Jon Lester

Source: Don't count on Red Sox going after 2 high-priced pitchers

Rob Bradford
September 12, 2014 - 6:01 am

Jon Lester and James Shields? Don't count on it. According to a major league source, the Red Sox' offseason plan doesn't include going after two high-priced free agent pitchers. There will be, however, undoubtedly heavy interest from the team when it comes to acquiring one top of the rotation starter. The idea of the Red Sox going after the likes of multiple top-tier free agent hurlers -- such as Lester, Shields, Max Scherzer, or Ervin Santana -- has been an intriguing one, especially after Sox chairman Tom Werner stated on Thursday's Dennis & Callahan show, "I wouldn't say that we have limitless money, but we've got a lot of money to spend and we're determined to go into the free agent market and improve the team." Also making the idea that the Red Sox might go all-in on the free agent pitching market intriguing is the uncertainty when it comes to their current starters. Clay Buchholz has reemerged as a candidate to be considered a top-of-the-rotation starter -- totaling a 3.18 ERA and .202 batting average against in his last seven starts. But there remains significant uncertainty regarding the rest of the group. If the season ended today, Joe Kelly and Rubby De La Rosa most likely would be the only other two slotted in for the 2015 rotation. It is believed that the Red Sox will be most aggressive when it comes to pursuing Lester, who is 4-3 with a 2.54 ERA since joining Oakland.  But the Sox also are known to have interest in Shields. The Kansas City righty -- who will be 33 years old on Opening Day -- won't bring the price tag of the former Red Sox lefty, but he won't be cheap. One executive recently surmised Shields could easily garner a five-year deal on the open market. Shields would also be valued because of his familiarity with the American League East and his experience in leading a young pitching staff. "He's kind of in the prime right now of what he's doing," Shields' former manager in Tampa Bay, Joe Maddon, recently told "He takes such great care of himself. He's so highly competitive. And the ancillary benefits to the rest of the staff are incredible because of the way he is." Maddon added, "He's not afraid to say what he thinks and he's not afraid to be confident. He's not afraid to be outwardly confident. I'm not saying arrogant, but outwardly confident. You have to be good to back that stuff up. It's not quite Joe Namath-esque, but it's a level below that. He's not guaranteeing anything, but he likes to say things in an attempt to force himself to do those things. It's like he has a self-motivating method, which I've always loved about him. A lot of guys are afraid to do that. "It's not unlike Jonny Gomes. He's not afraid of high expectations, whether you heap them on him, or he heaps them on himself. He's doesn't run away from expectations." So if the Red Sox had a significant amount of money to spend in a free agent market that possesses little in the way of offensive help, why wouldn't they allocate funds to go after two big-time starters? The answer is because they feel there is enough there already to fill out a contending rotation. Besides De La Rosa and Kelly, the other hopefuls include Allen Webster, Brandon Workman, Anthony Ranaudo and Matt Barnes. The first three haven't offered much in the way of security heading into '15, with Barnes impressing with his demeanor and stuff during a three-inning, scoreless major league debut Tuesday night. Perhaps the Red Sox' best chance at finding homegrown top-of-the-rotation talent lies just below the current crop in the majors. Henry Owens, Brian Johnson, and recently acquired Eduardo Rodriguez possess the kind of upside that might keep the Sox steering clear on multiple long-term deals for free agent starters.