The Boston Red Sox And Wednesday's Starting Pitcher

NEW YORK, NY - Tim Wakefield #49 of the Boston Red Sox walks to the dugout against the New York Yankees on September 25, 2011 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

On September 26th, here's just about the last thing you expect to read about a team fighting for a playoff spot:

The Red Sox have NOT stopped TRYING to obtain a starter in a trade for Wednesday's game.

That's from Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, and the trade chatter cooled down a bit, with the Red Sox confirming that Jon Lester will start on Wednesday. So it's a moot point now. But it's still fascinating

The Red Sox, with the second-highest payroll in the game and their rightfully heralded collection of elite offensive talent, were considering a trade in the last week of the season to find a starter for their most important game of the season.

Again, the Sox didn't need to resort to anything weird. They're going with Lester on short rest, which is almost certainly the right move. He's been the one Red Sock who has been healthy all season, and although he was bombed in his last start against the Yankees, he's been effective for most of the season. And with him getting bombed, he had to throw only 55 pitches. It's hard to believe there was any other choice.

The logistics of a September deal -- even if there was a five-percent chance that the Red Sox were actually contemplating it -- are fascinating, though. What is the proper compensation for a single start from another team's starter? Would it be the prospect equivalent of a cup of sugar -- something you would essentially give to a neighbor out of courtesy? We're talking one day, one start. Pick a pending free-agent starter. Let's go with Aaron Harang, only because he might be the only person who could be both a more attractive and less attractive option than John Lackey at the same time.

What in the world would the Padres want in return for one day of Aaron Harang? Would they ask his permission for a trade like this? It's not like a regular trade -- it would be scrutinized and hyped like no other start in his career. It would be unfair to a player to be thrown into that position just as he's mentally preparing to fish, hunt, or write the Great American Novel.

And for the Red Sox to contemplate such a move, they would be choosing the unknown of a Harang, Chien-Ming Wang, or Chris Young coming into an insanely packed pressure situation to make a mercenary start over the in-house possibilities, such as Tim Wakefield or Kyle Weiland. Heck, considering how poorly those two have pitched, they might have been right to think that.

This season started with a Beckett/Lester/Buchholz/Lackey/Matsuzaka rotation -- very strong at the front and competent in the back, the idea went. And, heck, if someone went down to injury, there was ol' Tim Wakefield around for emergencies. But then injuries and implosions piled up. The Erik Bedard trade was supposed to be the stop-gap move that saw the Red Sox into the playoffs, but it turns out that they needed to go to Costco and buy a case of bulk stop-gaps. Enough so that they actually contemplated going outside the organization for a starter on Wednesday.

There's a little salt in the wound, too:

2011 - Kevin Millwood 4-3 9 9 0 0 0 0 54.1 58 26 24 9 8 36 3.98 1.21

Millwood was the property of the Red Sox until early August. With the gift of hindsight, it's likely that he could have helped the Red Sox over the past month. Instead, he posted those numbers for the Rockies.

It's Lester, though, and no matter what happens on Tuesday night, it will be as important as any game over the past two seasons. They really didn't have any other realistic option. Well, there was one ...

But for the time I’m going to be playing, I think Boston is more suitable so that I can retire with the Boston Red Sox and go to the Hall of Fame with the same hat.

That was just a few short months ago. Hypothetical question: would you go with Wakefield on Wednesday, or an out-of-shape Pedro Martinez who hasn't thrown a ball in four months if you had to start one of them? Yeah, I'd probably pick Pedro too. That the question isn't completely absurd tells you just how disheveled the Boston rotation is at the worst possible time.

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