The Boston Globe recently published a piece on Michael Bowden and reported that over his last 10 starts for Double-A Portland, Bowden’s gone 5-1 with a 1.40 ERA. He also boasts an ability to keep the ball down, having surrendered just one home run in his last 60.1 IP, three in 82 innings. Not bad for a 21-year old.
Despite his young age, his 2.20 ERA speaks to the fact that Bowden has come along tremendously since being drafted in the 2005 first draft out of a high school in llinois. Remember, this is the man that had no problem with Lancaster, starting eight games with a 1.37 ERA before being bumped up to Portland. As a 20-year old, he had a 4.28 ERA the rest of the way in Portland. Pitches with a few extra years on him don’t have statistics as good as he does in Portland.
We’ve seen the Red Sox reach down to Double-A when needed, and this year saw Justin Masterson do that. Masterson has taken the league by storm and has a 3.00 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 36 innings at the major league level. Even though he’s an impressive 4-1, he’s not likely to stick once Bartolo Colon returns from the disabled list so the Red Sox can more aggressively monitor his pitch count.
Who’s to say that Bowden can’t follow Masterson in making a rapid rise to the top? The Red Sox are so steeped in pitching talent in the minor leagues that it’s hard to fathom him being called upon for an emergency start later in the year, but stranger things have happened. If he continues on the roll he’s at, he’ll find himself in Pawtucket very soon.
He could also find himself on another team in a month. It is no secret that Bowden is now the king of all Red Sox minor league prospects with Masterson having hit the big leagues. Even though it’s always tough to trade a young pitcher with the numbers Bowden has, the Red Sox are one of the teams that has the necessary pitching depth to make such a trade should events warrant it. There are rumors flying that the Cleveland Indians love the potential players they could get back from Boston in a C.C. Sabathia trade (a trade I am against for a multitude of reasons) with Bowden being the key.
Even if we have no interest in Sabathia, who’s to say we couldn’t get a high impact reliever (Brian Fuentes?) with a deal that involves Michael Bowden? Or what about in the offseason, acquiring one of the better minor league catchers? Or packaging him to dump Julio Lugo? The list goes on.
Or maybe we keep Bowden. He breaks into the big leagues next year and we have a bonafide starter to count on in 2010. That gives us Beckett, Matsuzaka, Masterson, Lester, Buchholz and Bowden to play with (assuming ageless wonder Tim Wakefield retires). If there was ever a reason to go to a six-man rotation, this is it.
But it’s not going to happen, which means one of two things. The first is that one of the above becomes a reliever (and we all know who that would be: Justin Masterson) or one of the above is traded. For the least impact on the major league club this year and the next couple of years, Michael Bowden is the logical answer to the piece most likely to be traded.
It’s certainly snuck up on us, but this is the last full week of June. That means the calendar flips to July, and with that brings a lot of trade rumors. Will the rumors live up to the billing? They never do. But one name to keep a close eye on in rumors involving the Red Sox are Michael Bowden.
If we trade Bowden, it’s for a clear need at a position that we aren’t steeped in. It would be for a quality player. Quality begets quality. However, if you keep Bowden… well, there are certainly worse things that could happen. If Bowden is kept, on the track he’s on, we’re going to have to move someone else even if Tim Wakefield retires. Perhaps we could allow Josh Beckett to walk when he’s a free agent after 2010, but I don’t see that happening.
If you put a gun to my head and force me to choose which avenue to go with Bowden, I say that we should deal him for a need that will give our major league club a boost for this and the coming years. (In other words, no Eric Gagne-type deal.) But hey, if we hang onto him, we have tremendous depth to battle potential attrition and injury. It’s a good dilemma to have.
What do you think? Should Bowden stay or go? This year? Next year?