Commentary

Pitching dominoes poised to fall?

Sox hoping to nab top target Roy Oswalt; Gavin Floyd, Edwin Jackson on radar

Updated: January 26, 2012, 10:45 AM ET
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- The calendar, with spring training less than a month away, gives you every reason to believe the Red Sox will soon be adding another starting pitcher.

If they do not succeed in signing Roy Oswalt, to whom they have made an offer, a team source said Wednesday night, they most likely will shift their focus to trying to swing a deal with the Chicago White Sox for right-hander Gavin Floyd, with free agent pitcher Edwin Jackson a long-shot option at this stage.

Oswalt remains their No. 1 target, though a team source acknowledged fears that Oswalt would prefer to pitch for either the Rangers or Cardinals.

[+] EnlargeEdwin Jackson
Steve Mitchell/US Presswire Edwin Jackson is a long shot, but it's a good bet that another starter will be joining the Sox mix sometime soon.

"That's just guessing," one major league source said, reiterating Boston's significant interest in the 34-year-old right-hander, whose competitiveness is off the charts even though recurring back issues raise serious red flags.

The Sox were hopeful of a decision by Oswalt shortly.

They have kept channels open with the White Sox regarding Floyd, a former No. 1 draft choice who offers fewer health risks than Oswalt. One league source said Wednesday the White Sox are looking for prospects in return, not necessarily Boston's top prospects, but two or three players with at least one having a high ceiling. Obviously, however, the sides have not come to any agreement on who those prospects should be.

Despite occasional bouts of erraticism, Floyd, a 6-foot-4 right-hander who turns 29 on Friday, has pitched at least 187 innings in each of the past four seasons. He would probably be a safer option than Oswalt at this stage. At an average annual value of $3.85 million, his contract would also fit in better with Boston's desire to stay under the luxury-tax threshold.

But general manager Ben Cherington has maintained from the outset of the offseason that the Red Sox have gone over that threshold in the past and -- for the right deal -- would do it again, which may be why reports are surfacing that the Sox are also in the mix for Edwin Jackson. The 28-year-old right-hander, a Scott Boras client, to date has not drawn the interest he expected in this market, and if he would sign for short money, particularly a one-year deal, the Sox could indeed be a major player.

A major league source said the Sox have "solid interest" in Jackson, and ESPN's Jim Bowden had said earlier Wednesday on the radio that the Sox had made Jackson an offer. But it is useful to remember that the Sox passed on Hiroki Kuroda, who signed a one-year, $10 million deal with the New York Yankees earlier this month, because the contract was "too rich" for their tastes.

"There's a lot out there," Cherington said during an appearance on WEEI's The Big Show on Wednesday afternoon. "If we acquired every player we are rumored to be on, we'd need, like, an 80-man roster. I'd never comment on a negotiation, specifically. We're talking to a few different guys, we're considering different things. If there's a way to make our team better, whether it's the rotation of the pitching staff or whether it's another part of the team between now and spring training, we'll do that."

Cherington noted again on his radio appearance that the Sox, under the right circumstances, would cross the tax threshold, though that would mean they'd be paying at a 40 percent rate for doing so a third straight year.

"[But] there's a difference between saying that and saying we don't have a budget," he said. "We do have a budget. They're two different things. They're not unrelated to each other, but they're not the same thing."

• The Red Sox also came to terms with new closer Andrew Bailey on a one-year deal, avoiding an arbitration hearing. The sides settled at $3.9 million, near the midpoint of the $4.47 million Bailey was asking for and the $3.35 million offered by Boston. Bailey can earn another $100,000 or so through incentives.

Two arbitration cases remain: pitcher Alfredo Aceves and DH David Ortiz, with Cherington reiterating Wednesday that a multiyear deal with Ortiz was not in the offing.

Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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