Japanese sensation, Yu Darvish
It's mid-December and the Red Sox still need a right fielder, a closer and two starting pitchers. The problem is that they've already committed about $170 million in payroll for 2012.
Many Sox fans likely feel that ownership should just suck it up and spend the necessary money needed to address the rotation and bullpen. Perhaps the club can go cheap in right field with Josh Reddick and Ryan Kalsih, but they'll need to spend to acquire pitching.
However, even if the Sox decide to throw caution to the wind and eclipse the luxury tax threshold, there's still a serious problem that even bundles of money cannot address.
Hardball Talk ranked the 111 best free agents available this offseason. Here's a list of the remaining free agent pitchers (starters and relievers). As you can see, it's hardly an exciting or enticing bunch.
9. Edwin Jackson (Cardinals) 14. Ryan Madson (Phillies) 15. Hiroki Kuroda (Dodgers) 18. Roy Oswalt (Phillies) 20. Javier Vazquez (Marlins) 21. Paul Maholm (Pirates) 24. Francisco Cordero (Reds) 34. Joel Pineiro (Angels) 36. Jason Marquis (D-backs) 41. Bartolo Colon (Yankees) 52. Darren Oliver (Rangers) 57. Brad Lidge (Phillies) 65. Kerry Wood (Cubs) 66. Rich Harden (Athletics) 70. Jon Garland (Dodgers) 74. Brad Penny (Tigers) 77. Chad Qualls (Padres) 78. Jeff Francis (Royals) 85. Mike Gonzalez (Rangers) 88. Livan Hernandez (Nationals) 93. Fernando Rodney (Angels) 94. Jason Isringhausen (Mets) 97. Kevin Millwood (Rockies) 100. Ben Sheets (N/A) 04. Aaron Cook (Rockies) 106. Guillermo Mota (Giants) 108. Zach Duke (D-backs) 109. Dan Wheeler (Red Sox) 111. Chris Young (Mets)
Given the dearth of available talent, perhaps the Red Sox will instead attempt to make a trade for pitching — and they needs lots of it. More on that in a moment.
According to the Boston Herald, the Red Sox remain interested in White Sox pitchers John Danks and Gavin Floyd, as well as the Oakland A’s Gio Gonzalez and the Houston Astros’ Wandy Rodriguez. The Sox are also still interested in Athletics closer Andrew Bailey.
The question is, after trading away some of their best minor league talent to acquire Victor Martinez and Adrian Gonzalez in recent years, what's left in the Sox farm system that other teams might covet? When it comes to top prospects, the Red Sox cupboard is largely bare.
Kevin Youkilis, who will be 33 at the start of next season, who has not played in more than 136 games in any of the last three seasons, and whose numbers have also been in steady decline? Clearly, the Red Sox would be selling very low.
According to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the Rockies have expressed interest in executing a trade for Marco Scutaro. Perhaps the Sox could secure a pitcher in exchange for the veteran infielder. Though Scutaro is older and costlier, he's also tougher and better defensively than Jed Lowrie. Scutaro has a lot of heart and grit. He's given the Sox much more than anyone could have reasonably expected over the last two seasons. The Sox need more guys like him, not less.
Surely the Sox have been shopping both Lowrie and Josh Reddick. However, neither has established himself as a solid everyday major leaguer. Even in a package, the pair would have limited trade value.
Michael Bowden? Who wants him?
Felix Doubront? Don't the Red Sox already have a shortage of pitching?
Which brings us back to the other problem — aside from money.
The Red Sox typically carry 12 pitchers on their roster; five starters and seven relievers. At present, the Sox have Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard, Alfredo Aceves, Bobby Jenks, Matt Albers, Franklin Morales and Andrew Miller on their roster. That's nine pitchers, no matter how you assign them.
The reality is that Red Sox' pitching is really thin right now. So, even if the Sox somehow have faith in all of those guys (which seems dubious), they'll still need some combination of three more starters and relievers, depending on what they do with Bard and Aceves.
At this point, how can the Sox possibly rely on the up-and-down Jenks, who just had minor back surgery yesterday in Boston?
Anyone want to roll the dice with Kyle Weiland again? No? Me neither.
How about Junichi Tazawa, a pitcher who has a 7.31 ERA in nine big league appearances over two seasons? The 25-year-old had reconstructive surgery on his pitching elbow in April, 2010 and missed the rest of the season.
After rehabbing, Tazawa returned to the minors last season and posted a 4.61 ERA in 22 games played between Salem, Portland and Pawtucket.
Tazawa may be useful to the Sox at some point next season, but not in the first few months.
Given the unpredictability of Jenks, Albers and Morales, the Sox might actually need to add five or six pitchers before spring training. That's a tall order.
Given the Red Sox apparent payroll limitations and the absence of highly coveted prospects (Jose Iglesias, anyone?), the Red Sox will face some serious challenges in filling the numerous holes in their rotation and bullpen.
Boston will take $52.70 million off the books this winter. But about $33.20 will be added back in due to player raises. That leaves approximately $20 million to use in building the roster. However, by accepting arbitration, David Ortiz will probably eat up about $14 million of that.
That's a tough position for the Sox to be in; they need multiple pitchers and the new year is right on the horizon.
Yu Darvish, anyone?
After all, it's only money.