MID-SEASON TRADE MART: Red Sox Buying Starter or Closer?

As the All-Star break arrives, teams are taking stock and deciding whether to sell some or buy more; teams are determining whether they believe that they have a realistic shot at a Post-season berth.

In the AL bEast the Sox are leading a tightly-grouped pack and clearly in the “buying” mode.  The offense is robust [#3 in MLB behind the Tigers and Cardinals]; the defense is adequate [#13 of 30 in MLB]; the pitching is #14 of 30 in MLB, but with an explanation.

The rotation is dicey.  Staff Ace Lester has struggled of late [8-4, 4.61], Buchholz has shown flashes of Ace potential [9-0, 1.71], but his nagging neck is a current concern.

“On Thursday, the Red Sox decided to shut down Buchholz’s rehab from a sore trapezius muscle for the weekend after an MRI of his right shoulder revealed some inflammation in the bursa sac area. Buchholz has not pitched since June 8 due to that neck soreness.” [http://boston.redsox.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2013_06_28_tormlb_bosmlb_1&mode=preview&vkey=preview_web_home&c_id=bos]

Lackey is a .500 pitcher [5.5] with a very good ERA. 2.99, well under his career 4.06.  Dempster is underwater at 5-8 [4.15] and Doubront is a game over even [4-3], 4.33.  The much maligned “head case” Aceves is 4-1, 5.05.

The rest of the Ws are from Tazawa [4], Bailey [3], Morales [2], Breslow [2], Wilson [1] and Mortensen [1].

The closer job has been a mess with hired gun Hanrahan [TJ surgery] lost for the season, Bailey blowing up [4.37, 8 SVs, 4 blown], and now Uehara tossed into the lurch with 3 SVs, 1.97.

CONCLUSION:  Sox could use some help with pitching: a reliable starter and closer.


Glen Perkins, Steve Cishek, Rafael Betancourt, John Axford, Francisco Jose Rodriguez, Huston Street, Chris Perez, Drew Storen, and—wait for it–Papelbon.

Pappy will cost you big money and a high prospect.

Take Drew Storen.


A: Cliff Lee.

Q: At what price?

We will get to naming names in Part 2, tomorrow, but first, let’s look at the influencing factors:

  • Is Lee is too old and expensive? 35 [8/30] and $27 million a year. [1]
  • Will Ben Cherry be mortgaging the future a la Lou Gorman? [2]
  • Won’t Ben get a better deal from Phils’ GM Amaro later in the season; maybe when the Phillies phold and realize they are pretenders, no longer contenders in the NL East?


  • Is Ben willing to put Xander Bogaerts on the table?

A:  Cliff Lee is old [35 this August 30th] and commands a high salary.  Also, he is not a Rent-an-Ace; his contract calls for him to receive $25 Million this season, 2014 [age 35/36] and 2015 [age 36/37] and in 2016, [age 37/38] depending on his performance for a vesting option:


$27.5M Vesting Option, $12.5M Buyout option becomes guaranteed with 200 IP in 2015 or 400 IP in 2014-15
Earliest Free Agent: 2016

For comparison [annual salaries]:

John Lackey: $16.5 million
Ryan Dempster: $13.25 million

Clay Buchholz: $7.5 million

Jon Lester: $6 million


David Ortiz: $13 million

Shane Victorino: $13 million

Stephen Drew*: $9.5 million
Jacoby Ellsbury: $9 million

While Lee may be worth $25 Million this season, if he anchors the rotation and the Sox make the Post-season, is he worth that much in 2014 [36/37], 2015 [37/38], or 2016 [38/39]?

Let’s look at the chart:


The Fangraphs chart stops at age 36-37, but it seems to show that, except for velocity and Ks, the average starter can maintain his value to his 37th birthday.  Cliff Lee’s contract runs until he is 37 on 8/30/2015. [2016 is a vesting option year].  Fangraphs’ Bill Petti also notes: “a starter’s walk rate really begins to jump at about the same time as their steeper velocity decline kicks in (ages 26 to 27).”

Fans are not as sensitive to the Luxury Tax as the bean counters at Fenway; the luxury tax payroll threshold for 2013 is $178 Million and the Sox are currently at about $157 Million; so they could spend $21 Million more and not pay the tax.

