With Trade Deadline Looming Sox Seek Pitching Depth
The idea that the Red Sox are seeking a starting pitcher to add to this years disappointing staff has been a topic of debate in recent weeks. The issue that makes this year’s trade deadline perhaps more intriguing than in years past is the caliber of starting pitcher the Red Sox are pursuing. We’ve seen the Sox fill holes this time of year before, but never a hole this big; a high-end starting pitcher.
It’s no secret the rotation has failed to live up to it’s “dueling aces” front end hype from years past with Jon Lester and Josh Beckett. What’s even more concerning is that neither guy has hit a clear rock bottom yet. Lester’s four innings of work on Sunday were painful to watch, as the once-dominant lefty gave up 11 runs to a Blue Jays line up without slugger Joe Bautista. And Beckett has continued showing no signs of life in July.
There have been rumors the Sox have been pursuing Matt Garza, but those have cooled down in recent days. Now there are reports that the Red Sox have expressed interest in Miami Marlins pitcher Josh Johnson. Johnson, 28, has been far from an ace so far this season (5-7, 4.35 ERA), but has shown that he can lead a rotation in stretches of his career, including in 2010, when he was a Cy Young candidate with a league leading 2.30 ERA. Whether or not the Sox can acquire someone to lead this club every fifth day, they need to make a move of some kind before the July 31st deadline, for a few reasons.
Aside from the obvious (the Sox lead the league in offense yet sport a .500 record), the new playoff format has raised the value of having ONE quality starter even more. Ask yourself this; if Boston finds itself in the coveted one-game playoff (that it seems the rest of the AL is competing for), who’s their starting pitcher? You never want to be in a position where there isn’t a definitive answer to that question with your season on the line.
General manager Ben Cherington should be aggressively looking to make a move for another reason that has become extremely apparent: being a .500 team in Boston is exhausting. Players (some who have lived up to this season’s expectations after Septembers collapse) have constantly been asked for excuses and apologies since opening day. There’s no question that takes a toll, and we learned as much when former 3rd basemen Kevin Youkilis described the relief of not having to field questions for 45 minutes after every game.
I remember the days when Pedro Martinez would take the mound and the whole Red Sox team seemed to have more life. The Sox would look forward to his starting days the same way you or I look forward to a Friday. Not to compare Johnson (or anyone else in this league, for that matter) to Martinez, but there is a sense of mental support you get from having a reliable starting pitcher. The line up can look around and say to themselves “all right, it’s not all on us tonight.” The lack of a quality pitcher aided the sinking ship at the end of last season more than anything else and it has continued to haunt this team all season.
I am forever an optimist. As tough as this season has been for the hometown team, there are reasons to be carefully optimistic. With players returning from injury (and if you haven’t noticed the Crawford-Ellsbury combo has been refreshingly exciting) and Gonzalez finally heating up, repeat: FINALLY, this team is in a position where it can claim one of those wild card spots.
But they need help from their first two positions in the rotation. Whether it be by a rejuvenated effort from Lester or Beckett, or help from outside, this change needs to happen if the Red Sox want to do anything relevant in October.