Hot Stove 2010: Options for a SP

I started doing these summaries as one post, and it just got too darn long. I just ad to throw away my shortstop post today. Anyway, on we go to starting pitching.

The Sox rotation is young (apart from Tim Wakefield) and strong, but lacks veteran depth. Behind a budding ace in Jon Lester and a very solid Josh Beckett, we’ve got (at worst) a middle-of-the-rotation filler in Daisuke Matsuzaka and some young talent. The Sox could easily go their typically conservative route, or they can trade away some of those juicy prospects for an upper-tier pitcher:

Free agents
John Lackey (12-8, 3.84 ERA in 179.1 IP), 5/75M?

Trade bait
Roy Halladay (16-9, 3.15 ERA in 238 IP), 1/15.75M
Felix Hernandez (15-8, 3.25 ERA in 220.1 IP), $9-10M arb2
Josh Johnson (12-6, 3.34 ERA in 168.1 IP), $9M arb2

Lackey is solid arm (with injury worries), but I have some data suggesting that a move to the AL East might mean an ERA more along the lines of 4.09 next season. He’s just not worth the type of contract he’s expected to get. I am a huge fan of Roy Halladay, and think he’s building a Hall of Fame-type career, but in all honesty, I don’t see a fit on this team unless you plan to let Josh Beckett walk after 2010. That would make our rotation invincible this year, but giving up Clay Buchholz and Casey Kelly (as has been suggested) in order to upgrade from Beckett to Halladay just doesn’t seem worthwhile to me. Hernandez and Johnson are reportedly unavailable, so it would take a mountain of prospects to dislodge them from their respective teams.

And now, back to the less exciting but more likely conservative route. Rather than go for a frontline starter, we can fill up the back end of the rotation and have plenty of depth for the grueling season to come by signing one or two of these guys:

Free agents
Rich Harden (10-7, 3.69 ERA in 143.1 IP), 2/20M?
Justin Duchscherer (9-7, 3.66 ERA in 141 IP), 1/5M + incentives?
Ben Sheets (6-4, 3.54 ERA in 90 IP), 1/5M + incentives?
Erik Bedard (7-4, 3.49 ERA in 96.2 IP), 1/6M + incentives?
Mark Mulder (no projection), 1/3M + incentives?

Trade bait
Edwin Jackson (12-11, 4.28 ERA in 196.2 IP), $4-5M arb2
Jake Westbrook (4-4, 4.13 ERA in 73.1 IP), 1/11M
Gil Meche (10-10, 4.21 ERA in 164.1 IP), 2/24M
Aaron Harang (9-11, 4.27 ERA in 177 IP), 1/14.5M
Bronson Arroyo (13-12, 4.45 ERA in 213 IP), 1/11M
Derek Lowe (14-11, 3.88 ERA in 199.2 IP), 3/45M

There’s no shortage of options here. Out of the injury-risk guys, their lack of playing time and injury questions make these projection numbers just about useless. At least Harden was able to pitch in the second half of 2009. He’s your surest bet out of the gate, though who knows how well he’ll hold up? None of them were offered arbitration, so they won’t cost anything extra to sign. The Tigers seem hell-bent on unloading Jackson (who is not that bad, even after the 0.25 run adjustment), so there’s a possibility for a cheap trade there. We could absorb his salary easily. Westbrook might be interesting, though the price would be steep in trading someone AND absorbing $11M this year. Meche, Harang, Arroyo and Lowe all could be a solid #4-5 guys, but why pay so much for that? Arroyo and Lowe returning to the AL East could be a disaster, given their declining peripherals. No thanks.


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