Job One for the Red Sox brain truss is their gaping “Ace hole.”
Flush with money–$260 million– from the Dodger Dump, the Sox should spend the biggest chunk on a proven #1 starter—either Zack Greinke or Brandon McCarthy.
Thanks to the Dodger spending spree, the Red Sox are now on the hook for just $45.6MM in 2013, $34.4MM in 2014, $12.75MM in 2015, and $2.45MM in 2016.
Although Allen Webster, acquired in the Dodger deal, and Sox farmhand Matt Barnes both have the potential to become a #1 rotation starter, to begin to seriously compete in 2013, the team needs a veteran ace to lead rotation.
If the Sox were to sign either FA starter Greinke or McCarthy, the 2013 rotation might look like this:
Greinke or McCarthy
That leaves the infamous “Fifth starter” slot vacant, but, besides digging up another Cook or Carpenter, the Sox might use their hottest starter at Pawtucket or Portland as a filler; such as: Matt Barnes, Allen Webster, Drake Britton, Stolmy Pimentel, Anthony Ranaudo, Brian Johnson, Brandon Workman.
[SEE: The Bright Future: Red Sox Top Right-Handed Pitching Prospects by my colleague Conor Duffy.
And, how about the guy that many believed was the key to the Dodger/Sox swap: Rubby “Dub Dobby” [or "Rubby Doobie"] de la Rosa?
Although Barnes or Webster may be pushing their way into the rotation as early as late 2013 or early 2014 and may evolve into the #1 rotation stud, the Sox need to fill their gaping “Ace-hole” in the interim with a Greinke or, at least, a McCarthy level starter.
Then, there is the trade route; we have speculated before [http://bosoxinjection.com/2012/07/09/bens-gaping-ace-hole-show-them-your-package-get-king-felix/] about the Sox acquiring “King Felix” from the Mariners; to wit:
King Felix for
Brad Brentz [OF] since Sox are knee deep in OF.
Brandon Jacobs [OF] since Sox are knee deep in OF.
Kolbrin Vitek [3B] since he is blocked by Middlebrooks.
Jose Iglesias [SS] since Deven Marerro and Xander Bogaerts are better.
Blake Swihart [C] blocked by Salty, Lavarnway.
Another way to do it would be to swap Ellsbury and a few of these prospects for King Felix; in this scenario, the Sox would keep Jackie Bradley.
FREE AGENT ACES
By far, the best and most expensive starter in the 2013 FA market, his stats for the last two years suggest he is entering his prime years:
2011, 16-6, 4.0 WAR; 2012 15-5, 5.1 WAR
His Career stats: 91-78, 3.97 WAR
Greinke could be the staff ace for 4 years for the Sox, but would want more than his last contract: 4 yrs./$38M (09-12); the good news: his agent it not Scott Boras.
Signing Greinke to a 4-5 year deal for $40-$50 million would solve the Sox #1 problem: their gaping Ace-hole. The Sox have money to spend and this is the key position that requires the most attention and the largest outlay.
He could become a #1/2 starter in the Sox rotation. Besides the famous head injury, which is now resolved with this return for the ALCS, he presents an injury risk and has been averaging just 80.1 Innings during his 4 yr. MLB career. The trend is positive; recently he has increased his inning total: 111  and 170.2 .
The upside is that, the more time he goes to the mound, the better he looks:
|Year||Innings Pitched||Games Started||fWAR||Team|
[Source for chart: http://jaysjournal.com/2012/10/30/brandon-mccarthy-is-he-worth-the-injury-risk/]
He received $4.275 million from Oakland for 2012 and would likely be seeking a 4-5 year deal for $25-$30 million. Scott Boras is not his agent.
While A’s fans would love to keep him in the Oakland rotation, Billy Beane’s wont is to move players when they demand real money. If Beane is an A’s believer, he might try to sign McCarthy and Stephen Drew, but, with young arms lined up from MLB to the low minors, and the team’s very survival in the inept hands of Bud Selig, he will more likely stick to his future franchise-building mode.
But, before making a move on McCarthy, it might be instructive to check out his injury history charts:
|Date On||Date Off||Transaction||Days||Games||Side||Body Part||Injury|
|7/29/10||11/1/10||60-DL||95||61||Right||Shoulder||Recovery From Stress Fracture|
[CHART SOURCE: http://network.yardbarker.com/author/article_external/12143140?headline=cubs_interested_in_brandon_mccarthy&linksrc=mb_right_col&mailing_id=1966&sport_name=mlb]
If the Sox are unable/unwilling to sign the more projectable Greinke, they may go after McCarthy for less money and hope he will grow into the staff ace.
If the Sox head into 2013 and beyond with a gaping “Ace hole,”—unwilling to spend enough to obtain a quality Greinke-level stud, or trade for a King Felix-level rotation leader—they will repeat the disaster of 2012, where a dog team without a lead dog ran the Sox sled off the trail and over the edge into an abyss.