The signings of Zack Greinke and Anibal Sanchez to the Dodgers and Tigers, respectively, have taken the two best starting pitchers off the market. At this stage of the offseason, however, the Red Sox don’t really need an ace. Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester are almost certainly going to improve at least a little in 2013, and the addition of Ryan Dempster should add another solid starter. Solid starters are what the Red Sox should be in the market for right now, with Felix Doubront and John Lackey anything but sure bets to succeed. The Red Sox still have enough money on their payroll to lock up a starter and perhaps another position player while staying under the luxury tax threshold for 2013, so let’s look at the remaining starters right now.
Kyle Lohse- Lohse is one of the more intriguing options on the market after a stellar 2012 season which saw him go 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA. That season is likely to have been the best of the 34 year old Lohse’s career, as he benefited notably from low BABIP and his FIP was well higher than his ERA. However, he could still be effective moving forward. Although he doesn’t strike out too many people, just 6.10 in 2012, he doesn’t walk anyone either, just 1.62 in 2012. Lohse has the highest ceiling of any remaining pitcher, but it’s not worth giving him a deal for more than two years in my opinion. Also, there’s the issue that the Cardinals did offer him a qualifying offer, meaning the Red Sox would have to forfeit a draft pick. Verdict: DO NOT SIGN.
Jeff Karstens- Over the last few seasons, Karstens has taken his place as one of the more underrated pitchers in the game. While he did struggle with injuries in 2012, he had his second consecutive solid season– pitching to a 5-4 record and 3.97 ERA in 16 games (12 starts). Adjusting to the AL East would merit some difficulty for Karstens, but he has the stuff to at least be average in the tough American League. Like Lohse, his strikeout and walk rates are both pretty low. Unlike Lohse, however, Karstens is a fly ball pitcher– a demographic which rarely works in Fenway Park. Verdict: SIGN ONLY AS A LAST RESORT.
Shaun Marcum- Much like Jeff Karstens, Marcum has taken his place as a very underrated and solid pitcher in recent years. Also like Karstens, he struggled with injuries in 2012 but was good when healthy– posting a 7-4 record and 3.70 ERA in 21 starts. Marcum is a safer bet to perform well than either of the previous candidates, however, due to the fact that he’s had success in the AL East before. He pitched in the majors with the Blue Jays from 2005-2010 and was relatively good in his time there, averaging a 3.85 ERA in his time there. If he can stay healthy, then he is one of the better pitchers on the market and the Red Sox should pursue him on an incentive laden deal. Verdict: SIGN IF EDWIN JACKSON IS UNAVAILABLE.
Edwin Jackson- And that brings us to Edwin Jackson. Personally, I’d feel more comfortable with the Red Sox signing Jackson than any other pitcher on the current free agent market. First off, he’s the youngest of any of the above at just 29 years old. His 2012 season which saw him go 10-11 with a 4.03 ERA looks decent on the surface. However, when delving into his peripherals it looks even more impressive. He posted a 7.97 K/9 to just a 2.75 BB/9 along with an FIP lower than his ERA (3.85). Jackson has the stuff to handle a market like Boston’s and I’d be comfortable offering a contract for four years. Verdict: PURSUE JACKSON HEAVILY.
The Red Sox can survive in 2013 without any more additions to the rotation. That’s only if every pitcher in the rotation (including Doubront and Lackey) can pick up the slack and have good seasons though. With the Red Sox looking like they’re pushing to contend next season, it would be a safer bet to pick up Jackson or Marcum. The Red Sox still have plenty of money on the payroll to afford one of these pitchers and I hope they put it to good use.