With the news today that Clay Buchholz may not make another start until after the All-Star break and with Jon Lester unable to command the strike zone in the last month, the Red Sox suddenly need a number one starter to front their rotation.
Yes, they’re currently in first place. But if they expect to stay there they are going to need a consistent performer giving them dominating starts every five days. Long losing streaks do not produce division titles.
Enter the Philadelphia Phillies’ Cliff Lee. This is the the guy the Red Sox need and should go after.
The Phils say he isn’t going anywhere but if they slip further out of the NL playoff race, you have to think GM Ruben Amaro would re-consider moving his most valuable trade piece in order to jump start his rebuild of the team.
It probably will cost the Sox a young arm and a young position player and that’s a lot to give up. In fact, I was against this move earlier in the year because Lee is 36 and has about $77 million and 2 1/2 years left on his deal. But it’s obvious now that the Sox, even in a bridge year, can steal the competitive AL East if they have enough pitching.
As we saw last year with the Washington Nationals and their bad decision to shut down Stephen Strasburg, when you have a chance to grab the brass ring, you go for it. Bringing Lee here would certainly indicate a go for it mode.
Lee has been dominant all season and assuming the rest of his contract is not crazy. In fact, with the Sox swallowing so much money, maybe the Phils will be willing to take a bit less in terms of prospects. Lee also would need to wave his no trade clause which includes Boston. That can all be worked out in time. The Sox have the financial flexibility. The big thing is they now need an ace.
The first two months of the season, both Buchholz and Lester filled that bill but between the former’s nagging injuries and the latter’s inconsistency the Sox suddenly have a big hole at the top of the rotation.
We all said coming into the season that the Sox would only go as far as Buchholz and Lester could take them. We also knew that injuries and inconsistency could pop up with these pitchers and they have.
Now the Sox are off to a great start (47-33) and they need to get Lee in here pronto.
Put Lee at the top and when Buchholz finally returns in mid-July you have an outstanding 1-2 punch.
I’m confident Lester will get things figured out with the help of John Farrell and Juan Nieves and if he has that revival the Sox will be tough to beat, especially considering Lackey’s post-Tommy John renaissance.
Make the move, Ben Cherington, and keep things lively at Fenway all summer.