It's Christmas morning, and you wanted Santa Claus to bring you an Xbox 360. You were very specific about this Xbox 360, and required the one with the 250 gigabyte hard drive. You don't know why you would actually ever need 250 GB for a system with half-gig downloadable games and save data that takes up a few hundred kilobytes, but, I mean, look at it! It's the most expensive one! It does more!
You shuffle over to the Xbox-shaped package, and tear the wrapping paper off while pretending to be casual about it. It's an Xbox 360! Just like you asked for. Turning over the box, you realize that this particular Xbox 360 has a much smaller hard drive. That's not 250 GB at all! How are you going to be able to play all of the new and exciting games that come out for this gaming system without all that extra hard drive space?
Well, the weird thing about an Xbox 360, regardless of hard drive space, is that it still plays Xbox 360 games and software. Maybe it doesn't provide the same amount of security in terms of having space, but hey, it still knows how to spin a disc and entertain you every few days.
Roy Oswalt is a 250 GB Xbox 360, and Vicente Padilla is your more basic model. They can both get the job done for Boston, though, even if one is much fancier and more expensive (and likely cooler, too).
"Need" and "want" are not the same thing. When you need something, it implies that whatever goal or aspiration you have will not be reached without that item. When you want something, though, it's usually more in the terms of a luxury item. You aren't going to live or die based on whether or not the item is in your possession, even if you might feel that way while you're angry at Santa for ruining Christmas.
The Red Sox sure would love to have Roy Oswalt or Edwin Jackson. And hey, let's be honest, so would all of us, including this author. But the Sox are also satisfied staying put and seeing what they have in Padilla, Aaron Cook, Carlos Silva, Alfredo Aceves, and others during the spring. Maybe it turns out that one of them is feeling healthy and has their stuff together. Maybe none of them do, and, seeing who is and is not making the regular season roster, Boston uses the flexibility in their budget leftover from the Marco Scutaro trade to finally acquire Gavin Floyd, or Wandy Rodriguez, or some other starting pitcher who is on the trade block.
The Red Sox aren't coming off of a 2011 season in which their rotation was excellent. John Lackey, who was third on the team in innings, had a 66 ERA+ that qualifies as one of the worst ever in Red Sox history. Tim Wakefield was next-in-line in innings pitched, and he wasn't much better, as his ERA was 5.12, 17 percent worse than your average hurler. Wakefield accounted for -1.2 WAR: a replacement level pitcher, one who would have contributed the baseball definition of nothing, might have put the Red Sox in the playoffs last year if he had been in place of Wakefield, and that's even with Lackey on board.
Those two aren't all, either. The Run Average of Red Sox starting pitchers not named Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, or Clay Buchholz was 6.38 (ERA 5.66). Over six runs per game were allowed, as a unit, by Lackey, Wakefield, Andrew Miller, Kyle Weiland, Erik Bedard, and Daisuke Matsuzaka. That group accounted for just under 480 innings, more than half of Boston's total output from their starters. Between Lester, Beckett, and the bullpen, Boston was able to minimize the damage for the most part and finish with a league-average ERA as a team, but it could have been -- and should have been -- much better.
Padilla and Cook are no Oswalt and Jackson, but they are also not Andrew Miller, Tim Wakefield, or Kyle Weiland. Nor do they have the tattered elbows of John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Wanting Oswalt or Jackson is fine -- and I want Oswalt or Jackson as much as you do -- but all the Red Sox need is to not have any of the disasters from last year in the rotation. And, given the personnel they have signed, that shouldn't be a difficult task.
If it is difficult? That's what the leftover financial flexibility is there to fix, as Ben Cherington has tried to remind us over and over again this off-season. Rosters evolve. The devolve, too, as 2011 reminds us -- the Opening Day roster might not be the one that wins for you, or the one you finish the season with.