With Boston's foremost offseason need being a top-of-the-rotation starter, there was an expectation that the team could be competitive in bidding in a pitching-heavy free agent class.
Names such as Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Blake Snell, Aaron Nola, Jordan Montgomery, and Shota Imanaga were all linked to the Red Sox in varying degrees, and any of them would have slotted in immediately at the front of Boston's staff. Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery both remained unsigned, but any chance of them joining the Red Sox appears to be a pipe dream at this stage.
Red Sox Lands Jesus Luzardo In This Proposed Trade Scenario
If Boston is unwilling to spend, then perhaps they could turn to the trade market to fill that dire need.
With that thought in mind, Jordan Shusterman of Fox Sports trotted out a blockbuster Red Sox deal atop his list of win-win trade proposals.
" Boston Red Sox acquire LHP Jesus Luzardo from Miami Marlins for SS/OF Ceddanne Rafaela, RHP Tanner Houck and two top-15 prospects not named Marcelo Meyer, Roman Anthony or Kyle Teel."- Trade Proposal Via Fox Sports
Luzardo, a southpaw, is 26 years of age and just finished his fifth MLB season with the Miami Marlins after spending the first two and a half years of his career with the Oakland Athletics. His last two seasons have greatly enhanced his value as he enters his prime.
Across 50 starts in the last two campaigns, Luzardo has posted a 3.48 ERA with a wipeout strikeouts per nine innings of 10.6. His 14-17 record leaves something to be desired, but that could be attributed more to Miami's 153-171 record in the last two seasons.
It shouldn't be a make-or-break factor, but with the departure of Chris Sale, the Boston rotation is exclusively comprised of right-handed arms.
Looking at what the Red Sox might have to give up, Ceddanne Rafaela was a late-season call-up in 2023. He appeared in 28 games while hitting .241 with two home runs and five RBI. The 23-year-old is ranked as the Boston's fourth-best prospect and the 76th-best overall.
Tanner Houck is 27 with four years under his belt at the big league level. Houck had a down year in 2023, but when he is at his best, his upside is undeniable. Previewing the current Red Sox rotation, there isn't a clear spot for Houck. He could function in a hybrid starter and reliever role in 2024 should he stay in Boston.
Shusterman groups Marcelo Mayer, Roman Anthony, and Kyle Teel in the "untouchable" category. Mayer (15), Anthony (24), and Teel (40) are all ranked towards the top of MLB's top prospects.
In the early stages of the offseason, Sean McAdam of MassLive reported that the Red Sox "intend to first focus on the trade market, and if they’re unable to fill their needs that way, then they might pivot to the free-agent market" with regards to acquiring much-needed pitching help.
At the time, it seemed like an odd approach given the team's financial flexibility and the high-profile arms in this free agent class. However, with the emergence of the John Henry Tax, the front office's motivation to prioritize the trade market is clearer in this context.
The Red Sox rotation need was mildly addressed by the signing of Lucas Giolito to a two-year, $38 million deal just before the new year. Despite showing top-level talent in years past, Giolito is far from a surefire signing as the 29-year-old bounced across three separate teams in 2023 and recorded a 2-9 record and 6.96 ERA in his last two stops.
For what it's worth, Red Sox were ranked as Luzardo's top landing spot in late December. American League East divisional rival Baltimore Orioles and the Cincinnati Reds rounded out the top three.