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With their latest addition of Vincente Padilla, the Red Sox continue their spree of signing old and terrible pitchers. To the frustration of many fans, the Red Sox continue to pass on established starters such as Roy Oswalt for the likes of Carlos Silva and Aaron Cook. Meanwhile, the Yankees acquired Hiroki Kuroda and Michael Pineda to create quite the formidable starting rotation. Simply put, the competition got a lot better. Did somebody just say “third place threepeat”? Probably.
Nevertheless, two observations can be made with these “low-risk, high reward” signings. For starters (pun) the Red Sox are really cheap. Secondly, Boston is clearly trying to imitate the 2011 Yankees’ plan of striking lightning by adding pitching depth with low-cost deals. The only problem? The Yankees did it the right way, while the Red Sox are doing it the wrong way.
Instead of overpaying via trade of free agency for starting pitching in 2011, New York opted for low-risk deals. Heading into spring training they were ridiculed, and deservedly so. A Yankees rotation that included Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon was unacceptable. Neither of these old and injury riddled pitchers had been effective for years. But to everyone’s surprise, these two exceeded expectations. Garcia put up a solid 12-8 record and 3.62 ERA, while Colon could boast a respectable 8-10 record with a 4.00 ERA. Sure, these players were only shadows of their former selves, but they were productive in the sense that the Yankees weren’t doomed to lose whenever they pitched.
But here’s the thing–both of these pitchers already had accomplished resumes. Garcia and Colon were both two-time All-Stars. Garcia led the league in ERA in 2001. Colon was the 2005 America League Cy Young winner. At one point or another, both were effective pitchers. If either could recapture just a glimpse of their former glory, the Yankees would be more than set. With a division title to show for it, the Yankees certainly did a decent job.
Roy Oswalt is apparently not happening. Instead we are reading about Carlos Silva and Aaron Cook coming to Boston. Fans are being assured not to worry– after all that this is what the Yankees did and look what happened to them! The only problem is that there is no truth to that whatsoever.
Most starting pitchers don’t get significantly better in their late thirties. As seen with the Yankees, Colon and Garcia had at one time been great pitchers. Their older, injury-prone selves were not going to pitch any better than they did seven years ago, but maybe they could accomplish just a fraction of that. The ceiling was high, albeit unlikely to reach.
On the other hand, these pitchers signed by the Red Sox have always been pretty darn terrible. Aaron Cook has only won more than ten games twice. He’s never thrown 100 strikeouts. Carlos Silva has had an ERA under 4.00 only two times. In addition to being insane, Vincente Padilla has a career ERA of 4.31, and has never had an above average season. My point? These pitchers are horrendous and always have been. Cook and Silva are 32. Padilla is 34. They are not going to get better. As a result, their ceiling is too low for even Dustin Pedroia. None of these three will ever be a decent major league pitcher, just as they never have. The Sox are better off keeping the ancient Tim Wakefield. I honestly think a Daisuke Matsuzaka or John Lackey months away from recovery could pitch better.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is the 2012 rotation you can look forward to!
It goes without saying that most low risk/low reward signings don’t pan out. For every Freddy Garcia, there is a John Smoltz or a Brad Penny. But the Yankees only needed Garcia and Colon to be not awful. The Red Sox don’t have the same luxury of only depending on mediocrity. Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and Clay Buccholz are not the most durable players around. The truth is, in addition to consistency, Boston needs some productivity.
If they want to turn to low-risk signings, they should be looking at starters who were actually talented at some point. Instead of Cook, Silva, and Padilla they should set their sight on Ben Sheets, Brandon Webb, and Rich Harden. Those names are coming from obscurity, but so are the excuses of starting pitching the Red Sox have signed so far.
As a last thought, Roy Oswalt is reportedly seeking $8 MM (Chump change for Boston). I know the math doesn’t work out perfectly, but at one point, do all these small scale deals approach or surpass $8MM? Sox management is trying to avoid spending pennies and it makes no sense. Maybe if we all agree to purchase Oswalt jerseys, it will compensate for his salary and the resulting luxury tax? In the meantime, let’s get excited for Vincente Padilla.
This may take a while…