There’s a lot of rumors swirling that the Sox are shopping for another pitcher. And while Theo and Co. play calm and say they like their rotation as is, the reality is they do need another arm, maybe two.
As it stands now, the rotation looks like Beckett, Lester, Daisuke, Wakefield, and then one of the young guns — Bucholz, Masterson or Bowden. And if someone goes down, the only solution as of now is to rely more heavily on those young, unproven arms . . . and just ask the Yankees how productive it is to rely on question marks. The style of the Sox in recent years has been to stock up on more pitchers than they need, recognizing how prone the position is to injuries. And while they have a number of young arms, Theo’s track record suggests he’d rather have veteran arms slotted for the rotation and bring those young arms along very slowly.
While the prevailing theory seems to be the Sox could bring in a Paul Byrd type, they could luck into something better. Given the downturn in this year’s market, the Sox have a golden opportunity to steal a very good arm for next year.
When healthy — which, I’ll admit is rare — Ben Sheets has elite stuff, comparable to Mr. Sabathia. But he is rarely healthy. So he’s currently being rated not only behind AJ Burnett, but behind Derek Lowe (for reasons completely foreign to me). Given that his stock is so low, but his talent ceiling so high, Sheets would be crazy to sign anything other than a short-term deal, because he’ll be costing himself millions of dollars he could cash in on following a big year. In this case, the Sox could rent an elite talent for the year. Sheets would get an opportunity to shine in one of baseball’s most high-profile spotlights and then cash in after the season. The Red Sox would add to their stockpile of pitching by getting one of the game’s best arms for the season without the risk of a long-term deal. He’d have every incentive to shine. If they like what they see, they’d have a leg-up on signing him to an extension. And if he faulters, he faulters, and they then go to the young arms. Either way, he cushions their rotation, and gives the young arms more time to develop.
Of course, they could score John Smoltz, who is done in Atlanta. While he is coming off an injury, Smoltz has been one of the most reliable, enduring and successful pitchers of the last 20 years. And, at his age, he is going to be looking for one last shot at a championship more than just a big payday.
Then there’s Brad Penny. Sure, an injury risk. But he is a talented pitcher whose stock is low and could benefit from one healthy, successful season.
And then there are the reclaimation projects like Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon. These guys will never again come close to the pitchers they were a few years ago. And they sure aren’t going to get a big contract for one year, and aren’t going to be slotted into the rotation picture anytime soon. But Theo seems to like to throw a lot at the wall to see what sticks. And there are always these reclaimation projects floating in Pawtucket to begin the season. Don’t be surprised if a few of these type of guys make appearances during the season.