Red Sox fans are wondering: Who is going to pitch?
They may have a great lineup, but the Red Sox need at least two more starting pitchers and a bullpen piece like Andrew Miller.
With the acquisitions of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, the lineup looks something like this:
CF Rusney Castillo
2B Dustin Pedroia
DH David Ortiz
RF Yoenis Cespedes
LF Hanley Ramirez
3B Pablo Sandoval
1B Mike Napoli
SS Xander Bogaerts
C Christian Vazquez.
There are obviously moves still to come, and some of them are likely to include trading positional players for pitchers.
Red Sox fans should assume nothing at this point. There seems to be a panic out there that pitcher Jon Lester is now no longer obtainable, but Red Sox sources tell me that’s not the case. The pitching market is slow in developing. Lester still has proposals to gather and information to seek before his agents get down to nitty-gritty talks. The Red Sox’ offer of around $120 million for six years can be negotiated.
With the plethora of players they have, the Red Sox need to make a deal. They may already know what’s available to them.
Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels is out there, waiting for a new home. He has a no-trade clause to block a move to Boston, and any pitcher would rather be in the National League, where there is no DH and weaker No. 8 hitters.
But according to a major league source, Hamels would waive that no-trade if the Red Sox picked up his $20 million option. That would make his deal worth five years and $110 million, a bargain for a pitcher of his caliber.
While some look at his 8-13 record and 4.54 ERA in interleague play and speculate that his numbers wouldn’t be as good in the American League, don’t forget that he pitched in a bandbox in Philadelphia, one of the most hitter-friendly ballparks in baseball. Overall, Hamels is 54-42 there with a 3.28 ERA and a 1.101 WHIP, allowing 110 homers in 895⅔ innings.
Overall, Hamels and Lester are pretty even.
Both will turn 31 soon, Hamels on Dec. 27 and Lester on Jan. 7.
Hamels is 108-83 (.565), with a 3.27 ERA and 1.142 WHIP, while Lester is 116-67 (.634), with a 3.58 ERA and a 1.276 WHIP.
Hamels is 7-4 in 13 postseason starts with a 3.09 ERA while Lester is 6-4 in 12 starts with a 2.57 ERA.
The Phillies could go two routes in a trade with the Red Sox. They could go the Cespedes route or continue to pursue Bogaerts, infielder/outfielder Mookie Betts, catcher Blake Swihart, and some of Boston’s young pitching.
Another fascinating scenario would be dealing for the Nationals’ Jordan Zimmerman. Washington is making the righthander available a year before he hits free agency.
The Mariners need a righthanded bat, as do the Rangers. Hisashi Iwakuma could be had from Seattle, but it’s hard to imagine the Rangers giving up Yu Darvish. And the White Sox, who recently signed Adam LaRoche, likely won’t deal Chris Sale.
The Tigers will lose Max Scherzer unless they decide to pony up more than the six years and $144 million they offered him, which is always possible. The Tigers also have to decide what they’re doing with David Price, who is going to demand Scherzer-type money. Could he be a Boston target?
A’s general manager Billy Beane has come out and said Jeff Samardzija will pitch for Oakland next season, but he too can become a free agent after that, and the A’s usually dump those guys ahead of time.
The Reds have a few pitchers — Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Mike Leake, Alfredo Simon — who are coming due in free agency or getting expensive. They could be available in deals. The Red Sox might even be able to pick off two of them if they are willing to give up some offense and young pitching.
Keep in mind that the Red Sox have 10 young starters between Double A and the majors — Eduardo Rodriguez, Edwin Escobar, Brandon Workman, Matt Barnes, Anthony Ranaudo, Henry Owens, Brian Johnson, Steven Wright, Rubby De La Rosa, and Allen Webster — and there’s not enough room for all of them. They need to weed out some of their excess pitching, which may sound crazy, but it’s a reality.
I will say this: The Red Sox must know by now exactly what they can and can’t do on the pitching front or else they wouldn’t have created this positional logjam.
Their current extras are Betts, Brock Holt, Shane Victorino, Allen Craig, Daniel Nava, Jackie Bradley Jr., Juan Francisco, and Will Middlebrooks.
And before they can add Ramirez and Sandoval, they have to create space on their 40-man roster. Catchers Ryan Lavarnway, Dan Butler, Jemile Weeks, and reliever Alex Wilson could all be vulnerable.
If you’re wondering why the Red Sox are going this route, the reason is that they didn’t want to rely on younger, inexperienced players who need time to develop. That killed them last year when they won only 71 games — two more than the Bobby Valentine team in 2012, when they traded off Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Josh Beckett.
The Red Sox are trying to put together an impact lineup, to support an impact pitching staff, which they feel they will have when all the moves are made.
They are also very much in the Miller hunt to help shore up the bullpen.
If $40 million a year is going toward Ramirez and Sandoval, they can afford another $20 million-$23 million for Lester, and then a shorter amount for a No. 2 or No. 3. They also know they have $16 million coming off the books on Napoli after next season and $13 million on Victorino. David Ortiz’s $16 million also may come off, though he doesn’t plan on retiring just yet.
Even with the moves, the Red Sox remain about $50 million under the luxury tax threshold of $189 million.
What the Red Sox need to stop is the rebuild every other year. The problem they have in this market is that it’s tough to show patience with developing young players. Up the middle was tough last season with Bogaerts and Bradley. Veteran catcher A.J. Pierzynski simply didn’t fit. Bogaerts wasn’t very good at third, either.
So here we are. Waiting for the other shoe, or two, or three, to drop.
Follow Nick Cafardo on Twitter at @nickcafardo.