The Red Sox entered the 2012-2013 off-season in kind of a weird place. They could spend big on the shiniest of shiny free agents, avoid spending and give gobs of playing time to the likes of Ryan Lavarnway, Jose Iglesias, and Ryan Kalish, or they could split the difference by focusing on the future while spending on the present -- but not at the expense of said future. They chose the latter, and that's how they ended up with Ryan Dempster in Boston for two years, rather than a long-term Anibal Sanchez contract, or an even lengthier Zack Greinke one.
Why bring this up now, less than a week before the regular season begins? The final significant piece of the free agent puzzle, Kyle Lohse, just today signed a contract with the Milwaukee Brewers. The cost? Three years for $33 million, but also with the Brewers sacrificing their first-round draft selection for his services, as well as the draft budget attached to it. While Boston might have paid more per year for Dempster, they managed to get him for a shorter time, and with all of their draft picks intact.
The Brewers, too, had a preference for Dempster over Lohse, at least until the Red Sox signed him first:
After learning of Dempster's two-year, $26.5 million deal with Boston, Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said he had no plans to target another starting pitcher on the free-agent market.
"We thought (Dempster) was a good fit with us," said Melvin, who indicated he has not received reciprocal interest from other free-agent pitchers. "We liked his character; we thought he could still pitch; he knows the division (from pitching for the Cubs). And he had interest in us, so we thought we had a chance.
"This may be one of those years when we don't do too much (on the market). We're still looking at relievers, but we might see if we get a surprise in spring training.
Spring training surprise: Kyle Lohse is a Brewer now.
In a few ways, these two arms are similar. Both are durable, mid-rotation arms who might have homer problems in the wrong parks. Dempster misses more bats, and that's what puts him above Lohse generally, but this year's free agency has actually served to underrate Lohse a bit. He's a reliable arm, one the Red Sox looked into at times during the off-season in order to stabilize the middle of their rotation, and the cost per year the Brewers are handing out is just right for him.
The thing is, they had to spend a pick to acquire him, whereas Boston got Dempster without that caveat attached. Both have their question marks in their new homes, but with Dempster's contract a year shorter, and sans the draft pick attachment, it's hard not to be pleased with how things turned out if you're pulling for the Red Sox. They get their pitcher that helps them bridge to their prospects and will allow them to compete now, and all without sacrificing their future, either monetarily or in the form of lost draft picks. Had they missed on Dempster back in December, maybe they wouldn't have been so lucky in that regard.