By all indications, the 2013 Red Sox look like they’re very much for real and appear to be genuine contenders for the American League crown this year. Being contenders means they’ll also be actively shopping at this year’s trade deadline – looking to upgrade any perceived weaknesses and shore up the boat for the last leg of the journey into the playoffs.

Jake Peavy bullpen session

White Sox pitcher Jake Peavy could be interesting.

One area the team may look to improve is the starting rotation. While the results have been solid so far, there are some concerns that there may be a few emerging cracks in the facade – notably with Jon Lester’s widening slump, Clay Buchholz’s annual DL stint, how strong John Lackey’s arm will be heading forward and of course – Felix Doubront’s innings cap. As such, the Red Sox will probably do their due diligence in the pitching market and could be in the mix for any one of a number of able arms. While it’s too early to identify many CLEAR CUT sellers, there are a few out there, all of whom have some intriguing pieces to consider.

While there’s a lot of work to be done to identify THE TYPE of pitcher the Red Sox would be chasing, there are some names that have been bandied about as potential fits here, of which we’ll take a closer look at today.

Let’s jump right in.

Shaun Marcum, New York Mets – While Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey continue to get all the attention in New York, Shaun Marcum has been a name that’s more or less floated under the radar. While his fastball velocity is down and his results thus far having been any thing but pretty (5.43 ERA), Marcum’s peripherals paint a picture of a pitcher who’d make a really intriguing buy-low option.

For starters, Marcum’s posting some of the best k/9 and BB/9 rates of his career while simultaneously posting a FIP that’s nearly 2.50 runs lower than his ERA (3.05). While he’s been lucky in the HR department, he’s had almost no luck with regards to both his strand rate and BABIP. His 3.78 SIERA really shines through the noise – making him a guy who’ll most definitely be worth keeping an eye on. And even better – he signed a 1-year, $4 million contract with the Mets this offseason, which means that whoever gets him will be should owe him a smidge under $2 million the rest of the way. With the FB velocity dipping, I’m not so sure I’d bother signing him past the end of the season, but as a two month, safe rental – Marcum looks really appealing.

Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies – If the Phillies decide to place Lee on the block, he’ll almost certainly be the best player available. The problem is – he comes with a price, and a steep price at that. Prospective owners would be on the hook for somewhere in the neighborhood of $60 million through to the end of 2015 with a vesting option that seems – at this point, at least – to be a slam dunk sure thing that would pay him $27.5 million in 2016. That’s a lot of scratch and a lot of commitment that I just don’t see the Red Sox wanting to take on. If the Phillies took on money, that might change things a bit, but between giving up prospects and the cost to acquire Lee financially, he just doesn’t seem like the kind of player the Red Sox would be interested in.

Jake Peavy, Chicago White Sox – Thanks large in part to the White Sox early season struggles, it seems like they’re going to be looking to offload some money come trade deadline time and Jake Peavy seems to be a player who’d bring back a decent return. Peavy’s found himself back on the DL with cracked ribs, but make no mistake about it – he’s finally re-evolved into the pitcher he used to be with good news on almost all fronts. His strike out rate (8.87/9) and SIERA (3.37) are both at four-year highs. His first strike % and LD% are both the best marks of his career. Considering that all this has been accomplished while pitching at US Cellular field, you have to feel good about his ability to transition to Fenway.

Yes, Peavy’s dealing with nagging cracked ribs, but depending on how they heal, that might actually drive his price down a little bit. There’s already a significant injury risk attached with Peavy, and with the money owed to him, he’d probably go for a reasonable price. While his health is always a concern, if Lester continues to struggle, Peavy would be an excellent complement to Clay Buchholz at the top of the rotation and more so- potential leverage over Lester in contract negotiations next year. Again – he needs to be healthy for the Red Sox to bother, but if he is, he might be one of the more reasonable options available that could significantly upgrade the rotation at a reasonable cost.

Matt Garza, Chicago Cubs – Granted, we’re dealing with an enormously small sample size here, but the numbers so far for Garza haven’t done much to boost his trade value. He’s sitting on a 4.12 SIERA and has seen his K% and BB% trend in the wrong direction the past few years. What it comes down to at the end of the day is that if the Red Sox are trading for a pitcher to make them BETTER, I’m not sure Garza’s a guy I’d put in that conversation, as he’s really not a significant upgrade over anything the Red Sox already have. A depth arm? Sure. A useful piece? Maybe; but the Cubs will likely be commanding a hefty price for him and I’m not so sure he’s going to be anywhere near worth what they’d be looking for. To make matters murkier, Garza’s not exactly a roses and petunias guy in the clubhouse, either. Not that it’d make a huge difference either way (he’s been in good clubhouses and bad with not a whole lot said either way about his contributions to said cultures), but it’s something to at least be aware of.

Yovani Gallardo, Milwaukee Brewers – While Kyle Lohse is the most expensive pitcher the Brewers have on the books, the best pitcher they have is probably Gallardo or at least until Wily Peralta figures himself out. As such, Gallardo would likely net a significant haul for the Brewers, who are in sore need of re-tooling. Acquiring him would cost a significant number of valuable prospects and based on what I’ve seen, I’m not sure he’s a pitcher the Red Sox should be considering. In fact, there are red flags everywhere. Not only is his velocity down almost 2 mph in the past three seasons, but he’s also failed to get through six innings in all but two of his 14 starts. When coupled with his ballooning LD%, he’s at best a more expensive version of Felix Doubront or at worst – a player who’s really only killing time until his inevitably long DL stint. Considering the cost of acquisition, I’m not sure he’s a worthwhile option at this point unless he shows significant improvement over the next month or so.