Buster Olney

Buster Olney on MFB: Red Sox could pursue 'big-money starter' in offseason

July 08, 2015 - 9:50 am

ESPN baseball analyst Buster Olney made his weekly appearance on Middays with MFB on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the AL East, Red Sox pitching and the team's options at the trade deadline. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page. Now 8-4 in their last 12 games, the Red Sox have managed to climb to within five games of first in the AL East. It helps a bit that no other team in the division has a record above .500 in its last 10 games, making the margin between first and last even smaller than it previously was. "Welcome to the division," Olney said. "The issues going on with all the teams, they're going to continue because there's no great team in this division, and there's going to be an opportunity, and it'll be interesting to see if the Red Sox ride it out and what their approach will be with 23 days left to the trade deadline." Olney pointed out that heading into Monday evening, everyone in the American League was within 6 1/2 games of a playoff spot. Because of how tight the league is, there isn't much happening in terms of trades. Teams will start declaring themselves buyers or sellers within the next few weeks, according to Olney, but for now there isn't much more than a few rumblings. "When you talk to general managers, they say in general, the trade market continues to be frozen in place. There are very few teams that are actually out there willing to talk," he said. "There has been, from what I understand, some movement. The perception of the Reds, for example, is that they are doing preparation work for the possibility of trading Johnny Cueto, maybe Aroldis Chapman, but for the most part, there's not a lot going on right now." Olney added that the Red Sox could use help in the bullpen, one of the issues they might not be able to fix based on who they have in the system alone. A relief arm might be harder to come by for the Sox than an addition to the rotation might be, though. "For the most part, except for a case like Andrew Miller, an isolated instance, you don't see a lot of return [for relief pitchers]," he said. "Some teams in recent years have hung onto the relievers because what you get back from the general managers is you know what, we're not being offered that much because of the volatility of relievers and the work that they do, and some teams just decided in the end, 'You know what, we'll just hang onto them for the rest of the year and he can help us win a few more games.' " The Sox also are open to the idea of acquiring someone who is a rental depending on how they play before the deadline, according to Olney. "It's not only necessarily about the controllable piece," he said. "If they feel like they've got some momentum, then who knows, maybe they'll get involved in the conversations with some of the better pitchers, the better starters." Olney said he's heard from executives who've been in contact with the Red Sox that their main priority right now is getting a "big-time starting pitcher to the point that there's speculation from other front offices that they will pursue a starter in the offseason, maybe the big-money type of guy that they didn't get last winter." For now, Olney said the the expectation of people he's spoken to with other teams is that the Red Sox will keep Clay Buchholz because he'd be very difficult to replace. "When you look at it, where are you going to find in the trade market a guy pitching as well as Buchholz is pitching," he said. "And not only is his salary -- [$]13 million for next year, [$]13.5 million for the year after that -- very reasonable, but also the whole option part of it where the team is essentially protected from any high-end risk because at some point after each of the next two years, they can walk away from the deal. That's hard to replace, that type of experience, that type of performance and that type of flexibility." Following are more highlights from the conversation. For more Red Sox news, visit the team page at weei.com/redsox. On Wednesday night being an important start for Rick Porcello: "I think it's big, although I'm not going to say this is the biggest start of the year or anything like that, but let's face it, some form of progress needs to be had. I know that they've talked with him about pitch selection and trying to get back that good sinking fastball that he's had because, for whatever reason, maybe it's because of the shift and different things that he was trying, different pitch combinations, that great sinker, which was his bread and butter with the Tigers, just hasn't been there. Maybe it's his use of different pitches that has contributed to that, maybe it's some sort of mechanical thing, but that's the big thing I'm going to watch for tonight and you do wonder if, with Ryan Hanigan back, if this is something that's going to help him because it seemed like before Hanigan got hurt, those two guys were on a roll together. On Brock Holt representing the Red Sox at the All-Star Game instead of Xander Bogaerts: "I was surprised. When I turned in my team last week, I had Bogaerts on the team, and you figure that that was the way you'd normally go. You don't very often see where utility guys were picked. I spent last weekend around the Giants and talked a lot with Bruce Bochy and he was thinking about picking a utility player as well, but for the most part managers stick with guys who hold down one position, and Xander Bogaerts clearly would be that guy. But we do know that managers in that situation where theoretically that game counts, home field advantage is riding on it, they don't want to get into a situation in extra innings where they're looking for a guy that can play a particular position. They don't want to ask someone that's not their player to play at a place, and I'm sure that's part of what made Brock, besides the fact he's played great, really attractive to Ned Yost." On whether Mike Napoli might be on the move: "Let's face it, when they're at the point when they're at midseason and you have John Farrell qualifying his answers about him, essentially saying 'as of today' or 'as of this minute,' then yeah. I mentioned I was around the Giants this weekend and Bruce Bochy is someone who really absolutely is open to the idea of making change when change is needed because his feeling is you've got to try something. Well that's kind of where the Red Sox are with Mike. They run out half a season, they're trying to get back in, they've got to try something different, and they are, and I do think there probably would be a landing spot. I think Detroit is a great example that, and the Red Sox aren't going to get anything of real value out of it but maybe the Tigers eat a little bit more of that money or the Mariners eat a little bit more of that money to make something happen so the Red Sox can save a little bit of dollars. But it hasn't worked out for Mike, hasn't worked out for the Red Sox this year and I don't blame them for making a change."