Free Agent Pitchers the Red Sox Should Consider


As part two of the series on who the Red Sox should focus their attention and money on this offseason, we look at the starting pitchers that could provide some bang for their buck.

Newly appointed GM Ben Cherington stated in his first press conference that they (the Sox brass) will search for low value, high return free agents, using Alfredo Aceves as an example.  He was relatively cheap to sign and only slightly overperformed this past season (note the sarcasm).  It is these types of investments that pay off huge dividends for the club rather than throw $80 some million dollars at a pitcher in his early to mid thirties, only to have him lay an egg and then require Tommy John Surgery.  Everyone knows who that is.

Keep in mind, the Red Sox already have their top three pitchers in place with Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz so it’s not as though they need to go out and sign a bonified number one guy; considering all three get their act together and report to camp in shape with a hungry appetite to win and not to eat chicken.  Any pitchers they target will most likely be slotted in at number four and five. 

With that being said, let’s look at four free agent pitchers who may have a lower price tage but still be able to deliver the goods.

1. Edwin Jackson – the once promising German arm looked to have a career full of wins with minimal losses on his record.  But the 28 year old has bounced around the big leagues before landing in St. Louis this summer where he would go on to win a World Series.  Prior to that he’s been property of six other teams in just eight seasons. 

This past season, Jackson split his duties between the Chicago White Sox and St. Louis Cardinals, posting a 12-9 record with a 3.79 ERA.  His contract was worth $8.75 million and he is set to become an unrestricted free agent in a matter of days.

While he hasn’t exactly shown he can consistently stay healthy over the past couple of seasons, he has won 12 or more games during three of his last six seasons.  His price tag should be around that $6-$7 million per year and will likely settle on a two-year deal with an option.  This past World Series he’s proven he can perform in the clutch, although his frequent walks in game four are a concern.

On the up side, he did work 199.0 innings in 2011.  Considering the amount of innings that both Lackey and Tim Wakefield covered last year, Jackson could be the guy to help eat some innings as a fourth or fifth starter.  His price tag should be reasonable and if he can chew away some innings and win 12-13 ballgames, why not take a chance. 

2. Paul Maholm – the former Pittsburgh Pirate, who was shut down after 26 starts last season due to a shoulder strain could be a nice fit on the back end of the rotation in Boston.  At 29, Maholm has spent his entire 7 year career as a member of the Pirates, but it is expected they will decline to pick up his $9.75 million dollar option making him a free agent. 

Now before you stop reading because you think this is an idiotic suggestion, just consider this.  Sure his career record is not good (53-73), but his ERA is a reasonable 4.36 and he’s average over 180 innings in his last six seasons.  He would need some work as his career WHIP is 1.424 and his hits per 9 innings is over 9.0.

On the up side, Maholm only gave a career best 11 home runs last year and his walks were down, although his innings were down as well.  Last season’s ERA was at 3.66, the lowest of his career so he might be a good gamble.  Maybe the Red Sox can snag him for around $5 million a year on a 3-year deal.  He’s young, has shown a tremendous amount of potential and just for argument sake, let’s say Mike Maddux becomes the new manager for the Red Sox.  What a perfect marriage when you look at what Maddux has done as the pitching coach in Texas.

3. Erik Bedard – it was between Bedard or Rich Harden and given Harden’s injury history, Bedard becomes the front runner.  Now Bedard hasn’t exactly been given a rubber arm either, but when looking at the potential, Bedard appears to have an edge.  It wouldn’t hurt to have another lefty in the rotation and Bedard has proven he can handle the pressure of playing in Boston (although it was a small sample size).  He should come real cheap, probably like a Wakefield type deal 2 years, $5 million total. 

4. Bruce Chen – the crafty veteran managed to post a 12-8 record with a respectable 3.77 ERA for the dismal Kansas City Royals last season.   Chen worked a total of 155 innings for the Royals in 2011, so he could potentially fill the void left by Wakefield or Lackey and would likely perform a lot better as well.  At 34 his age is starting to be a concern, but he should come relatively cheap as he made $2 million last year.  Throw a one-year deal with an option worth $2 million per year and who knows, you might acquire a solid, fifth starter.  The Red Sox were reportedly interested in Chen at the deadline this year but couldn’t pull the trigger.

While it was difficult to pull four solid names together, the four mentioned do provide some good possibilities for the Red Sox.  Take into acocunt the age and potential price tags of some of the other free agent starters and they suddenly become outside the relm of reason.  The above four all fit the mold of a potential low investment with a possible huge payback and who knows, maybe they can capture lightning in a bottle two years in a row.

It’s hard to imagine that the Red Sox look to their farm system for back end starters.  Kyle Weiland and Andrew Miller both proved they weren’t ready for the big leagues, so free agency or trades may be the route of choice for Cherington.  Throw in the possibility that either Aceves or Daniel Bard could take on a starting role and maybe you only need one free agent signing.   

For all the latest news and analysis from BoSox Injection, follow us on TwitterFacebook, or with our RSS feed.