The bats have been acquired. Pablo Sandoval has found a new abode and Hanley Ramirez has returned home. The defense is all here, mostly. All that’s missing is the rotation, and the Boston Red Sox are just getting started. The Boston Red Sox rotation headlines Clay Buccholz and Joe Kelly, but what could change between now and Opening Day?
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The Red Sox aren’t shy about declaring their want for free agent Jon Lester. Then again, neither are several other clubs from around the league. The Sox have reportedly offered Lester a six-year deal in the $110 to 120 million range and after inking Sandoval and Ramirez, are just $22 million short of luxury tax, which, according to John Henry, won’t be an issue this year:
"“The way it’s structured, we can blow through one year,” said Henry, answering a question from a reporter about whether the Red Sox could “blow through” the luxury-tax threshold for a starting pitcher. “For next year, we have tremendous flexibility, so we could go could through for one year and not overly affect us.”"
The list of those available to the Sox should Lester not return include:
The Philadelphia Phillies are considered most eager to discuss trading Hamels, who is signed through 2018. The Cincinnati Reds are most likely going to trade off Mat Latos or Mike Leake before Cueto, who finished second in the National League Cy Young voting this year. The Red Sox’ main trade chip is outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. The market for Cespedes is tricky. Nearly every club could use a corner outfield spot and right-handed power bat. Cespedes has only one year remaining on his contract and wouldn’t bring in any draft pick compensation as a free agent, thanks to a clause in his deal.
Below Cueto and Hamels, there is a list of second-tier starters who could in trade discussions who could lock down a number two position in the Sox rotation or even develop into an ace. If Lester is missed for the Sox, the most believable pickup would be Scherzer. With less mileage than Lester and a Cy Young under his belt, he could be the most dependable ace in Boston’s view.
Cespedes would only a starting point for a pitching deal – a piece of enticement to get the attention of other clubs. The Sox would have to dig into the farm to include prospects, as well as big league extras. It comes down to what the Sox are willing to pay in talent. With the burners just warming up on the Hot Stove, all we can do is sit back and watch general manager Ben Cherington build the rotation needed to aid a lineup stacked with power bats.