Red Sox now escalating their search for pitching

Red Sox now escalating their search for pitching
December 20, 2011, 11:41 pm
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For weeks, as teams waited to see where Yu Darvish would land, the pitching trade market in baseball was at a standstill.

Now that the Texas Rangers have won the exclusive rights to negotiate with Darvish, the logjam that existed should break -- both for the remaining free agents and teams looking to move pitching.

The Red Sox, as active as any team in the game when it comes to searching for pitching, should find some clarity soon.

On the starting pitching front, the team continues to remain in contact with the Oakland A's (Gio Gonzalez), Chicago White Sox (Gavin Floyd, John Danks) and Houston Astros (Wandy Rodriguez).

Among free agents, the Sox are involved with both Roy Oswalt and Joe Saunders.

Oswalt, who had been seeking a multi-year commitment, is now said to be resigned to landing a one-year deal. That makes him more affordable for the Red Sox, who don't have much room in their budget for a big commitment, but would be willing to take a chance on Oswalt on a short-term deal.

Another possibility for the Sox is Joe Saunders, who was non-tendered by the Arizona Diamondbacks last week. Saunders would give the Boston a rotation a second lefty to go with Jon Lester.

The Sox have three starters set -- Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz -- and could potentially have another to round out the rotation if they continue with their plan to use both Daniel Bard and Alfredo Aceves in the rotation.

But they could use depth, too, and for now, that's limited to unprovens such as Felix Doubront.

In addition to filling holes in the rotation, the Sox remain in the market for a closer.

Mark Melancon, obtained last week in a deal from Houston, is unlikely to fill the closer's role, though he could take over Bard's set-up duties.

Ryan Madson and Francisco Cordero are the two best options on the free agent market.

For now, Madson is priced out of Boston as agent Scott Boras is seeking an eight-figure salary. Madson was on the verge of signing a four-year, 44 million deal to remain with the Philadelphia Phillies in November before the Phils abruptly changed plans and instead signed
former Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon.

The one path for Madson coming to Boston would be a willingness to take a one-year (plus an option) deal, as Adrian Beltre, another Boras client, did two years ago.

Cordero is the only other free agent with extensive closing experience and may constitute an affordable compromise choice. He's averaged almost 39 saves over the last five seasons.

Cordero limited opposing righthanders to a minuscule .465 OPS last year but lefthanded hitters compiled a .736 OPS, creating some questions within in the Red Sox front office about his reliability.

Said one baseball executive: "There are no perfect solutions at this point."

Finally, there is Andrew Bailey, who is also being shopped by the A's. The A's have requested outfielder Josh Reddick as one part of a package of prospects.

Sources say the two teams have also explored a mega-deal that would send both Bailey and Gonzalez to the Red Sox. But such a trade, coming 12 months after the team packaged three top prospects to San Diego in exchange for Adrian Gonzalez, would effectively clean out the Red Sox inventory.