John Lackey Should Still Be With Boston

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher John Lackey was a strong contributor to the 2013 World Series team and trading him was a big mistake. Lackey had a roller coaster ride in a Sox uniform as he struggled in his first two seasons before becoming a reliable arm every fifth day for the organization. When the 2014 team was scuffling and the trade deadline came around, former Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington decided to part ways with John Lackey, trading him for Joe Kelly and Allen Craig.

Craig was struggling and his career looked to be dwindling and Kelly had his struggles inJohn Lackey the National League which typically doesn’t lead to success in the more hitter friendly American League. Meanwhile, Lackey seemed to be gaining form and becoming who the Sox thought they were getting him when they signed him to a five year $82.5 million deal. That improvement has continued and John Lackey is pitching like an ace, often going unnoticed behind Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester in the best starting pitching rotation in baseball.

Last season in St. Louis, Lackey had a 2.77 ERA and this season he has a 2.63 ERA for the Cubs. At this point in his career he will not wow you with his stuff but he hits his spots and gets guys out, something many Sox pitchers struggle to do. Lackey seems to be blossoming late in his career as last season was his best season to date and he’s on track to improve on those numbers this year. With John Lackey pitching so great, the Sox return of Joe Kelly and Allen Craig in the trade has been a catastrophe.

John Lackey Belongs with Red Sox Nation

Kelly has not established himself in the Sox rotation and is not looking likely to do so. Kelly has good stuff to work with but he has yet to put it together and it seems like yesterday the 28 year old was still a promising prospect. Kelly is now in the minor leagues, joining the other piece in the trade, Craig. Craig has been a disaster as he has been a minor leaguer for most of his tenure with the Sox organization. A once promising offensive player for the St. Louis Cardinals, Craig has seen his career vanish quickly and likely has played his last inning in the major leagues.

The Sox let go of a pitcher that was big time in the postseason in 2013 in order to gamble on a pitcher with upside who hadn’t put it together and a bat that was on the downfall. As a result, this trade is one of the worst in recent memory and the Sox 4.22 ERA as a pitching staff would be much better if Ben Cherington had stayed with John Lackey.

Bartolo Colon a Great Target for the Red Sox

Following Wednesday night’s game, it is becoming clearer that the Red Sox need to acquire starting pitching and one target not being talked about is New York Mets starter Bartolo Colon. Yes, that is the 43 year old Colon who throws an 88 MPH fastball on average according to FanGraphs. Colon would bring stability at the back end of the Sox rotation and the ability to eat innings as an established veteran starting pitcher.

Colon has a 3.39 ERA this year for the Mets with 45 strikeouts in 61 innings pitched.Bartolo Colon These numbers would be very strong in the Sox rotation. However, in the Mets starting rotation, Bartolo Colon currently serves as the 5th starter behind Noah Syndergaard, Jacob DeGrom, Steven Matz and Matt Harvey.

Noah Syndergaard: 63.2 IP, 81 Strikeouts, 1.84 ERA, 0.96 WHIP

Jacob DeGrom: 55 IP, 47 Strikeouts, 2.62 ERA, 1.16 WHIP

Steven Matz: 55.1 IP, 53 Strikeouts, 2.60 ERA, 1.05 WHIP

Matt Harvey: 60.1 IP, 50 strikeouts, 5.37 ERA, 1.54 WHIP

Looking at these four guys, some may say that Harvey should be the odd man out in the Mets rotation. There were some questions about whether or not the Mets would demote him so he could work on his game before his last start in which he silenced those critics with 7 shutout innings against the Chicago White Sox. Harvey has been a top prospect in the Mets system and he has a bright future, meaning the organization will not start Bartolo Colon ahead of him. If Colon is the fifth starter and is pitching at such a level, why would the Mets deal him?

The Mets have another elite young starting pitcher rehabbing from a Tommy John surgery, 26 year old Zack Wheeler. Wheeler put together two productive seasons at the major league level before going down with the elbow injury. In 285.1 innings in the majors, Wheeler has a 3.50 ERA with 271 strikeouts. While Wheeler is no guarantee to come back strong, Colon will be the odd man out if he does return. If this is the case, the Red Sox should make the move for Colon.

Bartolo Colon is on a one year deal worth $7.25 million for the 2016 season. The Red Sox could take on this contract and the Mets may even be willing to eat some of it if the Sox throw in an offensive piece that could improve upon the Mets 26th ranked offense. While some may want one of the younger arms from the Mets such as a Steven Matz, the Mets likely will not give these young arms away unless they get an outstanding offer.

Pitching has proved to be the key to World Series championships and the Mets have plenty of it. The Sox have the offense to make a run at a championship but they need improved starting pitching and Colon gives them a cheap but solid option to bolster their staff.

