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A quick glance at the Red Sox roster and you will see six quality starters on the Red Sox roster with five spots to fill. With an extra starter it would make sense to trade a veteran arm (Jake Peavy, John Lackey or Ryan Dempster) to free up some cap space in order to focus on more pressing areas. The extra cash could be helpful in landing big money free agents such as Brian McCann or Carlos Beltran. Trading one of the six starters seems to be a no brainer, until you look at recent history.
Last year, the Dodgers went into Spring Training with eight viable starters. They felt so comfortable with their pitching staff that they traded Aaron Harang to the Colorado Rockies at the beginning of Spring Training. Fast forward three months and they had lost Josh Becket, Chad Billingsley, and Ted Lilly to the disabled list. The Dodgers had to scramble at the trade deadline and ended up trading away three prospects for Ricky Nolasco.
The Dodgers ended up making it all the way to the NLCS, but at the expense of their farm system. Nolasco is a free agent this year, so they spent three prospects on a rental player. The hard reality about starting pitchers is that a team rarely makes it through a season with just five starters, and teams are better off standing pat with a surplus of starting pitching. If looking at the demise of the Los Angeles Dodgers is not convincing enough the Red Sox need only to look to the offseason before the 2006 offseason.
Theo Epstein’s Red Sox had an enviable amount of pitching. In a look towards the future Epstein traded Bronson Arroyo to the Reds for Wily Mo Pena. That year the Red Sox relied on starters such as Lenny DiNardo and Kyle Snyder and placed third in the AL East with 86 wins. Since 2006, Bronson Arroyo has been one of the most reliable starters in the game averaging over 33 starts a year. Wily Mo Pena on the other hand barely made an impact in Boston, let alone in the Major Leagues where he has not played since 2011. The Red Sox may be abe to get a better return than Wily Mo, but they should be extremely cautious going forward.
Jon Lester is a workhorse and should be good from April through October. Lackey, Doubront, and Dempster are solid starters and can be counted on for 30+ starts a piece. Clay Buchholz and Jake Peavy are different stories. Buchholz is brilliant when he pitches with when being the key word. The most starts Buchholz has made in a year was 29 in 2012 and has made an average of under 20 starts a year over his career. The man brought in last year to replace him Jake Peavy was durable early in his career, but has made more than 27 starts in a season once since 2007 (32 in 2012). There is no guarantee that either of them will make it through the entire 2014 season. Given all this it’s in the Red Sox best interest to hold onto all of their starting pitchers.The circumstances may change as the offseason breaks way to Spring Training. One or more of the young arms such as Brandon Workman, Drake Britton, Allen Webster, or Rubby De La Rosa may prove to be viable Major League starters next year, but until then the Red Sox should hold pat.