The Red Sox are 20 games over .500 and own the best record in the American League, but they face several concerns in their starting rotation.
Daisuke Matsuzaka is lost for the year with Tommy John surgery, Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester currently reside on the disabled list, and John Lackey has been arguably the worst starter in baseball this year.
The trade deadline is July 31st, and one wonders if Theo Epstein is contemplating a move for a starting pitcher in the next two weeks.
The Sox don’t have a ton of major trading chips thanks to the Adrian Gonzalez acquisition last winter, but could deal a mid-level prospect for some depth in the rotation.
Here are five names to consider in a potential deal as Boston heads into the second half:
1. Ted Lilly (Los Angeles Dodgers)
The veteran left-hander is 6-9 with a 4.79 ERA this year in 19 starts for the Dodgers this year.
Lilly has pitched six seasons in the American League East in his career (three with the Yankees and three with the Blue Jays), but hasn’t thrown in the A.L. since 2006.
The lefty still has two years and $22.5 million left on his contract after this season, so the financially-handicapped Dodgers would likely have to eat some of that money to trade Lilly.
He also has a full no-trade clause in his contract for this and next year.
2. Derek Lowe (Atlanta Braves)
The former Red Sox starter is 5-7 with a 4.30 ERA and 1.38 WHIP this year in 20 starts for the Braves.
Lowe signed a four-year, $60 million deal with Atlanta prior to the 2009 season and still has two years and $30 million remaining after 2011.
He pitched for the Sox from 1997 to 2004 and won the clinching Game 4 of the World Series against the Cardinals in his final year with Boston.
3. Hiroki Kuroda (Los Angeles Dodgers)
Unlike Lilly, Kuroda can become a free agent after the season, but the Dodgers will likely shop him just as aggressively.
The Japanese right-hander carries a $8 million salary this year as part of a one-year deal he signed prior to the season. He is 6-10 with a 3.06 ERA in 2011 and hasn’t received much run support from his offensive teammates.
Kuroda is 36 years old but has been incredibly consistent in his brief four-year Major League career. He’s never had an ERA over 3.76 or a WHIP over 1.22.
4. Ryan Dempster (Chicago Cubs)
The Red Sox would more likely be interested in Matt Garza (who has killed the Sox in the past), but Cubs general manager Jim Hendry maintains that Garza is not for sale.
Instead, Boston could go after another right-hander with a strong strikeout rate (102 K’s in 111.1 IP) in Dempster. He has a 5.01 ERA in 19 starts for Chicago but hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in a start since June 3rd.
Dempster is making $13.5 million this year with a $14 million player option for 2012, which could be a major sticking point in a potential deal.
The righty has also never pitched in the American League in his 14-year career.
5. Jeff Francis (Kansas City Royals)
Francis is by no means an ace, or even a third starter, but he carries a lower price tag than most other starting options on the trade market.
The left-hander only has a $2 milion base salary this year but has already reached performance incentives that will pay him another $2 million.
He’s just 3-10 with a 4.60 ERA on the year, but has allowed three runs or less in his last four starts with just two walks in that span.
Andrew Miller is basically providing the numbers that Francis does at this point in time, but he’s still a relative unknown.
Alastair Ingram is the lead Boston Red Sox writer for the RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AlastairIngram. For daily Red Sox updates, follow the blog at @FenwayReport and join the fan page on Facebook.