Instead, the Red Sox are likely to find value in the second tier of free-agent pitchers. One interesting name came to the forefront Wednesday in John Smoltz, a potential Hall of Famer.
Though Smoltz is the ultimate Atlanta Brave, he is also a free agent. Therefore, he is looking at his options, one of which is Boston. The Red Sox have had discussions with Keith Grunewald, who represents Smoltz.
"We want other teams to know that he's available," Grunewald said. "Atlanta is still certainly in the mix. We just want everybody to know that he's healthy and throwing well."
Smoltz pitched just six games in 2008 and is coming off right shoulder surgery. Video and medical reports have been sent to teams who are interested in his services.
Because of his reputation as a big-game horse, Smoltz could be a nice fit in Boston.
The righty, who turns 42 next May, has a lifetime record of 210-147, a 3.26 ERA and 3,011 strikeouts.
Brad Penny, Ben Sheets, Carl Pavano, Andy Pettitte and Oliver Perez are other names of note on the starting-pitching market.
CC Sabathia, the biggest pitching prize on the market, is set to sign with the Yankees. Burnett appears to be down to the Yankees or Braves. The market is less clear for Lowe, though the Bombers are clearly involved.
It has never been Epstein's style to invest big dollars in free-agent pitching, and this year appears to be no exception. The Red Sox already have a strong front portion of their rotation in Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Daisuke Matsuzaka.
"If you look at the history of free-agent pitching, the best signings -- or the best values for signings -- are the ones that are the shortest, smallest investment -- buying low," said Epstein. "Especially if you have a solid pitching foundation already and you're not desperate. Those are often where the best signings are. The huge contracts, long-term megadeals for pitchers haven't really worked out. We've been, for the most part, able to stay away from that."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.