The latest rumor swirling around Red Sox nation’s hot stove were trade talks between the Sox and the Kansas City Royals that involved Jon Lester and hot-shot Royals prospect Wil Myers. The rumors were shot down by Sox brass saying that they rejected the Royals offer.
Tis’ the season.
If Ben Cherington really did show Royals GM Dayton Moore the door here, it not only a smart move, but the right move as well as the obvious move.
The sentiment is simple: starting pitching is too precious an asset to give up for hitting.
There’s no arguing that the once-powerful Red Sox lineup has more holes than a golf course and needs some serious patching up. Wil Myers, who hit .314/.387/.600 with 37 HR and 109 RBI between two minor league levels in 2012, earning him Minor League Player of the Year honors, could solve some of those problems. But so could free agent Mike Napoli, who has been spent his last two seasons in Texas, if he signs with Boston.
Napoli comes with no compensation.
Meanwhile, the Sox have to give up a 28-year old lefty starter who reached the 15-win plateau every year from 2008-2011, finishing as high 4th in the Cy Young voting. A guy who the Sox made the ever-foolish, ever-desperate move of a managerial trade in hopes that new skipper John Farrell would get him back to where he was in 2010.
Yes, Lester’s been awful since September 2011. He had the worst year of his career in 2012. You can dump him for a prospect, but how do you replace him?
The market for pitching is terrible. The top pitcher on the free agent market is Zack Grienke, who would be the most sought-after free-agent, someone the Red Sox and Yankees getting into bidding wars over, had he not have questions about how his psyche would hold up in a market like Boston or New York.
Outside Grienke, the top names include Kyle Lohse, Dan Haren, Jake Peavy, Edwin Jackson, Shaun Marcum, and Anibal Sanchez. None of these guys are top-of-the-line starters. Not the type of starter that Jon Lester is capable of being, which is a guy who can carry a pitching staff.
The best market comes through a trade. But if you want to get David Price or Felix Hernandez, you’re going to have to give up an arm, a leg, a kidney, and maybe a lung to get those guys.
The reason for the poor market: you can never have too much pitching. Offense will get you through a series or a homestand. Pitching will get you through a season.
Look at teams like the Rays, who have had anemic offenses over the years yet won the 2008 AL Pennant and have been to the playoffs twice in four years since. Or the Giants, who have pitched their way to two World Series Championships in 3 years.
When the Angels went 41-24 from April 28 (Mike Trout debut) to the All Star Break, not only did they have Trout playing at an out-of-this-world level, which did help, but they also had dominant pitching.
Jared Weaver was the best pitcher in baseball, going 7-1 with a 1.92 ERA over 10 starts in which the Angels went 9-1 in those starts.
CJ Wilson made 14 starts, going 7-3 with a 2.43 ERA, the Angels going 11-3 when he took the hill.
Ervin Santana, who had a horrendous April, allowed 3 earned runs or fewer in 7 of 11 outings between April 29 and June 23.
Ernesto Frieri came to Anaheim from San Diego in a May 5 trade, and made 26 appearances before the All Star Break, throwing 26.1 shutout innings and holding opposing batters to a .096 average while saving 11 games.
Following the break, Trout continued to play at an astronomic level. The pitching fell off. The Angels would tread water the rest of the way and end up missing the playoffs.
September 2011. Anyone remember that? Better yet, remember Jacoby Ellsbury? He raked. He carried the team through the month. He was the hardest out in baseball. Yet the Red Sox still went 7-20, blowing an 8 1/2 game lead in the Wildcard race and missing the playoffs.
The main culprit – no pitching.
So the Red Sox can use members of the pitching staff as trade bait to give their lineup a shot in the arm. A big bat can boost the offense and make it one of the league’s best once again.
But without pitching, the team won’t get any better.