The last 24 hours have seen the Red Sox add Rick Porcello and Wade Miley to their rotation, but according to Chris Cotillo, their rotation and budget could still have room for James Shields.
With Rubby De La Rosa, the presumed fifth starter in Boston's rotation heading to Arizona as part of the Wade Miley deal, it's clear that the Red Sox will have to add at least one more starting pitcher lest they head into the season relying on the likes of Anthony Ranaudo or Brandon Workman to pick up a good portion of the team's starts.
When the team was still in pursuit of Jon Lester, the plan was essentially to ignore the Collective Bargaining Tax threshold (set at $189 million in payroll and benefits, primarily) for one season, with an eye towards getting back under with all the money coming off the books after 2015. Lester didn't happen, though, and while the Red Sox have added two players, their payroll has barely budged with Cespedes' contract going a long way towards offsetting those of Porcello (entering his final year of arbitration) and Miley (his first).
When it comes to going over the CBT, so long as ownership is willing to cover the expense, if you're in for a dime you may as well be in for a dollar. Every expense over the CBT is taxed, granted, but the penalties do not last longer or become exponentially harsher. If this is the year the Red Sox have earmarked for going over, there's little reason to try and stay close to that $189 million figure once they've gone past it.
This is all to say that the Red Sox theoretically have plenty of room to work with, and are suddenly down to just a very few needs.
Spending for the sake of spending is never a good idea. At least not on long-term deals. While James Shields' market is currently hazy at best, he's absolutely a high-quality free agent who is going to get a good few years. At 33, he won't be seeing a Jon Lester deal, but four years is very much in play, and it would not be the most surprising turn of events if he even reached five. If the Red Sox have plenty of room to work with, that will not necessarily be true in 2018, and Ben Cherington and co. certainly need to take that into consideration when deciding how they're going to put the finishing touches on this baseball team of theirs.
Still, if you're of the mind that the Red Sox absolutely must find a traditional anchor for their rotation, James Shields is certainly available, and the Red Sox certainly have the resources to get a deal done. With the Miley and Porcello deals having eaten up their most expendable trade chips, this might just be the point where it makes sense to turn to the free agent market instead. Chances are they'll wait to see if Ruben Amaro Jr. brings his demands for Cole Hamels down to a more reasonable level--the Red Sox would much prefer to pay him all that money than Shields--but if he doesn't, it might just be time for Big Game James to return to the AL East.