Now that my throat is starting not to look like something out of a George C. Romero movie, I can finally make that follow up post to my lineup post from last week. As I mentioned in that post, the Red Sox pitching rotation is pretty much full at this point. Barring a trade or a release, the Red Sox have a rotation of Lester, Buchholz, Beckett, Lackey, and Matsusaka through the end of the 2012 season. Unlike the cheap, homegrown talent in the lineup, this is a pretty damn expensive rotation, weighing in at just under $50 million in 2011 and just over $50 million in 2012.
Having five committed starters for the next two years also doesn't leave room for rising prospects Anthony Ranaudo, Casey Kelly, or Brandon Workman to get their feet wet or find part time work for potential starters like Felix Doubront and Michael Bowden.
For the short term, I think the answer is easy - go with the five guys you're spending the big bucks on, at least for 2011. You have to bank on Lackey and Beckett to bounce back, Lester and Buchholz were the two best pitchers on the staff last year, and Dasiuke is maddening, but seems to show just enough to keep you tantalized. Plus, getting an average of 6 IP a start and a 4.69 ERA isn't horrendous out of a fifth starter. As for the fringier prospects like Doubront and Bowden, the roster set up of the Red Sox seems to dictate their usage. They're loaded with starters, and the back end of the bullpen is a disaster, so sliding them in as relievers might make the most sense. Right now, the only definite slots in the bullpen are Jon Papelbon, Daniel Bard, Hideki Okajima, and Tim Wakefield as a swing man. That leaves two open spots, preferably one lefty and one righty, to be filled. To me, Bowden, a righty, and Doubront, a lefty who pitched extensively in the pen down the stretch fit those roles perfectly.
So sticking with arms on the team, I think the pitching staff should shape up something like this:
Looking outside the organization, Theo has made some noise already about going out and signing a reliever or two to shore up the team. Someone like Scott Downs would be a nice addition, but only if the Red Sox sign another Type A free agent like Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth. Quite simply, a reliever isn't worth tossing away a first round pick. Bowden also is a pretty big question mark, even in the bullpen. He took a step back in 2010, but some teams are supposedly still high on him as a starter, so it wouldn't be shocking to see him dealt for other prospects, creating another job opening in the bullpen.