Will the juice be worth the squeeze? Photo by Kelly O'Connor of sittingstill.smugmug.net

Will the juice be worth the squeeze?
Photo by Kelly O’Connor of sittingstill.smugmug.net

Outside of Boston’s need for an upgrade at third base, the team must upgrade their starting rotation as well. After gutting their entire rotation at the trade deadline last season, Boston now has gaping holes with no obvious fit in mind. The good news is that the Red Sox have a ton of avenues to go down when rebuilding the starting rotation. By now you’ve probably heard of the teams interest in free agent right-hander James Shields, who is coming off his eight straight 200+ innings season. The former Tampa Bay Ray is no stranger to the AL East, after he enjoyed seven seasons of varying success in Florida. Over the past two seasons, Shields served as the ace of the Royals staff averaging a 3.18 ERA and amassing well over 400 innings pitched. While Shields is in line to make close to $100M on the open market this offseason, the 33-year old does represent the oldest of the big 3 (Lester, Scherzer, Shields), so his contractual commitment probably won’t go past four years. Of course, the Red Sox could always explore the possibility of bringing back Jon Lester, but their unwillingness to offer him an extension last season makes a possible reunion hard to imagine. On the trade front, Boston could explore deals for starters such as Cole Hamels, Johnny Cueto, and Jeff Samardzija. Of those three, Cole Hamels makes the most sense too me. The Phillies lefty is as proven of an ace as a pitcher can be(3.00 ERA, 3.27 FIP 2010-2014), he’s a work horse (200+ IP over past 5 seasons), and his contract is just what the team wanted from Lester (4 years, $90M). Of course, the biggest issue with Hamels is that he will cost Boston a handsome package of prospects. At least two of the Sox top prospects will need to be included in a deal, as well as some nice other pieces. Not to mention that dealing with Ruben Amaro Jr. is a pain all together. Point is, Boston’s options to solidify the starting rotation are bountiful, but require careful consideration.

  • Although Clay Buchholz’ outstanding 2013 season ended after just sixteen starts, the right-hander managed to show just how good he could do for the Red Sox. However, the 29-year old couldn’t find the same success in 2014, and posted the second highest ERA of his career. Buchholz’ hit-or-miss career thus far is very unsettling when discussing the future of Boston’s rotation, but is now the best time to cut ties with the righty? (Addition by subtraction: The time to trade Clay Buchholz is now)
  • Did the Red Sox acquire Yoenis Cespedes and Allen Craig as future assets or as future trade chips? At the time, Boston appeared to have struck gold by obtaining a slugger like Cespedes in a market depleted of big boppers. And Craig, albeit in the midst of a down season, looked like a terrific buy low candidate. But now, as the offseason rumor mill starts churning, both players seem like logical trade chips that the team could be used to land a large piece. (Cespedes, Craig could be trade chips for pitcher-needy Red Sox)
  • Perhaps the most interesting trade target for the pitching-deprived Red Sox is Reds ace Johnny Cueto. A career National Leaguer, Cueto is entering the final year of his deal with the Cincinnati Reds; a team in desperate need of a big bat. With Yoenis Cespedes to spare, the Red Sox and Reds seem to match-up well in a swap for valuable players on expiring contracts. (Making a case for a Yoenis Cespedes-Johnny Cueto trade)
  • While acquiring an ace is obviously one of the highest — if not the highest — goals on the Red Sox offseason to-do list, the team also needs to consider the secondary starters market. One name for Boston to consider is former Yankees right-hander Brandon McCarthy. The 31-year old does raise some red flags in terms of health, but his recent success makes him worth the risk. (Brandon McCarthy is an entertaining option for the Red Sox)
  • During the offseason, virtually nobody is truly 100% untouchable — unless your name is Mike Trout. So it doesn’t come as a surprise to know that the Oakland Athletics are willing to listen to offers on their starting pitchers. Jeff Samardzija, who Oakland acquired at the deadline last season, is one name that Boston should check in on. The 30-year old southpaw finished the 2014 season with a sub-3.00 ERA, while pitching over 200 innings for the second straight season. (Pitching watch: Samardzija another Sox steal from A’s?)
  • Tweet of the day: Sox could conceivably add a cat and a panda in the same offseason.