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The search for pitching depth is a constant for all teams and the Red Sox are no exception. Are there any low-ceiling options available?
Planet of the Apes is a classic movie and a personal favorite. The scene where they cross the great desert wasteland – a sparse vastness with nothing of value. A barren wilderness with no promise of providing sustenance. Looking at the proverbial “low ceiling” list of starting pitchers that are free agents gives me that same barren wasteland feeling.
The Red Sox starting pitching is solid as any in baseball providing everyone shows up primed and ready to roll in April. Debate that all you want, but the historical evidence says getting an arm – even a wooden arm or a frayed arm is necessary. Think back to 2009 with the great projected staff and talk of a six-man rotation. By September journeyman Paul Byrd and a young Junichi Tazawa were getting starts.
So, I wandered through the list and rejected any lefties – Wade Miley? Look elsewhere. Brett Anderson and Derek Holland? Maybe the Yankees (fat chance) or ever desperate O’s will give you a call. And Jason Vargas? Never. No, the Red Sox are listed as “top heavy” in the lefty department. But if Clayton Kershaw was offered for a bag of balls that would change.
Then comes the next adventure and that is dismissing some known names such as Chris Tillman. An ace in 2016 and a pitching piñata in 2017. And fellow starter Ubaldo Jimenez? If this was 2010 he’d be rolling up the wheel barrel to collect his money. So, the idea is to think small. Small as in money and with it comes small performance possibilities, but you never know with that little round ball and the less than sane physic of pitchers.
One thought that crossed my mind was R.A. Dickey. As a knuckleball pitcher, the 43-year-old Dickey may be entering his prime, but we already have one K-ball pitcher in Steven Wright. Forget about Dickey. Move on, nothing to see here, folks.
How about Matt Garza? Garza has not won 10 games since 2013. What Garza did win is a $50 MM contract from the Brewers that produced 26-39 and a 4.65 ERA. Another “ace” (insert snarky comment) from the O’s 2017 staff is Jeremy Hellickson who went 2-6 with a 6.97 ERA. I’ll pass on “Hell Boy.”
Is there any value anywhere? I saw the name, Andrew Cashner. What I remember about Cashner is his ability to reach 100 on the radar and a rather respectable right-hander. Cashner is 31-years-old and did have an attractive 3.40 ERA. What was not attractive is his 4.64 K/9 rate. And that ERA? His FIP (4.61), xFIP (5.30) and SIERA (5.52) figures shed some statistical light on Cashner. Nonetheless, Cashner may be of interest.
I clearly remember Drew Hutchinson from his days with the Blue Jays. In 2017 the 27-year-old righty was with the Pirates or I should say their Indianapolis (AAA) farm club going 9-9. Hutchinson is the type of player you give a minor league deal and hope that some pitching magic happens in the minors. Last season there was no magic. Low risk.
Ricky Nolasco once won 15 games for the Marlins. Last season the 35-year-old righty lost 15 games for the Angels. A good note on Nolasco is a career 2.2 BB/9. The bad news is exemplified in 2017 with 35 home runs allowed in 181 innings. Some real tater competition for Rick Porcello, but if you need a spot start or a fifth starter he might be worth a look.
There are others such as A.J. Griffin (6-6, 5.94), Hector Santiago (4-8, 5.63), John Axford (0-1, 6.43), and a few others that are clearly classified as forgettable. Cashner and Nolasco fall into the category of where you will have to issue a major league contract and that may be an issue with the Red Sox along with the money.