The Red Sox are making a push to land a starting pitcher on the trade market and “prefer to act sooner rather than later,” reports Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (via Twitter).
Boston is said to be casting the proverbial wide net in seeking an arm to slot into the starting five behind Chris Sale, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez and the struggling Rick Porcello. The Red Sox re-signed Nathan Eovaldi on a four-year, $68MM contract this past offseason in hopes that he could round out the rotation behind that bunch, but Eovaldi underwent surgery to remove a loose body from his elbow in late April. He’s yet to return from that procedure, and even when he does, the organization plans to use him in the ninth inning to help fortify a beleaguered relief corps that went unaddressed in the offseason.
The market for starting pitching is thin but not barren. Madison Bumgarner is widely expected to be traded between now and July 31, although the Red Sox are known to be on his no-trade last. Division-rival Marcus Stroman is a likely candidate, too, as is Baltimore’s Andrew Cashner. Detroit’s Matthew Boyd is available for a high asking price, and it’s at least anecdotally worth pointing out that Red Sox president of baseball operations acquired Boyd for the Tigers when he previously served as their GM. Like Bumgarner, Zack Wheeler of the Mets is a free agent at season’s end and is a strong candidate to be traded this month. The Royals could potentially move southpaw Danny Duffy as well, and there will be other options beyond the group listed here.
As recently as last week, Red Sox owner John Henry publicly indicated that he didn’t anticipate adding “a lot of payroll” for the 2019 season. Boston is already the lone MLB team in the top luxury tax bracket, and any dollar that’s added to the team’s payroll will come with a 75 percent overage tax as a result. Boston can avoid paying a steep financial price by either acquiring a pre-arbitration arm or convincing a potential trade partner to pay down some of a veteran’s guaranteed salary, but either approach would require a steeper price tag in terms of prospects.
The Red Sox’ farm system isn’t considered to be particularly robust — although the oft-recited “don’t have the prospects to get something done” line is overstated. MLB.com’s most recent rankings of the Boston system credits the team with eight 50-grade prospects, while top organizational prospects Triston Casas and Futures Game participant Jarren Duran have both elevated their stock on Fangraphs’ midseason update.