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Friday, December 12, 2014

"Who Needs an Ace When You Can Get a Bunch of No. 3s & 4s?"- Red Sox So Far This Offseason

I refuse to be the reactionary type that calls into sports talk radio or bitches on Twitter and Facebook in the immediate aftermath of the Red Sox making a curious move in December. Nope, the Winter Meetings just concluded in San Diego and Boston has not one, not two but three new starting pitchers in its rotation (at least for the moment). Still, especially with the whirlwind of activity the last few days with the Red Sox, I want to hold off from completely bashing them since this can't be it, right?

It started earlier this week when Jon Lester finally made up his mind and chose the Cubs over the Red Sox (has anyone else ever done that in baseball history?). That set off dominoes all over MLB and locally, Boston traded pitchers Rubby De La Rosa and Alan Webster to Arizona for Wade Miley. Then they dealt outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, reliever Alex Wilson and prospect (RHP) Gabe Speier to Detroit. Finally, they signed former Red Sox great Justin Masterson to a one-year deal worth $9.5 million with incentives built in that could add up to $2.5 million.

At best, these seem like reasonable moves. Webster stinks and De La Rossa has outstanding stuff but apparently Boston wasn't too enamored with him. Miley was not good in 2014 (8-12, 4.34 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 183 Ks, 75 BBs). Still, he was on a terrible team and he's a 28-year-old lefty that should be entering the prime of his career. Most importantly for the Red Sox, he should deliver innings. He went over 200 IP the last two seasons and nearly three in a row (194.2) in 2012.

Porcello undoubtedly has the most potential of this group. He's still only 25 (he turns 26 on December 27) but the former first-round pick already has six years of big league experience under his belt. He quietly improved with the Tigers (his only MLB home before now) but last season could be fairly termed his breakthrough campaign: 15-13, 3.43 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 3 shutouts, 129 Ks/41 BBs in 204.2 IP. The thing you wonder about with him is how he does with more pressure since he's been able to hide in Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer's (among others) shadows all those years.

Masterson is a Patriots-esque move: bringing back a guy that had moderate success with them then blossomed somewhere else but later lost it amidst injuries and general struggles (hey LeGarrette Blount). It's safe to say that last season was a disaster for Masterson as he was traded from the Indians to the Cardinals but never could find it, eventually excluded from St. Louis' postseason roster (keep in mind that he was an All-Star in 2013 with Cleveland). He came up with the Red Sox in 2008 and was part of the Victor Martinez trade with Cleveland the following year so he knows manager John Farrell and should have a good feel for what it's like to be a Red Sox.

I am disappointed that the Red Sox seemingly gave up Cespedes for less than I thought he was worth but apparently there wasn't a great market for him or something. Still, I realize that to get anything of value in a trade, you are going to have to give up a good player and not the last guy on your bench or some Single-A scrub that nobody knows. It would have been fun to see him get a full season in Boston in a real lineup with Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez after he was solid in his short stint here last season but what can you do?

Despite all this, the fundamental truth remains the same: Boston has no ace (you could also argue no No. 2 either) since who can trust Clay Buchholz or Joe Kelly to do that? The scary part is that the Red Sox always try to act like they are smarter than every other team yet here they are once again completely changing their focus. Their philosophy goes from one extreme to another each season: pay out their ears for overrated free agents, save money and sign veteran guys and most recently I guess they watched the ALCS this fall between the Orioles and Royals and thought "hey, aces are overrated." Wrong, the Giants captured their third World Series in five years thanks to Madison Bumgarner's singular brilliance. You can win plenty of regular season games with smoke and mirrors but eventually in the playoffs, their true colors will show.

Scherzer is a free agent that could command upwards of $200 million while Phillies ace Cole Hamels is thought to be available via a trade since Philadelphia is still rebuilding. Unless they get one of those guys (clearly I'd prefer Scherzer) or somehow luck into another top of the rotation guy, it's hard to get too enthused about the Red Sox in 2015. This team has finished in last place two of the last three years so it'd be nice if they acted with a little more urgency here. Fenway Park has the most expensive tickets in MLB and Boston had the fourth highest payroll in the league. In other words, there is no excuse not to field a contender almost every year with no salary cap.

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