Red Sox have the fifth piece of the rotation puzzle in place after reportedly signing free agent right-hander Ryan Dempster to a two-year, $26.5 million contract. The deal was first reported by FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal.
Boston attempted to ink Dempster this past weekend, to a two-year, $25 million deal, but it was rejected according to ESPN Boston. That wasn't a surprise, given Dempster wanted three years, $13 million in average annual value, a National League team, and a club who played spring training in Arizona. As Boston offered none of these things, it was an easy rejection, but the two sides worked things out in the following days by bumping the money up ever so slightly.
Dempster will be 36 in 2013, but has been as good as his younger brethren on the free agent market whether you look at the last five years, three years, or whatever number of years. Considering the alternatives on the market -- worrying about Shaun Marcum's elbow, Kyle Lohse's transition to the AL, and Anibal Sanchez's overzealous contract demands -- Dempster might not be perfect, but he's likely the best relative fit, especially given it's for two seasons.
No matter who Boston signed this winter, the best pitchers from the 2013 squad are going to have to be those already on the roster, like Jon Lester or Clay Buchholz. Dempster's job is going to be to anchor the middle of the rotation, providing average or better ERA with the kind of durability that Boston has been missing since 2010 -- that's basically been Dempster over the last five years, since he returned to the rotation. Given questions about Felix Doubront's efficiency, and whether or not John Lackey can come back healthy and productive -- in a similar role to that of Dempster -- having someone around that can be penciled in for 30 starts is significant.
Just last year, the Red Sox have just two of those guys, and even if things went well for all involved, it was likely going to be three, tops. This time around, Boston has five hurlers who have a legitimate shot at 30-plus, and that's in part due to this signing.