Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
While the baseball world waits in anticipation for Masahiro Tanaka to finalize a contract, freeing up the remaining clubs to start pursuing some of the other free agent arms that remain available, the Boston Red Sox have quietly sat back knowing that they are in a rare position of depth when it comes to the starting rotation. With six starters on the active roster and a numerous depth options waiting in Triple-A, there’s been speculation that the team could look to move one of these surplus arms once the Tanaka saga comes to a close. Teams will turn their attention to the free agent market but also could start calling the Red Sox looking to strike a deal.
GM Ben Cherington doesn’t seem to think a move is going to be likely, however, as he explained to the Boston Herald’s Scott Lauber:
"Never know, but we’re not expecting any significant movement in the form of trades or things like that. We’re not expecting that. We feel good about where we are, about the players we have, and just focusing on getting ready for Spring Training at this point."
Boston will head into camp next month with six established starters in the mix – Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, Jake Peavy, Felix Doubront, and Ryan Dempster. Dempster would appear to be the odd man out, at least initially, but that could in part be due to his past experience working out of the bullpen whereas the rest of the group has primarily spent their career as starters. Last fall’s playoff run could also be an indication, as Dempster was one of the first options moved to the pen as an extra arm (he’d throw just 3.0 total innings the entire postseason).
The Red Sox are also in an enviable position due to the depth they have beyond that initial front group. The starting rotation at Triple-A Pawtucket will likely feature some mix of Allen Webster, Brandon Workman, Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes, and Steven Wright. Rubby De La Rosa, Drake Britton, and Dalier Hinojosa could all be pushed to the bullpen simply because of the number of players available to start games.
Pitching depth is a rare asset in the Major Leagues and Boston doesn’t have to make a move right away. They’ll have the assets available if an injury situation should arise. They could also simply hold onto the group until midseason, using the surplus to address another need that may arise.