On Tuesday night, Jon Lester announced he would sign as a free agent with the Chicago Cubs, ending the Red Sox' hopes that they could re-sign their ace after they had dealt him to the Athletics at the trade deadline. It was a major gamble on behalf of the Red Sox, especially after they reportedly only offered him a 4-year/$70-million contract in Spring Training, and in the end they lost out on a pitcher they had drafted and developed who has helped pitch them to two World Series titles and publicly had expressed an interest in remaining in Boston.
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington has quickly rebounded, adding pitchers Wade Miley from Arizona and Rick Porcello from Detrit in trades as well as signing free agent Justin Masterson.
Miley cost the Red Sox pitching prospects Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, and a minor league player to be named later. While the loss of the promising De La Rosa could cause Red Sox Nation to lament this deal in a few years, Miley adds a young left handed starter with big league success to a rotation in need.
Porcello comes in exchange for Yoenis Cespedes, the slugging outfielder acquired for Lester this past July. With the Red Sox flush with outfielders and Cespedes due to be a free agent after the 2015 season, this was a move from strength for Boston. Porcello is also due to enter free agency after 2015 but he provides the Red Sox with another big league tested starting pitcher.
The Masterson signing looks to be a classic case of adding a player who has been successful but is coming of an injury plagued season. Masterson, once a Red Sox prospect, had been Cleveland's rotation ace before a knee injury derailed him in 2014. Gambling on a player's health can be risky but this looks like a good signing for the Red Sox.
Where does that leave the starting rotation?
Miley, Porcello, and Masterson join veterans Clay Buchholz and Joe Kelly as well as promising prospects Henry Owens, Eduardo Rodriguez, Anthony Ranaudo, Brian Johnson, and Matt Barnes as potential starters for John Farrell's club in 2015.
Of those ten, none would be suspected to be an ace this upcoming summer so it's likely that Cherington is not done adding pitchers yet.
While it's doubtful that the Red Sox would pay the premium price for free agent Max Scherzer one free agent possibility could be James Shields, who is coming off a season in which he helped lead the Royals to the American League pennant.
Trade rumors have linked the Red Sox to Cole Hamels of the Phillies, Jordan Zimmermann of the Nationals, and a slew of pitchers from the Reds.
If Cherington is to trade top prospects to gain an ace, the hope here is that it's for Johnny Cueto of the Reds, Cueto is one of the top pitchers in the National League and, at age 28, is young enough for the Red Sox to invest in him as their long term ace. Cueto is scheduled to be a free agent after 2015 so if the Red Sox were to package three or four of their top prospects for him, they would need to agree to a contract extension immediately.