Felix Doubront pitched very well on Sunday for the Red Sox, allowing one run over seven innings against Baltimore and striking out 11.
A 24-year-old lefthanded starter with swing-and-miss stuff is a nice commodity to have. But if Doubront is the No. 3 starter at the start of next season, the Red Sox will have failed this winter.
The most important duty GM Ben Cherington has this winter is to improve the quality and depth of the rotation. Everything else is secondary.
That means Doubront can’t be the No. 3 starter. Because while he’s pretty good, he’s not that good. The Red Sox have to sign or trade for a pitcher who slots in one of their three best starters. Then comes Doubront and John Lackey or somebody else.
Who is that pitcher? Your guess is as good as mine at this point. The best free agent at the moment is Zack Greinke and it’s not him, not with how he has pitched for the Angels.
Maybe it’s Edwin Jackson, Jake Peavy or James Shields. It just has to be somebody good. The Sox have money and prospects. They need to get the rotation fixed and not go into spring training holding auditions or transitioning relievers. We saw how that worked this year.
Red Sox starters have a 5.03 ERA. That’s 12th in the American League. Poor starters wreck the entire team. The bullpen gets worn down and the position players get mentally beaten down from having to play from behind every night.
A few other thoughts about the future:
• Who the next pitching coach is may be more important than who the next manager is. That the Sox have a 6.31 ERA in the first inning indicates how poorly they prepare for games.
• Assuming Bobby Valentine is fired, the Sox need to have their manager in place in two or three weeks, not two months like last year. The new guy has to have a chance to build a coaching staff he can trust, not one he can’t turn his back on.
You have to believe Cherington already has a list of 3-4 candidates in mind and will move swiftly. Our guess is John Farrell, Tim Bogar or Torey Lovullo gets the job.
• Dustin Pedroia gets named captain.
• Cody Ross gets two years and $10-12 million.
• Hitting coach Dave Magadan and bullpen coach Gary Tuck go to the Cubs when their contracts expire.
• Pawtucket manager Arnie Beyeler gets a spot on the coaching staff.
• David Ortiz gets a two-year deal or one with a reachable option. Yes, it’s taking a chance. But it’s taking a chance on somebody who can handle playing for your team and won’t whine about the market.
• Jason Varitek takes some kind of position with the team. But not in uniform.
• The Red Sox hire a “director of pitching” with the power to influence drafting, scouting, development and coaching at all levels of the organization.
• Cherington also hires somebody notable as one of his top assistants.
That’s it for now. Once this season is over — a week from tomorrow, thank goodness — there will be plenty of time to write more about what is to come.