Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE
Boston still needs a pitcher, and at this stage, there are still options available
Boston has filled their offensive holes in the first two days of the winter meetings, bringing in outfielder Shane Victorino and first baseman/catcher Mike Napoli. However, they have yet to address the need for another starter in the rotation. There are reasons for that, though, as the market for pitchers hasn't been established just yet: Zack Greinke is yet to sign, no one has caved in to Anibal Sanchez's demands, and just one of the question marks with upside, Dan Haren, has signed, and for $13 million. And that transaction didn't occur without some serious grimacing from other interested clubs.
The Red Sox would like to trade Jacoby Ellsbury for pitching -- in a deal that would likely involve other players as well, given Ellsbury's situation -- but banking on that is tough. While they work on that, though, it's likely they'll monitor the starting pitching market and wait for something to shake loose that they can use. According to Alex Speier, the Red Sox have about another $40 million they could spend between now and the end of the season before they hit luxury tax threshold territory. They shouldn't -- and don't have to -- use it all at once, but it's good to know there's plenty of room for just about any pitcher out there, at least in terms of dollars. Years, well, that's another story.
Anibal Sanchez: Sanchez is looking for six years and $90 million, and reportedly has multiple five-year offers out there to think over already. One would think the Red Sox are not one of those, but they might have identified pitching as a big enough need that they dipped their toes in that particular water. It's more likely, though, that the Red Sox will do with Sanchez what they've done with Napoli: pay out a higher average annual value in order to shave a year off of the contract. That might mean paying four years at $16 or $16.5 million per season, which is seemingly a lot for a pitcher who is pretty good and not great, but at the same time, they have the space and the need, and removing a year of risk from the equation is worth an extra $1.5 million per season.
It's all up to what Sanchez wants, though: Boston might not even get an opportunity to offer something, if one of the five-year deals is lucrative enough for the right-hander's liking.
Brandon McCarthy: The Red Sox have reportedly been in contact with McCarthy, who is looking for a one-year deal in order to rebuild his value after taking a line drive to the head. The stress fracture in his throwing shoulder has limited in the past, but this can work in Boston's favor: they have pitching depth on hand in both the bullpen and, for once, in Triple-A, and can shoulder the load if McCarthy is only good for 150-170 innings, rather than 200. Many other teams are looking at McCarthy, though, so like with Sanchez, it's no guarantee that he's a future Red Sox.
Kyle Lohse: Boston is also looking at Lohse, likely to be more of a back-end piece who can give them 200 innings. Lohse wants to be paid for more, though, and if the Angels miss out on the other pitchers they are interested in, they almost surely will overpay Lohse to bring him in and shore up a rotation that is all of a sudden looking rather thin behind Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson. If it comes to that, Boston should let him walk, as there are too many question marks in his game to commit significant money to him.
Ryan Dempster: The right-hander had a rough start of things in Texas, throwing two stinkers in his first three starts in the AL, but afterward, was as Dempster-esque as can be. He produced a 4.01 ERA in 51 innings over his last nine starts, along with the kind of K/BB he's known for. At the moment, Dempster is seeking $13 million a year, but that's a little expensive given his age. If no one else offers him that, and Boston can get him at something closer to three years and $30 million, then it'll be worthwhile even if he tails off a bit by the end of the deal.
The Angels are out on Dempster, the Red Sox are still in, and Jon Heyman thinks the Brewers are the favorites, given their proximity to Dempster's home. The fact they are in the National League likely also helps, but the Brewers aren't exactly known for their money, either. If they don't offer anything substantial, this is a guy the Red Sox could get, but it all depends on if someone answers his demand for $13 million annually or not.
Shaun Marcum: Like McCarthy, there are concerns whether or no Marcum can last over a full season. He's worn down as the year has gone on in the past, and has dealt with multiple injuries, including another elbow scare last year. If the price is right given these circumstances, he's someone worth acquiring, but if anything even resembling a bidding war opens up for him, the Red Sox would be right to pull out, just as they didn't try to top Washignton's offer for Haren. Just because there is pitching depth doesn't mean Boston needs to go out of their way to test it.
Edwin Jackson: Once again, no one is discussing Edwin Jackson yet. He is perpetually doomed to roam the Earth, awaiting the day when there are no other options available. If Boston misses out on the above, he should still be around, as that is the way of Edwin Jackson. This time around, they can actually afford him if it comes down to that.