Now that Jon Lester is off the market, the Red Sox must adjust their strategy to fill out their starting pitching rotation.
Here’s an updated look at the options I first outlined last week.
Ace Plan B
Cole Hamels, LHP, Phillies — An accomplished starter whose numbers project similar to Lester’s. His max contract is five years, $110 million if the trading team picks up the fifth-year option, which in the Red Sox’ case they would have to, since Boston is on his no-trade list. The Dodgers may be angling for Hamels, so the prospect package would have to be impressive. The Phillies have known that Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, and Blake Swihart are off the table. But after losing Lester, the Red Sox may have to part with one of the above.
Max Scherzer, RHP, free agent — If they didn’t get Lester at a certain price, I doubt the Red Sox would overextend for Scherzer. But desperation yields the unexpected.
Johnny Cueto, RHP, Reds — Runner-up for the NL Cy Young Award, Cueto will be much coveted now that Lester is out of the picture. His stuff, according to one NL scout, “would play in Mars, Venus, and Neptune. Don’t worry about going to the American League with Cueto.” The Reds don’t seem to be inclined to moving him, but everyone has a price and it would start with Yoenis Cespedes, but would have to include a pitching prospect and a player like Deven Marrero.
David Price, LHP, Tigers — With Price entering the final year of his contract, the Tigers are at a crossroads. Nobody is quite sure how much he enjoyed the Detroit experience and vice versa. The Tigers could choose to get back into the Scherzer hunt or try to re-sign Price long-term. If they deal him, he’s obviously AL East battle-tested. Price pitched a whopping (for a modern-day pitcher) 248⅓ innings, tops in the majors. He went 4-4 with a 3.59 ERA and a 1.146 WHIP for the Tigers after being dealt by Tampa Bay.
Chris Sale, LHP, White Sox — I have been told “don’t go there” with any Sale trade talk, especially now that the White Sox added Jeff Samardzija.
Jordan Zimmermann, RHP, Nationals — The Nationals don’t want to deal him, but if they feel they can’t get an extension done, they will listen. He’d be expensive, both in the prospects you’d have to give up and then the contract he’d get, which would be in the Lester/Scherzer area. He’s a tough pitcher who also translates into any league. Great makeup, a bulldog, a winner.
James Shields, RHP, free agent — Tough, battles you every step of the way. Anybody who has coached or managed him loves him. Don’t think his postseason problems will work against him, because he has been an outstanding and durable regular-season pitcher.
After you get the ace, you need two more starters. Here are the rest of the possibilities:
Doug Fister, RHP, Nationals — All this guy does is win. Excellent complementary starter to an ace. The Nationals had some difficulty trying to sign him to an extension, so they may listen to a deal for him.
Mat Latos, RHP, Reds — The Reds would part with Latos, who has had shoulder issues. He’ll be 27 on Dec. 9 and would be a decent middle-of-the-rotation guy if healthy. The Reds say they haven’t discussed Cespedes with the Red Sox, but that would be odd, considering their needs.
Mike Leake, RHP, Reds — A few scouts I spoke to think Leake would be a better option than Latos. Like Latos, he’s 27 and can be a free agent after this season. Another bulldog-type who knows how to pitch.
Hisashi Iwakuma, RHP, Mariners — The Mariners still need a right fielder, even after signing Nelson Cruz. Cespedes make a lot of sense for them, but they continue to insist Iwakuma wouldn’t be available even though they have six very good starting pitchers, including Felix Hernandez at the top. Iwakuma is also in the final year of his contract, at a bargain $7 million.
Scott Kazmir, LHP, A’s — Kazmir is in full resurrection of his career, an effective lefty in the middle of a rotation. He will earn $13 million this year in the final year of his contract. The Red Sox and A’s like to deal.
Ervin Santana, RHP, free agent — He is seeking a five-year deal he won’t get. Effective middle-of-the-rotation starter who, if you get for three years at $45 million, would be worth the expenditure.
Justin Masterson, RHP, free agent — Masterson has a lot of action on him because he’d sign a two-year deal or less with the right team. The Red Sox have offered him a one-year deal. If the Red Sox are searching for three starters, Masterson would qualify as the third guy they pursue.
Brandon McCarthy, RHP, free agent — While everyone assumes he’s returning to the Yankees — with whom he turned around his season after posting a 5.01 ERA in Arizona — McCarthy, again, would be a nice middle-of-the-rotation pitcher. He seems to have figured out the American League.
Brett Anderson, LHP, free agent — A one-year deal could work for this reclamation project, who when healthy can really pitch. Still only 26.
Brandon Morrow, RHP, free agent — Injury-prone, but has electric stuff when healthy. He’s looking for a starter job. He pitched for Red Six manager John Farrell in Toronto and there’s a comfort level there, but likely only as a fifth starter. Morrow is 30.
Edinson Volquez, RHP, free agent — Volquez pitched well at times for the Pirates last season and finished with a respectable 3.04 ERA. Another back-end candidate.
Alfredo Simon, RHP, Reds — Another soon-to-be free agent, the 15-game winner is older (33), but had a very good season with his electric stuff.
Rick Porcello, RHP, Tigers — Detroit is looking for a power bat and would have interest in Cespedes.
Jake Peavy, RHP, free agent — This ship has sailed for the Red Sox, but Peavy should draw interest from some National League teams such as San Francisco, San Diego, and Chicago.
Wade Miley, LHP, Arizona - The Red Sox have discussed Miley, who is 28, with the Diamondbacks. Even though his numbers weren’t great, scouts consider him a rising young veteran lefty. This is one to watch.
Jon Niese, LHP, Mets - Not sure he’d be available, but the lefty makes sense for the Red Sox if they could offer up some shortstop and offensive help.
Follow Nick Cafardo on Twitter at @nickcafardo.