Boston Red Sox: What restrictions on finding an ace?

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Oct 3, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher

Zack Greinke

(21) in the first inning of the game against the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

1) The Draft Pick

Ah, the MLB draft, justifying abject failure since way back, the eternal assumed modus operandi of teams who are so bad they could only be tanking on purpose. The draft, ordered such that, depending on how bad your team’s record was in the year, will ultimately decide their order of choice for each prospect, from worst to best. Unfortunately for the Red Sox, sticking your head out of the sands of failure to the desert of mediocrity doesn’t provide the same kind of benefits.

You see, Boston had another disappointing season, it’s true. A turnabout in fortunes in the second half, spurred on by resurgent performances from old hands like David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia, and kicked into high gear by blossoming youngsters like Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Eduardo Rodriguez, saw the Red Sox manage to pull back to only 12th worst in baseball. 12th worst in baseball, 12th pick in the 2016 draft.

Now, for players who are considered “free agents”, if they have stayed with their current club for the entire season before free agency, they are eligible to receive a “qualifying offer”. The club they leave offers them a year contract at a set amount, which they inevitably turn down. The upshot of this is that if another team successfully signs said player, they lose their first round pick in the following year’s. That escalated quickly.

There are some protections, known as “protected draft picks” reserved for teams who are so pitifully bad that they honestly need all the help they can get. Why aren’t the Red Sox in this category? Well unfortunately, this year at least, only the first 11 draft picks are protected and, of course, Boston has number 12.

The net result is that it provides a pretty solid deterrent from signing a free agent who has been extended a qualifying offer. The Red Sox’ 12th pick is quite valuable, no club in the history of the draft has ever surrendered a slot that high for any player. On top of that, 2016 promises to have an exciting draft, headlined by a plethora of lightning-armed wunderkind college pitchers, that has me drooling on the keyboard as I type this.

That’s not to say the Red Sox will be dissuaded entirely, but I personally believe that it’s very unlikely that they will sacrifice their pick. Fortunately for Boston, two of the biggest free agent aces this offseason, David Price and Johnny Cueto, are not eligible for qualifying offers and can be had without losing the draft slot.

One pitcher exists that may be worth making the sacrifice for, that is Zack Greinke. Greinke is among the best pitchers in baseball and shows no signs of letting up, indeed he’s getting better, at 32 years old. Aside from Greinke, who we will discuss more later, there’s probably not going to be anybody Dombrowski values enough. Jordan Zimmerman hasn’t shown he is consistently able to be an ace, indeed he didn’t even command the #2 slot for the Washington Nationals, and with the resources available, the Red Sox can do so much better without the risk of missing out on a prize in the 2016 draft.

Next: Do they fit in Boston?