As the second half of the season is set to get under way, the Boston Red Sox need starting pitching help. It’s obvious and at times, painfully obvious. GM Ben Cherington has said his main focus at this year’s trade deadline is to secure help for the rotation and while names like Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster and Cole Hamels are at the top of every team’s wish list, the cost of overpaying has to be justified. In the Red Sox case it may or may not be worth unloading four top tiered prospects for Cole Hamels if the club is considered to be out of the postseason by the end of July.
A player like Hamels is set for free-agency after this season and will warrant a six or seven year deal likely worth $15-20 million per season. So renting Hamels for the stretch run would be foolish unless the organization plans on signing him to the long-term deal he will be seeking.
With the trade deadline rapidly approaching and the continued urgency for starting pitching help, there could be other available arms to be had via the trade market. While they may not measure up to the standards of Hamels, Garza or Dempster, they could be a lot cheaper and provide a steady diet of consistency on the mound that add value at the back end of the rotation.
Our friends over at MLBTradeRumors.com recently put together a list of the pitchers they fell could be available come the end of July. Let’s focus on some of the ones that could make sense for the Red Sox, big fish aside. Note, Shaun Marcum, Zack Greinke and Wandy Rodriguez are all names that will fetch great returns so I’ve grouped them in with the Garza et al.
Paul Maholm – the Red Sox were said to be interested in Maholm this offseason before Theo Epstein swooped in and signed him to a two-year deal, the second being a team option worth $6.5 million. His numbers are decent, 6-6, 4.57 ERA, 1.357 WHIP, 6.0 SO/9 and 2.7 BB/9 through 90.2 innings pitched. His value will be considerably less than his teammates Garza and Dempster making a Ryan Sweeney swap a possibility. Again, Maholm won’t come to Boston and lead this staff but if he can provide solid outings on a consistent basis, he can’t possibly do much worse than what we are seeing now.
Jason Vargas – remember what Doug Fister did in Detroit last year? Maybe Vargas could come to Boston and develop into a solid number three guy in the rotation. As Ben Nicholson-Smit at MLBTR outlines, Vargas is younger and likely less expensive than Wandy Rodriguez meaning a two prospect package or a Ryan Sweeney, Cody Ross or Mike Aviles packaged with another minor leaguer could get the job done. Vargas has put together some solid numbers in 19 starts this season going 8-7 with a 4.07 ERA, 1.151 WHIP with a 6.1 SO/9 and 2.3 BB/9 over 126.0 innings of work. And he’s playing for the lowly Seattle Mariners. The other nice feature about Vargas is his salary – $4.85MM which is half of that of Rodriguez and one third of Hamels as Nicholson-Smith points out. The 29-year old has seven seasons of experience behind him and is arbitration eligible after this season before becoming a potential free-agent in 2014. I like Vargas for the record.
Brandon McCarthy – the currently injured A’s stud is a free-agent after the season and coupled with his recent bout on the DL, some teams could be hesitant to deal for him. He did start 25 games last season in Oakland and prior to that didn’t make more than twenty starts since 2007 when he suited up for the Texas Rangers. This season McCarthy is 6-3 through just 12 starts while compiling 78.0 innings. His ERA is a polished 2.54 with a 1.205 WHIP. His strikeout ratio is comparable to the other names mentioned at 6.0/9 while his walks per 9 innings are also spot on at 2.2/9. The 29-year old is earning $4.85MM this season and will likely warrant a raise in the off season. If he can stay healthy, McCarthy’s services could be highly sought after come the end of July and a team like Boston could benefit from parting ways with yet more players to send back to Oakland. A risky trade given his injury prone body, but one that could pay off should he fight off the injury bug.
Clayton Richard – you can bundle Richard and Edinson Volquez in the same boat. While the Padres could deal their young arms for more prospects (as if they haven’t acquired enough over the last two years), it’s unlikely they will. Unless of course they get another they can’t refuse as was the case with Mat Latos this winter. Cherington would be foolish to give up a prospect lined package for either pitcher. If he’s prepared to do that then Garza or Hamels would make more sense.
There are more pitchers who will be available; Bartolo Colon, Francisco Liriano, Brian Matusz, Kevin Millwood, Jeremy Guthrie and Randy Wolf. But any of those veterans are just that. Veterans with either years of age saddling their careers or the inability to prove they can be reliable starters at the major league level. I don’t encourage the Red Sox to deal for either of the just mentioned names. Jon Lester or Josh Beckett can give what they will give and they’re not worth dealing away prospects.
If Ben Cherington is serious about acquiring starting pitching help then the aforementioned names could become familiar with Red Sox Nation. While those mentioned would not fill the “ace” hole that the Sox appear to be missing, they could bolster a shaky, and at times an unreliable rotation. Of course it wouldn’t be completely shocking if Cherington followed Epstein’s mantra and pulled off a blockbuster deal at the deadline that no one could predict.