By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
It says everything about the quality of available starting pitchers on the trade market that the two names most closely linked to the Red Sox in the last few days are Rich Harden and Erik Bedard.
As the Red Sox hunt for other options while their own Clay Buchholz (lower back) continues his rehab, they're left contemplating two starters who have had difficulty staying healthy.
The left-handed Bedard (knee) is coming off the disabled list Friday for a start against Tampa Bay which will be monitored by the Red Sox and other pitching-starved clubs. Of course, injuries are nothing new for Bedard, who hasn't pitched more than 90 innings in a single season since 2007 and has totalted just 45 starts over the last 3 12 seasons.
It's much the same with Harden, who has topped the 100-inning plateau only twice since 2005.
Both pitchers may be worth it for the short-term. The Red Sox aren't interested in either as long-term solutions, but rather, the final two months of the season and into the post-season.
The asking price on Bedard, however, is said to be prohibitive. One team calling on Bedard said Tuesday night that the Mariners were asking a "ton'' in return, which signals just how thin the pitching market is, or, at the very least, the Mariners' over-inflated sense of Bedard's worth.
Buchholz's mound session Monday was encouraging, and Wednesday's follow-up will be critical. If Buchholz can continue to make progress without feeling restricted, the Sox can reasonably expect to have him back in the rotation by the end of August.
If his comeback effort were to be slowed, however, the Red Sox desperation for pitching help might be intensified.
Andrew Miller's rough outing Tuesday (seven runs on nine hits in just 3 23 innings) was evidence that the lefty remains a work in progress.
Without Buchholz in the picture, the Sox would need to start both John Lackey and either Miller or Tim Wakefield in an ALCS, when four starters are required.
But upgrades, as they are finding, are not easy to come by. The Sox continue to check in with the Colorado Rockies on Ubaldo Jimenez, but they're behind the Yankees and at least one other National League suitor (Cincinnati?) for the righthander.
The Yankees could package catcher Jesus Montero and at least one other high-end prospect for Jimenez, while the Red Sox inventory of top-level prospects has been thinned by the Adrian Gonzalez deal last December.
(The Yankees' starting rotation need, it should be noted, is greater than that of the Red Sox).
Moreover, the Red Sox continue to ask -- as executives with other teams have wondered -- why Jimenez is on the market at all. At just 27, Jimenez is signed through the end of 2012 with two affordable team options (5.75 million in 2013 and 8 million in 2014), making his availability something of a red flag.
Said one executive recently: "If (the Rockies) are shopping him, that tells me he's either hurt or they think he'll get hurt.''
A Rockies scout was at Fenway Tuesday, indicating that the Red Sox are least somewhat involved on Jimenez. (The Red Sox have a passing interest in Colorado outfielder Ryan Spilborghs, but he would fetch only an average prospect, and not someone off Boston's 25-man roster.)
Meanwhile, the continued standout play of Josh Reddick (1.022 OPS) means the Red Sox' search for an outfielder has been placed on the back burner.
While the likes of Spilborghs and Reed Johnson are still somewhat in play, one baseball source said deals for secondary outfielders are likely to intensify only after trades involving Carlos Beltran and B.J. Upton are made.
The Sox have not inquired on Upton, knowing full well that the Rays won't deal him within the division, especially since he has a contract through the end of next season.
Texas, Atlanta and San Francisco are the teams most involved on Beltran, with the Red Sox lurking in the background -- interested, but only to a point, given the asking price.