I like the fact that GM Ben Cherington has put an emphasis on adding Triple-A depth with regards to starting pitchers, but at some point the real need needs to be addressed.

This team needs at least — and I emphasis AT LEAST — one more dependable fourth or fifth starter at the major league level. Period.

There have been plenty of rumors spread about: Roy Oswalt, Edwin Jackson, Gavin Floyd. But here we are, only a few weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training and MLB.com has the Red Sox depth chart set with Dice-K as the fourth starter and Daniel Bard as the fifth starter. There are two things wrong here: One, Dice-K is going to miss at the least the first half of the season and control is typically that last thing that comes back after missing such time from such an injury. Given how poor Dice-K’s control was before the injury, I think it would be a  miracle if he came back and was a real asset upon his return. The second issue is simply expecting Daniel Bard to smoothly transition into the rotation. Though there is plenty of reason for optimism, there is always that variable of: He hasn’t been a starting pitcher since 2008. Even if he does succeed, his innings will be limited.

In other words: minor league depth is great, always a plus to have, but let’s not forget that this is the AL freaking East and that this rotation needs not only to be deep, but rock solid in depth.

When we write down the names Beckett, Lester, Buchholz, we see a solid trio of starters. That’s the sort of 1-2-3 that could dominate in the playoffs. The only problem(s) is(are) that starting pitchers often — especially this group — miss a start here or there, find their way to the disabled list, or even miss more than a month or so due to injury.

Josh Beckett has had his ups-and-downs as a starting pitcher for the Sox. He seems to have developed this habit of pitching well, if not dominant, in odd years (see below).

2006 26 16 11 5.01 204.2 95 1.295 1.6 3.3 6.9 2.14
2007 27 20 7 3.27 200.2 145 1.141 0.8 1.8 8.7 4.85
2008 28 12 10 4.03 174.1 115 1.187 0.9 1.8 8.9 5.06
2009 29 17 6 3.86 212.1 122 1.192 1.1 2.3 8.4 3.62
2010 30 6 6 5.78 127.2 75 1.535 1.4 3.2 8.2 2.58
2011 31 13 7 2.89 193.0 147 1.026 1.0 2.4 8.2 3.37
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/29/2012.

This, of course, can be chalked up to randomness, but it does go to show that Beckett has been far from consistent with regard to not only his performance, but his health as well. He’s the type of pitcher that teams would love to plug in as their ace, except for the fact that he has had to deal with nagging injuries throughout his career. Lester, on the other hand, had pitched over 200 big league innings every season since since 2008, aside from last season in which he threw an injury shortened 191.2 innings. Buchholz struggled with a back injury last season — I hate back injuries, because they tend to linger — and besides the health worries, Buchholz continued to post a below league average K/BB rate (1.9 compared to the league average 2.3) and his home run rate regressed as we here at Fire Brand thought it would.

When Ben Cherington traded Marco Scutaro away, my immediate assumption was that there was a move on the horizon that would bring a solid starting pitcher into the fold. Since the Scutaro trade the club has signed Cody Ross, a decent outfielder with good numbers against left-handed pitching, but no move has been made to sure-up the rotation.
If Cody Ross is it, which I doubt, then the Scutaro trade will have been a waste. However, if this team acquires a solid, proven starting pitcher within the next few weeks, then all (Scutaro) is forgotten.
Until then, however, Red Sox Nation will continue to wait…impatiently.