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The Boston Red Sox have been rumored to be after just about every starting pitcher for the past fifteen seasons. There will never be a winter where the Sox aren’t in the running, even if it’s hearsay, for a free agent. With a little less than three weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training, we know for sure that starting pitcher Edwin Jackson will not be headed to Fort Meyers as a Red Sox. The 28-year-old Scott Boras client was a modest 12-9 with an ERA of 3.79 in 2011, which was divided between the Chicago White Sox and the Cardinals. The Red Sox had offered Jackson about $5 million for one-year, but were outbid by the Washington Nationals, who doubled their offer.
The Red Sox didn’t need Edwin Jackson, but he would have been a good fit as a back-of-the-rotation starter. He has very solid numbers last season and over the course of his nine-year career, has been the model of consistency and durability. Over the past four seasons, Jackson has thrown 806 1/3 innings, just missing the 200-inning mark last season for the first time in two years.
I really like this model of pitcher. The work horse is a much underrated member of the pitching staff. Most “work horses” aren’t very flashy, but they are valuable assets to teams, but once again, the Red Sox don’t need him. Boston already has a long list of fourth and fifth starter hopefuls for next season.
The Sox haves names like Aaron Cook, Alfredo Aceves and Daniel Bard vying for those last remaining spots. I have full faith that anyone of these pitchers could easily fit into this role and could very easily find themselves fairly successful on the fourth and fifth days. The back of the rotation doesn’t ask for much. They don’t have to be flashy or worth big money. Jackson will be a second or third starter in Washington and that’s great for him, as he’ll have a great place to grow and advance some more as a player. In Boston, he would have been fifth out and under the biggest microscope. This is something he may have considered in his decision.
Roy Oswalt is still out there and, to be honest, I’m not too big on him. Much like Jackson, Oswalt is a worker and he does have an advantage when it comes to playoff experience, but he just doesn’t fit with Boston at the moment. If this was three years ago, I’d be ecstatic just to hear that the Red Sox were even mentioned in the “Roy Oswalt sweepstakes.”
Today, however, I find it laughable that there are journalists even bothering with the phrase “Roy Oswalt sweepstakes.” This isn’t a sweepstakes. The team that “wins” Roy Oswalt gets a starter with back injuries and a declining set of skills. He missed 23 games for the Phillies last season and was only able to muster up nine wins and a 3.69 ERA. Yes, I understand that most of the blame on Oswalt’s season was his back and a very good pitcher like Mr. Oswalt could bounce back, but why take the chance? He’s not going to be the pitcher he once was and the Red Sox are in no position to take on any charity cases right now.
This isn’t the “bridge” year for the Sox, it’s a redemption year. They can’t test out players with one year deals and make experimental signings, like they did with Adrian Beltre a few seasons ago. Yes, that worked out well for the Sox and his career has been back on track ever since, but this is a completely different scenario. Beltre was a good hitter, who had lost it, coming into a hitter’s ballpark and Boston had nothing to lose.
In Oswalt’s case, he’s a good (but declining) pitcher coming into the AL East. There’s a lot at stake here. There’s a lot that can go wrong, I mean, I’m sure the Sox brand new GM doesn’t want to look ridiculous in his first year by signing an unnecessary pitcher who could very well be a bust. Anything short of a strong playoff run will be considered a failure for the Red Sox in 2012. The team is still very good with what they have.
What’s a one-year deal for Oswalt really going to accomplish for the Red Sox? If the top three starters can’t get the job done, then what chance do the Red Sox have? Oswalt or no Oswalt: the team’s success isn’t going to come out of the fourth starter position. It’s going to hang on the balance of the (hopefully newfound and rejuvenated) work-ethic and discipline of Beckett, Bucholtz and Jon Lester.