As the Red Sox look to be headed for another lost season, I, along with many other Red Sox fans, I imagine, are looking towards next season. Some could say that this was a "bridge year" for the Red Sox, but with the largest payroll in team history, and 3rd biggest in the majors, no one thought that this team was going to lose 100 games.
Nevertheless, as the losses continue to pile up, I can't help but imagine what this team would look like if it had an ace. Whether they re-signed Jon Lester in Spring Training last season or traded for Cole Hamels prior to the start of this season, the glaring need for this Red Sox team was starting pitching, and it seemed like everyone saw that except for Ben Cherington and the Fenway Sports Group.
At this point in the tenure of Ben Cherington and John Farrell, winning 1 World Series and finishing last 2 straight years cannot be acceptable. The Red Sox need to return to the team that they were in the early 2000's, where they were consistently in the mix for a playoff berth.
Fortunately for the Red Sox, the impending Free Agent class has a number of viable options that would fit very nicely at the top of the rotation for the 2016 Boston Red Sox. And, under this ownership at least, it looks as if the Red Sox would rather open their checkbooks on a free agent then trading away young talent for a proven veteran already under contract. Lets take a look at some options that I would most like to see take the hill on Opening Day.
Johnny Cueto (30 years old)
There is a lot to like about Cueto, but there is also a lot to question. For starters, he is on the wrong side of 30, which we know the Red Sox, for some egregious reason, have a huge problem with. Another big concern, particularly for me, is the transition that he will face from the National League to the American League. I will be very interested in seeing if he has the same success with the Royals that he had with the Reds. Although he was just traded, the Royals do not have the funds to pay Cueto close to the quarter of a BILLION dollars that he is expected to make on the open market. If the Red Sox want Cueto, they will need to open their checkbooks, which usually is not an issue. But is he the right guy for the job? Not in my opinion.
Zack Greinke (32 years old)
Let me preface this by saying that he will probably not even be available this offseason. Greinke has the option to opt out of the remaining 3 years, $71 million left on his contract, but there is question at just how much more he could get on the open market. Greinke is having a season to put into the record books, with a 1.37 ERA and 120 strikeouts in 138.1 innings pitched, but he seems to love pitching for the Dodgers and living in LA. If he is available, the Red Sox should make a run, although it is highly unlikely that he would even consider coming to the East Coast.
Scott Kazmir (32 years old)
To be perfectly honest, I did not even know that Kazmir was still in the league up until a couple of seasons ago. The once Tampa Bay Ray has jumped around as of late, but revitalized his career with the Athletics before being traded away to his hometown Houston Astros in the past week. With a career best 2.24 ERA, Kazmir could be looking to get one big contract before retiring. To be perfectly honest, Kazmir is not a true #1 on a championship contending starting rotation. However, he could be a very serviceable #2 and could cash in from a team like the Red Sox that should be in panic mode come January.
Mike Leake (28 years old)
Who? I know, I am throwing out a name that many casual baseball fans have never even heard of before. However, this past offseason, the Red Sox were reportedly close to trading Yoenis Cespedes to the Red for a package centered around Leake. The numbers aren't eye-popping, as he has a 3.78 ERA in 20 starts this season, but he is still young and could turn into a very good #2 if the price is right.
Jordan Zimmerman (30 years old)
Zimmerman has long been linked to the Red Sox, so it seems only fitting that they will try and go after him this offseason. With Scherzer, Zimmerman and Strasburg, the Nationals have one of the best rotations in baseball and could even afford to lose Zimmerman, a luxury that most teams do not have. However, with the questionable health of Stephen Strasburg on what seems like a daily basis, the Nationals could be inclined to keep Zimmerman around and let Strasburg walk eventually. If Zimmerman walks, expect the Red Sox to be in on him heavily.
David Price (30 years old)
Last, but certainly not least, is my personal favorite for the Red Sox. David Price has been a Sox killer since his early days with the Tampa Bay Rays and would extremely nice in a Boston uniform. While the starting price for Price (see what I did there?) is going to be ~$200 million, the Red Sox should pony up and give Price whatever he demands. In 20 starts, Price has posted a 2.31 ERA and struck out an impressive 134 batters. In my opinion, he is a better version of what they had in Jon Lester. I'm sure that David Ortiz will even squash his little beef with Price and recruit the lefty hurler to pitch in Fenway Park for the better part of the rest of his career.
Other names to keep in mind:
Jeff Samardzija (31 years old)
Bud Norris (31 years old)
Mat Latos (28 years old)
Tim Lincecum (32 years old)
By Pete Packowski @Pete_BBS