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Yes, there are still starters on the market

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  February 3, 2012 01:11 PM

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Ben Cherington said earlier this week that it was unlikely the Red Sox would add a starting pitcher before spring training. But he also said that he couldn't rule it out.

To the best of my ability, here are the unsigned starting pitchers who could come to camp and actually pitch:

Rich Harden
Ross Ohlendorf
Roy Oswalt
Brad Penny
Tim Wakefield

Oswalt, obviously, is the prize of that group. He seems intent on the Rangers and Cardinals, two teams that do not need a starter. The Cardinals could try and clear room for him. At this point, the only way he gets to the Red Sox is by sucking it up and taking a bargain deal. Or John Henry realizes that his No. 5 starter might be Aaron Cook.

Here's the problem with Oswalt: He's the best guy you can get at this point but he would come grudgingly. That's not what you want, not in a place like Boston.

Harden and Ohlendorf are injury cases. I'd rather have Harden competing for a job than the likes of Vicente Padilla and Carlos Silva. But at some point you run out of innings for all these guys in spring training.

Penny was brutal with the Sox in 2009 and had a bad second half for the Tigers last season. Best of luck.

Wakefield wants to be in camp. But he had a 5.59 ERA, a 1.49 WHIP and opponents had an .846 OPS against him after July 1 last season. He also turns 46 in August. At some point, being realistic trumps being sentimental and maybe the Red Sox are at that point.

The other issue is this: Let's say they invite Wakefield to camp and tell him there are no promises. The only way he makes the team is to pitch really well. You're putting Bobby Valentine in a tough spot. The last thing a new manager wants is to be the guy who cuts the beloved civic icon.

It's a complicated issue with little upside. What would be the very best you could expect from Wakefield? It's probably 130 innings and a 4.50 ERA or so. That's the top line. Is that worth the risk of Wakefield pitching poorly and ending his career ignominiously?

Pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 19 and it's Feb. 3. Based on that, it looks like the Red Sox have made their decision on Wakefield.

But as Cherington says, you can't rule anything out.

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