The Boston Red Sox seem to be in a bit of a starting pitching jam as the team optioned Joe Kelly to Triple-A Pawtucket on Wednesday. As a corresponding move, the Red Sox have recalled reliever Noe Ramirez.
After starting against the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday, Kelly allowed seven runs -- all earned -- on seven hits and three walks while only retiring seven batters. It was the exclamation point on what has been a pretty terrible season for the starter, having only one start rank above league average by FanGraphs' Bill James Game Score version 2.0.
The nearly-28 year old Kelly has been granted many chances to succeed thanks to a pitching repertoire that seems to presuppose success. His fastball tops out at 99mph -- a trait few starters in the majors can boast -- while also featuring two breaking balls and a changeup.
A favorable profile like Kelly's doesn't come around too often, but he's reaching the age that should be his prime competitive years. Instead of making a name for himself before hitting free agency -- as many players are starting to do by 27 -- Kelly is struggling to stay in the majors and he's arbitration-eligible until 2019. Kelly is still far from being run out of baseball, but Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox seem set on building their roster through merit. Especially with a team looking to stay competitive.
Unfortunately, Dombrowski seems so set on this method that it has left his roster with only four starting pitchers: David Price, Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Steven Wright. With off-days coming up on Monday and Thursday, the Red Sox could make a four-man rotation work for quite some time actually. However, that's likely not the most desirable option.
Perhaps two times through a four-man rotation, Kelly will improve enough to warrant being recalled. That being said, Red Sox's general manager Mike Hazen could look for an external candidate to fill that role as well.
Among the starting pitcher trade candidates, James Shields and Rich Hill seem to be the most readily available. Shields -- who was most recently tied to the Chicago White Sox -- has been serviceable. While he may lack the star name that he once had -- or that pitchers available during last season's deadline boasted -- Shields has thrown at least 200 innings in nine consecutive seasons. Dismissing the worth of a workhorse like Shields would be ill-advised.
The 36-year old Hill had a breakout season last year with the Red Sox. While Hazen may be familiar with him, making a deal at least somewhat plausible, it's worth remembering that the Red Sox opted to not retain his services this past offseason. Instead, Hill signed a one-year deal worth only $6 million with the Oakland Athletics.