Felix Doubront, Michael Bowden, Junichi Tazawa, Casey Kelly, Alex Wilson, Stolmy Pimentel, Manny Rivera, Kendal Volz, Madison Younginer, Stephen Fife, Kyle Weiland, Caleb Clay. The Red Sox have a lot of legitimate pitching prospects throughout their system. The one thing they all have in common? There's not a ton of room for them with the big league team in the next few years.
Other than Daisuke leaving after 2012, the Red Sox (barring major injury) have their rotation entirely locked up through 2014, when all four of John Lackey, Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and Clay Buchholz will be eligible for free agency. If Casey Kelly eventually fills the fifth spot, as he is expected to, then where does that leave everyone else?
Obviously stuff happens. There's a reason why they say "you can never have enough pitching." Certainly, we've seen that a few years running, where six or seven man rotations have lead to spot starts and mid-season free agent acquisitions to fill in holes left by guys like Curt Schilling, Bartolo Colon, John Smoltz, and Brad Penny. And certainly some of these guys will find a way onto the team via the bullpen-Michael Bowden is already headed in that direction, and guys like Alex Wilson and Kendal Volz could well head in that direction based on their past. But eventually, you've got to think about moving some of that talent, especially with some of the holes this Red Sox team has.
There are only a few names there that deals could really be build around. Casey Kelly is the obvious one, with Felix Doubront coming in second thanks to his recent strong performances. But everyone on that list has some good value, and could certainly add up to enough in a package to sway another team into sending a reliever our way, or maybe a legitimate outfielder given the injury to Jacoby Ellsbury and struggles of Mike Cameron.
Theo has never been willing to trade away the future for present help if he doesn't think the deal is fair, and that's not a principle he should abandon. We shouldn't be trading Ryan Kalish or probably Casey Kelly for mid-season bullpen help. But what about the guys who probably aren't the future? Felix Doubront has been solid in his starts, but is he really going to crack this rotation in the near future? If a guy who is likely to be a future reliever such as Alex Wilson can get you more of a sure thing in the seventh inning, do you really hold on? Last year, the Red Sox dealt Justin Masterson, Nick Hagadone, and Bryan Price for Victor Martinez. Now, that's not to say a pen arm would cost that much, but the equivalents are there. What about Doubront, Pimentel, and Fife? Not that far off, really.
When healthy, this Red Sox team has a dream offense, a top-five rotation, and one of the best defenses in the business. But there are holes. Despite their remarkably poor start to the season, the Red Sox have set themselves up to be buyers at the deadline. Prospects can act as currency in this business in two ways: they can keep the payroll down, or they can be traded. Without many spots for them to do the former, it's time for the Red Sox to use some of their organizational depth on the latter. After all, with guys like Ranaudo and Workman a signing bonus away, it's not likely we're going to be running out anytime soon.