Red Sox fans salivate at the idea of seeing their left ace return to the top of the rotation at Fenway Park. Prior to being traded, Lester expressed his willingness to return to his former team even if he was traded: "Yeah, why not? I mean, this is what I know, this is what I love. Like I've said many times, this is where I want to be." Ownership and fans alike should be cautiously optimistic at the prospect of re-signing Lester, but should also do their job in exploring other opportunities as they present themselves. Finding a proven ace on the open market is hard enough, but the fact of the matter is that the Boston Red Sox need to find a #1 and #2 starter before Opening Day.
The main issue that arises is the Red Sox salary cap situation after signing Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez. The Red Sox have a plethora of talent in the minors, but not should they trade away their farm system for an arm like Johnny Cueto or Cole Hamels? Maybe, but thats a different debate for a different day. The Sox officially introduced Sandoval at a Press Conference at 1 p.m. and Ramirez in a seperate conference at 6 p.m. In total, the Red Sox have committed at least $183 million in these next two players over the next ~5 years. According to NESN.com, the Boston Red Sox currently have roughly $182 million assigned in active contracts and dead money for the 2015 season. This leaves roughly $7 million for the Red Sox to spend, which will not be nearly enough to solve all of the Red Sox pitching issues. Boston desperately needs front end of the rotation pitching and bullpen relief, and the good news is John Henry is all on board. Moreover, Henry was very vocal yesterday when talking about the Red Sox ability to go over the Luxury Tax "cap," as they did in 2010 and 2011: “The way it’s structured, we can blow through one year. Again for next year, we have tremendous flexibility, so we could go could through for one year and not overly affect us.” So now the question can be asked: Whether Lester is with this team at the start of the season or not, what dark horse pitcher may end up in a Red Sox uniform?
Remember this guy? The Red Sox signed Sanchez as an International Free Agent in 2001, but was shipped with Hanley Ramirez to Florida in the Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell trade. While he is not an overpowering hurler, his variety of pitches seem to confuse hitters and he is therefore very successful. Overall, Sanchez has a 3.53 career ERA and would be a good #2 or #3 pitcher on a playoff team. Sanchez signed a 5 year, $75 million back in 2012 with Detroit, which should attract the Red Sox as he is only 30 years old. According to multiple sources, Detroit has been in contact with Boston about their outfielding slugger Yoenis Cespedes, who according to BaseballReference.com, has ~$9million left on his current contract. A deal centered around Cespedes would give Boston a proven arm, while remaining conscious of how close they are to the Luxury Tax.
Another familiar face for this Boston team. Masterson was drafted by the Sox in 2006 and quickly moved through the system. He was traded to the Indians in 2009, but loved the city of Boston. Since being traded, Masterson has developed into a quality middle rotation starter and would love the chance to return to the team that drafted him. Masterson made close to $10 million in 2014 and could be looking for a pay raise. Masterson is drawing interest from a number of teams, including the St. Louis Cardinals and the Florida Marlins, per Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.
Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner
With Yoenis Cespedes apparently on the market, many teams, including the San Diego Padres, seem to be interested in his services. Multiple reports have the Padres calling the Red Sox to see the availability of the Cuban slugger. If the reports are true, the Red Sox could look for a package deal including these highly regarded prospects. Tyson Ross had a breakout season with a 2.81 ERA in 2014 and Andrew Cashner battled through injuries to provide a 2.55 ERA in 19 starts. Although this trade may be overlooked because Boston is not receiving proven talent in return, the Red Sox should at least explore the idea of bringing on these pitchers that are on the cusp of being regular major leaguers.
Iwakuma may be the most underrated starting pitcher over the past 3 years in Major League Baseball. He posted ERAs of 3.16(12), 2.66(13), and 3.52(14), respectively. Since entering the league, Iwakuma has pitched at least 125 innings and posted a K/9 of over 7. Iwakuma's breakout season was 2012, in which he received voted for the AL Cy Young and AL MVP. He looks to be getting a big contract in the next year or two, but the Red Sox are having almost $60 million coming off the books next year. It sounds like a perfect fit: swap Cespedes for Iwakuma and everyone is happy, right? The Mariners are interested in Cespedes and Boston has been linked to Iwakuma for the past season, right? Not so fast. Although Seattle likes Cespedes, they would be fools to trade a proven all star for a year of Cespedes. Boston will have to give up more if they want this player.
by Pete Packowski @BiasedBoston