It’s doesn’t take a tremendous amount of searching to see that the Red Sox pitching staff was miserable in 2012. As a staff, the team’s 4.70 ERA was the 27th best in the league, only ahead of the Twins, Indians, and Rockies. Perhaps the statistic that stands out most for this team is that ERA leader, Clay Buchholz, only pitched to a lackluster 4.56 ERA. This, more than anything else, signifies that the Red Sox absolutely need multiple frontline starters if they have any hopes of contending in 2013. At the moment, Buchholz and Lester are the only sure things in the Boston rotation, and they are hardly that. Felix Doubront had a decent rookie season, but may be best suited as a reliever, while Franklin Morales and John Lackey will try to return from injuries, but are far from certain.
1) Acquire Two Established Major League Starters- If nothing else, this season has highlighted that the Red Sox have no sure things in their rotation. Clay Buchholz’s 4.56 ERA and Jon Lester‘s 4.82 mark have added uncertainly to a pair of previous top notch starting pitchers. They’ll need more if they want to contend, and while this free agent class isn’t a great one, there are some intriguing names out there– guys like Jeremy Guthrie, Kyle Lohse, Brandon McCarthy, and Anibal Sanchez.
I’ve made no secret in my time at BoSox Injection that I’m a big fan of Brandon McCarthy. The guy is a great clubhouse presence and a great pitcher that’s really re-invented himself in recent seasons. He has dealt with some injuries this season, but when healthy has been very good– pitching to an 8-6 record and 3.24 ERA in 18 starts with division-winning Oakland. The sinker-balling McCarthy walks almost no one (just 1.96 per nine innings) and has proven to be an innings eater, something the Red Sox desperately need. After this injury-filled season, the Red Sox could probably nab McCarthy on something like a 2 year/$14 million contract, and believe me, they wouldn’t regret it.
Always being a consistently underrated pitcher for the Miami Marlins, Anibal Sanchez broke onto the scene this year after being traded to the Detroit Tigers. Sanchez silenced all doubts of being unable to handle the American League, going 4-6 with a 3.74 ERA in 12 starts for Detroit. He’s handled the heat of the playoff race brilliantly and would fit well into a depleted Red Sox rotation. The Red Sox may have to slightly overpay for the consistent Sanchez, but a 3 year/$25 million deal would be worth the risk in my opinion.
2) Re-Sign Scott Atchison and Vicente Padilla- One tends to forget given the second half slide the Red Sox have experienced, but in the first part of this season, Scott Atchison and Vicente Padilla were nothing short of dominant. Before being sidelined by a side injury, Atchison pitched to a 1.58 ERA in 42 games for the Red Sox. Meanwhile, Padilla’s numbers were not so outstanding at 4-1 with a 4.50 ERA, but he was very good at parts of the year. In May, June, and July, his ERA’s were 2.22, 0.00, and 4.00, respectively. Both of these pitchers provided a quality veteran presence out of the bullpen and could probably be re-signed for relatively cheap.
3) Acquire An Additional Left-Handed and Right-Handed Reliever- Like the rest of the team, the Red Sox’ bullpen collapsed down the stretch. However, the core of this ‘pen– Andrew Bailey, Mark Melancon, and Craig Breslow has potential to be a solid bunch. If the Red Sox do choose to re-sign Atchison and Padilla, that will leave them with two open slots in the bullpen. Those spots could be filled by Clayton Mortensen (1-1, 2.92) and Junichi Tazawa (1-1, 1.43), who have performed admirably for the Red Sox. On the other hand, though, they could be filled by established major league relievers, and that’s what a contending team needs.
One guy who could fit in very well as a hard-throwing middle reliever could be Matt Lindstrom. Formerly a very good reliever, the 32 year old reliever experienced a renaissance in 2012– pitching to a 2.68 ERA between the Orioles and Diamondbacks. As a reliever, the Red Sox could probably pick him up for cheap, and he’s well worth the risk.
On the left-handed side of the spectrum, there’s longtime Giants’ lefty Jeremy Affeldt. In 2012, Affeldt has put up more consistently good numbers– going 1-2 with a 2.70 ERA in 67 games for the division champion Giants. The 34 year old hasn’t pitched much in the American League, but he could be used as a lefty specialist if nothing else.
All of these acquisitions would leave the Red Sox will a pretty good looking pitching staff. A rotation of McCarthy, Sanchez, Buchholz, Lester, and one of the mix of Doubront, Lackey, and Morales would be a far above average rotation if healthy. They would complement a strong bullpen of Affeldt, Atchison, Bailey, Breslow, Lindstrom, Melancon, and Padilla. I would say that that rotation, mixed with the lineup I compiled earlier, would make for a strong playoff team in 2013.