Ah, but Lee will put the penny-wise plutocrats at Fenway about $4 Million short and Ben will need to shed that amount [Jacoby Ellsbury: $9 million] or [horrors!] pay a tax penalty.


Cliff Lee, $120,000,000 (2011-15)

Justin Verlander, $180,000,000 (2013-19)

Felix Hernandez, $175,000,000 (2013-19)

CC Sabathia, $161,000,000 (2009-15)

Zack Greinke, $147,000,000 (2013-18)

Cole Hamels, $144,000,000 (2013-18)

Johan Santana, $137,500,000 (2008-13)

Matt Cain, $127,500,000 (2012-17)

But, none of the comps are as old as Lee.


Q:  Is Lee worth that effort?

Let’s look at the chart at Baseball Reference.



Since 2008 his career high and league leading 22-3, .880, 2.54 stat line he had a pattern of putting up a very good line every 4 years.  His 3 seasons with the Phils:

2011  17-8 .680  2.40

2012  6-9   .400  3.16

2013  9-2   .818  2.51

An optimist would project 11-1 in the second half of 2013, since the Sox offense would support Lee more than the Phillies.

A pessimist would see another Josh Beckett salary albatross, or even the ghost of Larry Anderson for three more seasons.  [In the Trade Hunt, Gorman GM did not bag well.]


From 2011-2013 Lee’s WAR values: 8.6, 4.5, 4.5 and a career average of 3.3.

Comps in 2012:

Cliff Lee: 4.5

Justin Verlander: 7.0

Felix Hernandez: 5.9

CC Sabathia: 4.6

Zack Greinke: 4.8

Cole Hamels: 4.8

Johan Santana: 0.2

Matt Cain: 3.8


From 2011-2013: 1.027, 1.114, 0.963 [after 16 GS in 2013].







Above Average




Below Average







Comps [2012]

Cliff Lee: 1.11

Justin Verlander: 1.06

Felix Hernandez: 1.14

CC Sabathia: 1.14

Zack Greinke: 1.20

Cole Hamels: 1.12

Johan Santana: 1.33

Matt Cain: 1.04

  • Q: Will Ben Cherry be mortgaging the future a la Lou Gorman? [2]

A: Yes.  This will be a test for Ben; will he stick to his disciplined approach and his long-term plan to create his “Next Great Red Sox Team,” one that will be primarily home grown, by starting with an in-house core and then supplementing, prudently, with a veteran via FA buy or trade one that will keep the Sox under the Luxury Tax and on top of the AL East for the next decade?

Or will he go all Lou Gorman or all Theo Epstein and be undisciplined and trade his future, his “Next Great Red Sox Team,” for a shot at the Playoff Piñata this season?

Will Ben let those rabid fans, who are annually pressuring for a “Win Now” team, cause him to stray from his nature as a ‘disciplined” GM who stays true to his inner compass and a rubric that moves the team toward being a viable contender, capable of annual post-season appearances with the occasional World Series trophy for a decade?

A: No.  It would appear that Cherington is shifting gears away from the Epstein “Veteran Star Du Jour” Model—allowing fan expectation to send the team frantically adding long-term contracts to keep the Red Sox “going for it” every year.  In stark contrast, Ben has staked his career and reputation being known as the “Un-Theo” and will remain steadfast to his disciplined approach and his long-term plan to create his “Next Great Red Sox Team,” one that will be primarily home grown.

  • Won’t Ben get a better deal from Phils’ GM Amaro later in the season; maybe when the Phillies phold and realize they are pretenders, no longer contenders in the NL East?

A: Of course.

According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, no Phillie player is untouchable, but the price for desired stars such as Cliff Lee or Jonathan Papelbon would be incredibly high.

The Phading Phils fit about 4 games under .500 and 8 games out of first place.  As the July 31 trade deadline approaches, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. may decide to become a seller, free up some cash by unloading trade free agents-to-be Carlos Ruiz, Chase Utley and Michael Young and grab a few prospects and start remodeling for a run at a Playoff slot next year.

Amaro’s contract runs through the 2015 season, so his July 2013 trades will likely play a major factor in whether he will retain his GM position.

Peter Gammons says that the Phils will not be a seller, since they anticipate a financial windfall from their new cable contract.

  • Don’t the Sox have pitching depth in the minors to fill the gap?

A:  2013, unlikely; 2014, likely.

