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Starting pitching help will be hard to get for Red Sox

Rich Hill, who started four games for the Red Sox last season, is 8-3 with a 2.25 ERA for the Athletics.Ben Margot/Associated Press/File 2016/Associated Press

The Chicago White Sox probably did a smart thing by beating the pack and trading for James Shields, because it doesn’t appear that a lot of quality pitchers will be available at the trading deadline.

Milton’s Rich Hill is having an excellent year in Oakland and will be the pitcher most teams compete for. Atlanta’s Julio Teheran is another who will be in demand, but he will be costly.

While the Red Sox need a starting pitcher, it’s simply going to be tough to get one, not only because there are few available, but because the players they might have used in trade to get them are now injured. Injuries to first baseman Sam Travis and catcher/left fielder Blake Swihart have depleted the pool of players they would normally dangle to make such an acquisition.


The Red Sox would likely have said no on Rafael Devers, Anderson Espinoza, Yoan Moncada, and Andrew Benintendi, but now they would have to think about dealing one of those players if they want a quality pitcher.

I suppose Henry Owens still has some value, but the timing of the injuries isn’t good. We also didn’t mention Brian Johnson, who is dealing with anxiety issues and also might have been a tradeable commodity.

We wonder if Brock Holt might be trade bait when he returns from his concussion problems. Holt has been a player in demand because teams love those multipositional players. They also have Clay Buchholz and Joe Kelly, who might bring something if packaged with a prospect.

What the Red Sox need from a starting pitcher is consistency similar to what Jake Peavy gave them in 2013 and what Peavy gave the Giants in 2014. But they aren’t out there in abundance this season.

Most of the questions deal with future pitching acquisitions.


Here’s the mailbag:

Do the Red Sox have enough pitching depth to get them through the season?

Jim, Beverly Hills, Calif.

No. Dave Dombrowski needs to make a deal at some point. Problem is, there’s not much out there. With Shields gone to the White Sox, it leaves Hill, who would be terrific.

The problem with Hill is, can he make 30 starts? He hasn’t done it. He’s 36, and you wonder if he tires at some point.

There are teams that may sell off pitchers by the Aug. 1 deadline (it was moved from July 31 this year). If the Yankees are out of it, they might move Michael Pineda or Ivan Nova, for instance (not that they would deal them to the Red Sox).

But this is a real problem for Boston unless Buchholz and Kelly suddenly find it again.

With Ryan Hanigan and Blake Swihart going down with injuries, do the Red Sox have enough catching?

Terry, Phoenix

I think they’re OK on that front. Sandy Leon is a good receiver, and they also have Dan Butler, a very good defensive catcher with a little power, at Pawtucket. Now, if Christian Vazquez ever went down, they’d be in real trouble.

Could the Red Sox use a full-time lefthanded-hitting left fielder rather than what they’ve got going out there now?

Sam, Melrose

Well, obviously, not having Holt out there has tested their depth, but Chris Young has come on nicely and looks like the guy who played so well for the Yankees last year. I would like to see a strong lefthanded bat out there so Holt could go back to being a super-utility guy, which is what he’s best suited for.


There are corner guys such as Jay Bruce and Nick Markakis available, but they would be costly in terms of prospects, and you’d like to use those prospects toward pitching help. You might as well try to get by with Young. The offense really isn’t a problem.

What are the chances the Red Sox could get someone as good as Sonny Gray from Oakland? Would a package of three prospects do the trick?

Jim, Plymouth

As we pointed out, the fact that Swihart and Travis are hurt and not available to be traded really hurts the Red Sox’ position because now they’re forced to deal other prospects — a Devers, for instance — that they would normally not want to deal.

Of the next wave of Red Sox prospects, who do you think will have an impact in the majors?

Gary, Dennisport

Wow, always a tough question. Hard to project this, but from what I’ve seen of Moncada and Benintendi, I’ll start with those two. Espinoza has an electric arm, and Devers should be an impact third baseman.

Of course the trick, as it was with Mookie Betts, is figuring out where everyone is going to play. Benintendi is going to have to be a left fielder. Moncada is likely not staying at second base, so he probably moves to the outfield eventually. Devers is a third baseman, but with Travis Shaw, does he stay there, or does Shaw eventually move back to first?


Having watched Aaron Wilkerson pitch for Pawtucket, I was very impressed with this kid. Don’t know much about him and never see him mentioned. What can you tell me about him?

Tim, Norfolk, Va.

Ran an item in my Sunday Baseball Notes about him. He’s an independent league guy who was signed by the Red Sox and has performed quite well. He throws 92-93 and seems to have a good understanding of the strike zone. We’ll see how far he goes, but he doesn’t seem to be in awe of Triple A.

Maybe Hanley Ramirez has become a good guy, and he’s not so bad at first base, but he’s hardly been much of a force at the plate. What’s going on with him?

Dan, Portland, Maine

I really thought he’d hit more home runs. That’s the part that’s startling for me. He’s a big, strong guy and he’s become basically a singles hitter. He takes unnecessary chances on the bases and keeps getting thrown out.

I know they wanted him to emphasize hitting line drives, but you’d love to see more power. Hitters go through these phases, I guess, and he’s in one of them. But you’d like to see more production from a No. 5 hitter. His .742 OPS is 114 points lower than his career mark.


How much will not having Carson Smith hurt the Red Sox, and do you think Dave Dombrowski should have made that trade giving up Wade Miley?

Rick, Swansea

I certainly have questioned it. I questioned it at the time the deal was made. It was hailed as a great trade by most because Smith was highly regarded and he has great stuff. But I remember the reaction of some in the Mariners organization who felt that Smith would break down because his delivery was so severe. They were right, and now he’s lost until at least next June or July.

Miley wasn’t great, but he did go deeper into games than most Sox starters. They took a chance, and so far it hasn’t worked out. They can still salvage something with Smith if he comes back and is dominant again.

I know Stephen Wright has been great for us, but can we depend on it to continue? He’s never pitched a lot of innings. Does that matter for a knuckleballer?

Betty, Duxbury

Great question, Betty. This is uncharted waters. Wright already has pitched 74⅔ innings, which is more than he’s ever pitched in a major league season. I know he throws a knuckleball, but he’s had only one start in which he threw fewer than 100 pitches. Does that catch up to him? He also throws a fastball that’s 86-88 m.p.h., which is fairly significant.

You mentioned all the relievers that might be available at the trading deadline. Which one would you go get?

Jack, Salem

Andrew Miller would be first on my list, but you’re not likely to get him from the Yankees. I like Jake McGee in Colorado. He has pitched in the AL East. But he would be very costly. Ditto on Oakland’s Sean Doolittle.

If you had to choose between a starter or a reliever, which would you get first?

Quinn, Lexington

I think they need to address the starting rotation first, but again, I just don’t see an obvious guy out there right now. Hill will be much sought after and you’ll wind up giving up more than you intended for him. As we get closer to the deadline, perhaps pitchers we didn’t think would be available will come into play. But as I said, this is a tough problem to solve.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.