BOSTON (CBS) — The Red Sox have ridden their prolific offense to an American League-best 32-22 record. The outstanding start for the lineup, led by David Ortiz, Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, and Jackie Bradley Jr., has largely covered up for the team’s very real problems on the pitching staff.
The issue has reared its ugly head in recent days for the Red Sox staff, which allowed 25 runs in the past two games to the Baltimore Orioles, including seven home runs Thursday night. In addition to a lack of depth and reliable arms in the bullpen, the starting rotation could also simply use some help.
Unfortunately, as national baseball writer John Heyman noted with Zolak & Bertrand on Friday, the market for top-of-the-rotation starting pitchers is super-thin right now and the pool could still be shallow come the July 31 trade deadline.
There are, however, veteran options languishing on weak teams that could be in sell mode this summer. While a high-end starter like Jose Fernandez of the Miami Marlins would be a huge addition, it’s much more likely the Red Sox will be able to go the veteran route.
These names may not jump off the page at you, but they may be relatively affordable, could be motivated to pitch well down the stretch for a new contract, and would certainly upgrade the middle-to-back-end of the rotation while providing some depth.
Julio Teheran, Atlanta Braves
At 25, Teheran is the youngest of the possible names the Red Sox could target. He’s also one of the best-performing arms right now: He has a 2.77 ERA with 62 strikeouts in 68 innings. However, considering his performance and that he is signed through 2019 for just $25.3 million over the next three seasons, Teheran could come with the biggest price tag.
Rich Hill, Oakland Athletics
A familiar name to Red Sox fans, Hill surprised many down the stretch as a member of the Sox in 2015, going 2-1 with a 1.55 ERA with 36 strikeouts in 29 innings. His late-2015 dominance has carried over into 2016, as Hill is 8-3 with a 2.25 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 64 innings for the Oakland Athletics. The 36-year-old might carry a higher price tag than other veteran starters, but at least he’s already proven he could pitch well in Boston.
James Shields, San Diego Padres
The numbers don’t look very good for Shields. He’s walking more guys and striking out less, and his velocity is down a couple of ticks from a few years ago. But the 34-year-old should have something left in the tank and has plenty of experience pitching in the American League East as a former member of the Tampa Bay Rays. Most importantly, Shields could at least gobble up innings to save the arms in the bullpen. (UPDATE: James Shields has been traded to the Chicago White Sox.)
The issue with Shields could be his contract because he is due $21 million over each of the next two seasons, but that number could drive down his price tag.
Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Weaver has suffered from an even larger dip in velocity than Shields, and his ERA has risen every season since 2011; it’s up to 5.40 through 10 starts in 2016. But Weaver is actually walking guys at a lower rate than his career average and will be pitching for a new contract. He could fetch a low price and benefit from a change in scenery.
Ervin Santana, Minnesota Twins
Santana, a 12-year veteran, has consistently shown an ability to rack up big innings over the course of a season throughout his career. Last year was the first time since 2009 that Santana failed to reach at least 30 starts or 178 innings. Though he’s also been streaky over his career, Santana would certainly be a boost to the back-end of the rotation and conserve innings for the bullpen in the second half of the season.
Who would you like to see the Red Sox acquire in a trade? Share your ideas in the comments.