Clay Buchholz threw another gem down in AAA this morning, going 8, giving up 0, and striking out 10. Over his last 35 innings, he's given up only 4 runs, struck out 37, and walked 10. He is, in short, dominating. And Mike Hazen hasn't minced words on what he's seeing: "He's upholding his end of the deal. He's putting the pressure on and forcing his way. It's a long baseball season. Something's going to happen."
Which raises the question. What, exactly, is going to happen, and when? This week, the hot stove has suddenly warmed a bit, and rumors have been whispered around the league that the Sox might soon consider shopping an arm or two. Which means it's our duty as Sox fans to begin the debate early, and flog this dead horse until he's really dead.
The proposition isn't ridiculous, even this early. The Sox have the worst starting rotation ERA in all of baseball (yes, in all of baseball), yet are considered to have a glut of arms. And the thing is, the worst of the bad numbers have come from what we would generally consider the surest things, and the least touchable players: Beckett, Lester, and Daisuke. Penny has been average, Masterson has been better than average, and Wakefield has been outright good.
This puts the Sox in an unusual position, but not a completely unfavorable one. No one in the organization thinks that the dry spell for the 1-2-3 arms will last all season, meaning no one would likely be quaking at the thought of relying on Beckett, Lester, and Daisuke for their wins. Meaning that the Sox best performers are relatively expendible at precisely the time when their trade value is on the rise. Add into that counterintuition that John Smoltz is due to be back in June (but is a highly unlikely trade chip) and Daisuke will soon be off the DL (as early as next week).
So, the situation comes down to this: is there any combination of Buchholz, Masterson, Bowden, Bard, and Penney that you wouldn't mind trading right now? At what price? How many arms do we give up? Just one? Two?
To my mind, the rumors starting to turn up are just that: rumors. The Sox have learnt their lesson well on starting pitching, and are more likely to live with overkill than risk a shortage. But what about Brad Penny. That's the one that gets me. Might there be any takers out there? A relatively cheap, veteran arm? He's shown that the injuries are no longer hampering him. Even if he's not going to be the ace he once was, he could be a solid middle of the rotation guy for some NL contender, and at the right price. Might the Sox be willing to move him even if just for some more outfield backup? That would still leave them with Beckett, Lester, Daisuke, Wakefield, as well as Masterson, Buchholz, and Smoltz. A backup plan, but not a glut.
So keep in mind the rumors have already started swirling, and that was before Buchholz's last two starts. And like our personnel guru said, the kid is forcing his way. "It's a long baseball season. Something's going to happen."