Thinking Outside the Batter's Box: Red Sox bolster rotation, but still in need of an ace

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Thinking Outside The Batter’s Box is a blog about baseball published every week.

The Newtonite

Thinking Outside The Batter's Box is a blog about baseball published every week.
Thinking Outside The Batter’s Box is a blog about baseball published every week.

by Jacob Gurvis
In the span of four days, the roster and outlook for the 2015 Boston Red Sox drastically changed. Everyone expected them to make major moves at the 2014 Winter Meetings that took place last week in San Diego. They didn’t disappoint.
After signing Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez in the span of 24 hours a few weeks ago, the Sox front office shifted its focus to pitching, looking to rebuild the rotation. During the 2014 season, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jake Peavy, and Felix Doubront were all traded. That left Clay Buchholz and newly-acquired Joe Kelly as the only experienced starters the Sox had. That all changed this week.
Going into the meetings, it was clear that the Red Sox’s top priority was re-signing Lester. Despite a 4 year/$70 million offer in spring training that many thought would ruin Boston’s chances, the Sox ended up being a finalist. It came down to Boston and the Cubs, and in the end, Lester chose Chicago. They offered him much more money, and also give him the opportunity to make history and change the course of the franchise. Sound familiar, anyone (cough cough, Theo)? So the Sox lost out on Lester. They offered him $135 million compared to the Cubs’ $155 million plus options. We don’t know if the Sox were ever really all that serious about getting him back anyway. I doubt it.
Very soon after Lester chose the Cubs, GM Ben Cherington took swift action and rebuilt the rotation. Late Wednesday (and made official on Friday), the Sox agreed to a deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks, trading pitchers Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster and infield prospect Raymel Flores for pitcher Wade Miley. Miley, 28, has three full seasons under his belt with more than 200 innings in all three, around 150 strikeouts in the first two, and 180 last year. In 2012, Miley finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting and was an All-Star. Miley profiles as a middle of the rotation guy, with potential to be a solid number two starter as he gets better.
On Thursday, the Sox made another major trade, sending outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and pitcher Alex Wilson to Detroit for pitcher Rick Porcello. This was a win-win for both teams. The Sox took care of the crowded outfield, now allowing Mookie Betts the opportunity to start, as well as acquiring a young (25 years old) and very talented pitcher in Porcello. In six seasons, Porcello has won at least 10 games with an ERA in the 3-4 range every year. Last season he hit the 200-inning mark for the first time. Porcello will be a solid number two starter.
The third acquisition was the signing of free agent righty Justin Masterson. Masterson was drafted by the Sox in 2006, and was with Boston until 2009, when he was traded to the Cleveland Indians as part of the Victor Martinez trade. Despite tapering off with injuries and a move to the bullpen the last two seasons, Masterson was very good with the Indians, and was one of the AL’s best pitchers from 2011 to 2013. Masterson, only 29, will be a starter for the Sox, and will be a very good middle-to-back of the rotation guy with potential to turn it around and be excellent again. His deal was for $9.5 million.
Despite these three smart acquisitions, the Red Sox still lack a true ace. While it is not absolutely necessary to have an ace, in the pitcher-dominant MLB, it would be very hard to make it far in the postseason without one. Phillies’ Cole Hamels is the most likely option for the Sox, who have the pieces to get a deal done. James Shields is still on the open market, but at 33, he’s not ideal. Regardless, don’t expect Ben Cherington to be done making moves. It’s only December.
Overall, the Red Sox had a very successful week in San Diego. Yes, they lost out on Jon Lester, but when he’s 36 and is making $26 million, I’m sure the front office won’t be so upset. The three pitchers the Sox got will make a combined $26 million in 2015, compared to Lester’s $25.8 million. I’d say that’s a pretty good situation for the Sox.
The Sox now have a rotation. If the season started tomorrow, they’d be fine. If they want to be playing in October, though, they can’t be done. Now go get that ace.