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No matter what a team looks like at the start of the season, the mantra that you can never have enough pitching seems to hold true. With Clay Buchholz still sidelined with a back injury, Daisuke Matsuzaka done for the season, and John Lackey still doing his disappearing act on the mound, the Red Sox are actively looking at available starting pitchers.
The Red Sox are currently in first place in the AL East and have a comfortable lead over their competition for the wild card. The offense is rolling. The only remaining question: who do you turn to in games three and four in a playoff series? If Buchholz is back, this is less of a concern, but should he not return, there isn’t much after Beckett and Lester.
Ubaldo Jimenez made a name for himself in last season with his brilliant first half: 15-1, 2.20 ERA, holding opposing batters to a .198/.280/.302 line. To put it another way, Adam Dunn, struggling mightily this season, has hit .163/.297/.307 on his way to being among the worst players in Major League Baseball this season. Jimenez was a monster.
While his second half didn’t compare to the first, no one expected his early season struggles. At the end of May, his ERA was approaching six and he stood winless on the season. Since then, the Rockies’ ace has gone 6-3, thrown a shutout, and struck out a batter per inning.
On Twitter, ESPN’s Jon Heyman says the Sox are “aggressively” pursuing Jimenez, with the Yankees, Indians, Reds and Blue Jays also involved. While GM Dan O’Dowd earlier said that trading his pitcher would require a “Hershel Walker” type deal, rumors continue to swirl in Denver.
What would it take to acquire Ubaldo Jimenez? Likely more than the Red Sox are willing to part with. A big prospect like Will Middlebrooks plus much, much more. This could be difficult for Boston: the team sent a trio of its best prospects for Adrian Gonzalez, and Jimenez is signed to a friendly deal. He is making $4.2 million in 2012 with options of $5.75 million and $8 million for 2013 and 2014 and would be a solid number three starter behind Beckett and Lester.
Former Oriole and current Mariner, Erik Bedard, is another target of Boston’s baseball operations. Unlike Jimenez, Bedard is going to be a free agent this winter and has an extensive injury history. Indeed, he is on the disabled list now, but is expected to make his first start in a month Friday night. Bedard also missed the entire 2010 season after throwing just over 80 innings in each of 2008 and 2009. The Mariners also haven’t ruled out re-signing the lefty with the hope that together with Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda, Seattle could build a formidable rotation to try and sneak into the AL West race next year.
As of Thursday, Ken Rosenthal reported that the Red Sox are “all over” Bedard. With his injury history and pending free agency, Bedard would likely cost less to acquire than Jimenez and could pitch brilliantly for the rest of the season. The Rangers gave up a decent package, headlined by Justin Smoak, last year for then free-agent-to-be Cliff Lee, who had none of the injury concerns of Bedard, so the price on this year’s Seattle pitcher should be more reasonable. Maybe something similar to the Eric Gagne deal? While David Murphy can hold his own in the majors, the Red Sox haven’t missed him and probably would not have had any room on the 25-man roster. If today’s David Murphy is Lars Anderson or Felix Doubront, that might be the headline player in any Bedard deal.