Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein might be shopping for a starting pitcher, and there seem to be three that stand out.
The Dodgers' Hiroki Kuroda, the Rockies' Ubaldo Jimenez, and the White Sox's Edwin Jackson have all been mentioned as possible trade bait for the July 31 deadline. All three might require Boston to give up some top quality prospects for such starters.
Of the three, Kuroda might be the most available and best option. The right-hander was signed to a one-year deal in the off-season, and has proven to be a very reliable Major League starter since arriving from Japan in 2008. Kuroda, 36, has a 3.19 earned run average this season in 20 starts, and more than 127 innings. His career ERA is 3.52.
As for Jimenez, 27, it would seem unlikely that Boston would mortgage their farm system for one pitcher, and Jimenez has struggled in a year where pitchers appear to be over-achieving. Jimenez had 2.88 ERA in 2010, and has a 4.20 ERA this season. In his last start against Arizona, Jimenez conceded five runs in five innings.
Jackson, on the other hand, may not even be available. The White Sox are only 4.5 games behind Detroit, and have a three game series with the Tigers at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago. There's a decent chance that the White Sox will be buyers, not sellers, at the deadline. Jackson, 27, has an ERA of 3.92, which is barely better than the Red Sox overall ERA of 3.93.
The Red Sox have had two very reliable starters in the rotation this season: Josh Beckett and Jon Lester. After those two, there are question mark, particularly since Clay Buchholz is coming off the disabled list.
The other possibility for Epstein is looking towards the last-place Mariners to deal Doug Fister and Jason Vargas.
According to Danny Knobler of CBS Sports, "one source described it more as 'throwing bait out there, to see what interest there is,'" when describing the possibility of either pitcher being dangled in a trade. Still, the Mariners might be interested in making a deal if they like what they see from the market.
Fister, 27, has an impressive earned run average after 139 innings. The 6'8 hurler has a 3.30 ERA, and has thrown three complete games this season.
Left-hander Vargas, 28, has a 3.94 era after more than 130 innings. Last season, Vargas finished the season with a 3.78 ERA after nearly 193 innings. Vargas already has three shutouts this year.
Should Boston pull a trade, it will be very interesting to see who they will give up.
The Red Sox have young bats who might be tempting in a package, such as catcher Ryan Lavarnway, outfielder Chih-Hsien Chiang, and third baseman Will Middlebrooks.