The Red Sox have a shiny new David Price on their hands, and that means room needs to be made for him on the roster. According to Nick Cafardo, part of making room in the rotation for Price could come by way of a trade of a different starting pitcher, with the idea being they could recoup some of the prospect depth they spent to acquire Craig Kimbrel in November.
Now, there isn't a single starter in the rotation who is going to get them back a Manuel Margot-type, and not attached to the kind of promise of Javier Guerra and Logan Allen. However, they are sitting on six starting pitchers in the majors as well as Henry Owens and Brian Johnson in the minors now that Price is around, so moving one to get back some kids does make sense. The who is more the question than the why here, as three of the current starters come off as potential trade candidates.
Clay Buchholz seems the unlikeliest, but it all depends on what the market is offering for his $13 million 2016 with an option of equal value attached for 2017. It would have to be a significant return, though, because even just 100 innings of quality Buchholz is a great deal for $13 million, especially for a team with the pitching depth in the minors that the Red Sox have -- Buchholz and Owens could probably combine for a lovely little 2016 if injury hits the veteran again.
The more likely move seems to be either dealing Joe Kelly to a team who wants to take a shot on him after his stronger second half in 2015 -- possibly a National League team who can get back Kelly's ability to mow down the opposing pitcher -- or moving Wade Miley and his very reasonable $14.75 million remaining over the next two years. It comes with a $12 million option for 2018 with a buyout of just $500,000, too, so this isn't some short-term thing. Miley isn't the flashiest pitcher around, but he's average and below the market-value for that level of player: someone would give up something of value for him.
If Miley is the one who is dealt, then Kelly likely moves back into the rotation for his last shot at starting. If he fails at this attempt under Dave Dombrowski, then you would likely see Owens or Johnson replace him in the rotation, and Kelly either dealt or moved to the pen. If it's Kelly who is dealt, well, they lose a potential relief option, but might also get something back from someone who still believes. Again, nothing like what they shipped out for Kimbrel, but that's part of why it's easier to believe that Miley might be the guy they plan on dealing.
There is no guarantee a move goes down: the returns might not be significant enough, and the Sox could fail to find the next reliever they are looking for, meaning no deal even needs to be made to make room for Price. Instead, they could simply shift Kelly to the pen and see if he can help out Kimbrel, Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, and Robbie Ross.
As much as that seems like the preferable option, remember that the Sox do have in-house replacements for Kelly should he fail as a starter once more, and that Miley could bring something good back to the Sox to boot. We'll see soon enough if this is just chatter, or Cafardo giving everyone a hint about what Boston will spend their time doing during next week's winter meetings.