Joe Kelly and Clay Buchholz are no longer members of the Boston Red Sox starting rotation.
Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, David Ortiz and Jackie Bradley Jr are all fantastic baseball players, but not one of them can pitch.
The good news is that David Price, Steven Wright, Rick Porcello and Eduardo Rodriguez do make-up a solid front four, the bad news is that as of now, there’s no fifth starter.
Roenis Elias? Matt Barnes? Give Henry Owens another shot? Those are all possible temporary solutions, but not one of those options feels like a lasting solution.
Over the next 11 days the Red Sox have three days off. That gives the Red Sox something that no one can buy, time.
It isn’t much time though. Expect team president Dave Dombrowski and general manager Mike Hazen to be working overtime to find a starting pitcher who can get the Red Sox through what’s left of 2016, and possibly beyond.
Here are three realistic options that the Red Sox could pursue. Chris Sale is not listed. The White Sox have zero reasons to trade Chris Sale. Even if they were willing to entertain offers for Sale, the odds of the Red Sox meeting what would most certainly be an insane list of demands are very slim.
So Chris Sale is staying in Chicago, but that doesn’t mean the Red Sox can’t trade for one of these guys.
No.1: Rich Hill, Oakland A’s
I know, this would sting. After all the Red Sox just had Rich Hill, and he pitched really well for them, and then he was a free-agent, and then the Red Sox let him walk. Why did they let him walk? Well mainly because they thought that one, or ideally both Joe Kelly and Clay Buchholz would be solid starting pitchers in 2016.
Clearly the Red Sox messed up. That doesn’t mean they can’t atone for the mishap. Hill is signed through the end of the seaosn. The 36 year old lefty is currently 8-3 with an earned run average of 2.25. The contract is for $6 million, making Hill a bargain under almost any circumstances. He won’t come dirt cheap, but he’s not going to command a major prospect haul. He’s already 36 years old and he’s a free agent at the end of the season. Three or four month rentals just don’t command massive prospect hauls.
At the end of the day it is useless to look back at what we all now know the Red Sox should have done with Hill last offseason. Here’s an opportunity to try and correct the mistake, and improve the 2016 team in the process.
No.2: Julio Teheran, Atlanta Braves
Teheran would be a lot more costly than whatever the A’s would want for Rich Hill. Of course adding Teheran would also impact the roster for years to come.
Teheran is 25 years old. He’s signed to a very team-friendly contract, which most likely has him locked-up through the end of the 2020 season with an annual pay rate that never exceeds $12 million a year.
Teheran is just 1-5 this season, but that’s a very deceptive win-loss record. The Braves have the worst offense in the majors. Teheran has an earned run average of 2.77, whip ratio of 1.068 and he’s struck out 62 batters over 68.1 innings pitched.
Acquiring Teheran will be costly. The Braves are 16-37 so they’re not going to be asking for active major leaguers, but they’re going to want prospects, and that’s where this could get tricky.
First base prospect Sam Travis is lost for the remainder of this season and into 2017. Starting pitching prospect Brian Johnson has landed on the inactive list while he deals with anxiety issues. Another top young arm, Michael Kopech is injured as well. That means that three of the Red Sox top 10 prospects are currently injured.
Every team is going to ask for guys like Rafeal Devers, Andrew Benintendi, Anderson Espinoza and Yoan Moncada, the Red Sox will spend plenty of time this summer trying to convince would-be trade partners that they don’t want, or will not get their hands on any of those four prospects. When it comes to guys like Teheran, that’s going to be difficult.
The Red Sox have six other top-1o prospects besides the big four, but as noted, three of them are out-of-action. Could Dave Dombrowski put together a package that omits the franchises’s four most prized prospects and still lands the team a guy like Teheran?
It would be a major challenge, but that doesn’t mean Dombrowski won’t give it a shot.
Matt Moore, Tampa Bay Rays
Matt Moore will turn 27 later this month. He burst onto the scene in 2013, when he went 17-4 and made the All-Star team.
Tommy john surgery sidelined him for almost all of 2014, and most of 2015. His return from surgery has been rough. Moore has really struggled to regain his All-Star form. This season he’s 2-3 with a 5.46 earned run average. Moore has team-controlled options, and the Rays may end up deciding that they’d like to retain him for another year.
There are also reasons to think they’ll pass on picking-up his options.
The Rays are 22-30, they’ve lost five in a row, and eight of their last ten. On a team with many weaknesses, starting pitching is not one of them. Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Drew Smyly and Erasmo Ramirez are all very talented starters. Not one of them has a massive contract, and the Rays have more arms on the way too.
Alex Cobb will be back from tommy john surgery later this summer. The Rays top prospect is Blake Snell. Snell isn’t just the Rays top prospect, he’s one of the best starting pitching prospects in all of baseball. Snell made his big league debut in April. He was impressive in a spot-start against the New York Yankees. He got sent back to the minors, but he’s going to be a permanent fixture in the majors in the not-too-distant-future.
The Rays could definitely use some bats. The Red Sox aren’t going to give up any of their All-Stars for a guy like Moore, but with Moore not yet performing like the All-Star he once was, they’re not going to have to.
The Red Sox will be very cautious about who they send to the Rays, and the Rays aren’t going to be eager to ship Moore to a team within their division either, but if the price is right, and if the Red Sox think that Moore is on the verge of returning to the form that earned him a spot on the 2013 All-Star team, then there’s no reason to not make a deal.
Hill really does make the most sense for the Red Sox. Yes he’s old, and it stings to think that the Red Sox could have easily re-signed him last offseason, but trading within your division carries a lot of risk and guys such as Teheran will command far greater costs in terms of players and prospects.
The A’s are decimated by injuries. They’re 25-29 and 6.5 games back of co-division leaders Seattle and Texas. They have won five in a row, but they’re still below .500, and it seems far more likely that they’ll be sellers as opposed to buyers this summer.