Red Sox Nation woke up Wednesday morning to texts, Twitter notifications and SportsCenter alerts letting them know that Jon Lester had signed with the Cubs overnight. After holding out hope for so long that he might return to Boston after being traded at the MLB deadline, disappointment filled the air.
That disappointment cannot last long, though, as the Red Sox still have major work to do to fill out the top of their rotation. In 2014, the Red Sox had a starters ERA of 4.36, 26th in baseball, with teams like the Cubs, Astros and Phillies ahead of them. With only Clay Buchholz and Joe Kelly coming back as proven starters, work needs to be done and done quickly.
“We would like to ‑‑ yeah, we would like to add a couple of starters,” manager John Farrell told reporters at the MLB Winter Meetings earlier this week.
With a boatload of prospects and extra outfielders at their disposal, as well as one of the largest payrolls in the league, the organization can pretty much target anyone they wish via free agency or trade.
One of the more likely candidates for the Red Sox to now target is James Shields, who most recently led a Royals staff to the World Series. Shields, who turns 33 later this month, is as dependable a starter as there is, as the right-hander has thrown 203 or more innings in nine consecutive seasons between the Rays and Royals.
In his two seasons in Kansas City, Shields went 27-17 with a 3.18 ERA. He has struggled in the postseason though, as over four postseasons he has a record of 3-6 with a 5.46 ERA.
If the Red Sox do decide to go the Shields route, likely a middle of the road contract for three or four years, they would still need an ace to lead their staff as Shields is closest to a solid No. 2. This is where the Sox can use their available trade chips.Yoenis Cespedes leads that group as the player likely to get the biggest name in return when packaged with young prospects. The Reds have made it clear that they are interested in adding an outfielder and willing to deal some of their rotation. Leading that group of players is Johnny Cueto, who finished second in the NL Cy Young Award voting, as he went 20-9 with a 2.25 ERA in 2014. Cueto would be the type of pitcher to lead the Red Sox’ rotation, but it remains to be seen what would need to be given up in order to acquire him.
On Wednesday Red Sox fans didn’t get the news they were hoping for, but the next time they see a Red Sox alert, it will likely be a different story, as a big name pitcher is likely coming to Boston.