The most MLB-ready, Allen Webster, who the Sox got from the Dodgers, has not demonstrated he is ready for prime time: the RHP has allowed 15 earned runs in 12 innings over his first three spot starts this season, lately:  eight hits over 4 1/3 innings in a 10-3 loss to Detroit on Saturday.

“The Red Sox 39th overall pick in the 2011 draft, Anthony Ranaudo was expected to make a quick ascent to the major leagues. However, the 6’7” right-hander hit a roadblock during his sophomore campaign in 2011, as he battled a groin injury over the first few months of the season prior to being shut down for the season in July with shoulder fatigue.

Making up for lost time, the 23-year-old decided to pitch in the Puerto Rico Winter League during the offseason and began to look more like the pitcher the Red Sox envisioned when they drafted him a few years earlier. More importantly, he’s built upon that success this season at Double-A Portland while emerging as one of the top pitchers in the minor leagues.

Things have truly come full circle for Ranaudo, who turned in his best outing as a professional on Friday against Erie: 7.2 IP, 2 H, 13/2 K/BB.”


Brandon Workman, RHP

“2013 Stats (AA/AAA): 8-2, 90.2 IP, 3.08 ERA, .235 BAA, 97/26 K/BB (15 G/14 GS)

Workman has cruised through the Red Sox’s system since they selected him in the second round of the 2010 draft, and is currently enjoying his best season as a professional. After a strong showing back at Double-A Portland to begin the season, the 6’4” right-hander was promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket, where he’s registered a 2.16 ERA with 23/9 K/BB through four starts.

While the Red Sox have a nice selection of arms to pick from in the upper minors (De La Rosa, Webster, Ranaudo), I think Workman is the next in line for a major league audition.

The 24-year-old has a durable frame ideal for eating innings and is a strike-thrower with an advanced feel for roughly five pitches. He doesn’t have the pure stuff of Webster/De La Rosa/Ranaudo, but, at the same time, it’s good enough to profile as a back-end starter.”


Rubby De La Rosa, 24, lead PawSox starters with a 3.29 ERA (14 ER/38.1 IP) and a .188 opponent average (25-for-133) this season, going 0-1 with 38 strikeouts and 20 walks in 11 starts. He has a 1.14 ERA (4 ER/31.2 IP) in his last eight outings dating back to April 23.

In 14 career major league appearances with the Los Angeles Dodgers from 2011-12, De La Rosa is 4-5 with a 3.96 ERA (27 ER/61.1 IP) and 60 strikeouts. He was acquired by Boston from the Dodgers last August in the nine-player trade that sent Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Nick Punto, and cash considerations to Los Angeles.”


  • Is Ben willing to put Xander Bogaerts on the table?

Let’s hold that question for Part Two, where we will assume the Sox will make an attempt to acquire either Cliff Lee or Jonathan Papelbon and we will put some names on the table for those two hypothetical deals.

Tomorrow: ROUGH TRADE: Lee or Pap? At What Price?


[1] 2013 Contract Status: Signed thru 2015, 5 yrs/$120M (11-15) & 16 vesting option (details) [*]
Service Time (01/2013): 9.100, Free Agent: 2016 [*], Agents: Darek Braunecker [*]

[2] “Kennythelid

“And this is exactly what the Red Sox shouldn’t do….mortgaging the future ala Lou Gorman (see Jeff Bagwell for Larry Andersen) has never worked. Ben should stay the course, Lester will turn it around in the second half. Clay will be back after the All-Star Game, and Lackey is pitching his butt off. We have Webster, Rubby, Ranaudo, Workman and yes, even Aceves waiting in the wings. We have plenty of bullpen help at AAA also. The Sox, in my opinion, are poised to dominate this division for the next ten years with what they have at the major league level and in the minors, both pitching and position players. All we have to do, as fans, is be a little patient and have a little faith in Bens plan, oh yeah, and not listen to every knee jerk reaction by every reporter who thinks we should trade our best prospects for a guy who a) pitches in the NL and b) is a year removed from going 6-9.”

SEE ALSO: http://bosoxinjection.com/2012/11/01/filling-next-dynasty-sox-rotation-fa-trade-home-grown-prospect/



Tags: Cliff Lee Jonathan Papelbon Trade Deadline

comments powered by Disqus