Yoan Moncada Should Be Untouchable at Trade Deadline

Red Sox top minor league prospect, second basemen Yoan Moncada, is the one prospect that should be untouchable. Moncada, 21 years old, has shown great potential and will only get better. Elite offense at second base is very hard to come by and dealing Moncada would be a major mistake. He is also the ideal candidate to replace Dustin Pedroia at second base when Pedroia retires.

When people think of elite offense production, the outfield spots and the corner infieldYoan Moncada spots are what comes to mind. When a team gets offense from the shortstop, second base and catching position, that is seen as a luxury. Pedroia has given the Sox that luxury as a career .299 hitter to go along with his four time gold glove defense. With Pedroia signed through the 2021 season, some may question how Moncada will wait in the minor leagues that long. Moncada would be 25 years old if that were the case. Him waiting in the minor leagues that long will not happen and should not happen. So where does he fit in the makeup of the Red Sox? There are two likely scenarios I see for Moncada in a Sox uniform. One of those is to trade away Travis Shaw and stick Moncada at third base until Pedroia’s contract ends. Another option is to trade away Pedroia if his production goes down.

What Is Moncada’s Future With The Red Sox?

Shaw has been a pleasant surprise for the Sox and at 26 years old many teams would want him as he is entering his prime. Shaw is under team control until the 2019 season and if Moncada is ready before then, the team could get a nice return for Shaw while not losing much of the production if any from Shaw. Trading away Pedroia when his production goes down is the less likely and less ideal situation. The Sox would have to eat a lot of Pedroia’s contract in this case, something the Sox seem to do enough with aging players. Even if neither of these options are the route Dombrowski decides to take, Moncada will not be traded and doing so would turn out to be a huge mistake for the Sox.

Moncada is a .284 hitter in the minor leagues up to this point in his career with 11 homers in 479 at bats. He has drawn comparisons to former Yankee and current Mariner, Robinson Cano. Moncada has the switch hitting dimension to his game, something Cano does not have. If Moncada continues to grow, seeing him come close to Cano’s numbers would not be a big surprise. His power is there and he has a great eye at the plate, showing that with his .424 OBP this season.

Sox fans have a lot to look forward to this season and in future seasons. Having a Bogaerts and Moncada middle infield would be special and if Dombrowski is as smart as I believe he is, he knows not to trade Moncada unless he is blown away and offered a trade involving a pitcher like Clayton Kershaw or even Chris Sale.

Andrew Benintendi Looking to Take Next Step

Portland Sea Dogs outfielder Andrew Benintendi, one of the top prospects in the Red Sox system, has gotten off to a slow start in Portland. Benintendi is rated the 15th best prospect by Baseball America. This is his second year in minor league baseball following being the first round pick by the Sox out of the University of Arkansas in 2015.

In 198 at bats in 2015, Benintendi hit 11 homers with a .313 batting average. FollowingAndrew Benintendi this season, people were aware of what he could do. He showed decent speed as well with 10 steals, only being caught three times. With his strong first season, many expected him to build upon that in his second year.

Benintendi started this season at High A Salem. In 135 at bats, he hit .341 with one homer and stole 8 bases, only getting caught two times. Following his start at Salem, Benintendi received the promotion to Portland. While Triple A is the highest minor league baseball game, Double A always seems to be better baseball to watch because of the youth in the game rather than the career minor league players that you tend to see at Pawtucket. With the promotion, Benintendi was at a much improved level. Would he continue to grow and turn into an elite prospect?

So far at Portland, Benintendi is off to a slow start, batting just .214 in 42 at bats with no homers. He has also has stolen three bases but been caught stealing twice, showing the improvement in catching at this level. His struggles don’t necessarily suggest anything as it is still early but it is a cause for concern as he is likely a guy the Sox are considering trading at the deadline. Will Benintendi turn it around in time for the Sox to shop him as an elite prospect?

In these next few weeks, Benintendi will turn the corner. He has started to show flashes of doing so in his last three games, two of them multi hit games. As a groomed hitter coming from the college game and being 21 years old, his path to the major leagues will be much shorter than most prospects as he adjusts to the higher levels quickly. However, Sox fans should be hoping he’s wearing another uniform in return for quality starting pitching.

 

Eduardo Rodriguez is Finally Back

Starting pitcher, Eduardo Rodriguez will finally make his long awaited return to the major league club tonight against his former organization, the Baltimore Orioles. Rodriguez had been injured with a knee injury and following a setback, Rodriguez ended up making five starts at Pawtucket.

Rodriguez pitched very strong in his last start at Pawtucket, throwing seven innings of oneEduardo Rodriguez run ball and striking out seven. Following this start, Rodriguez’s had a 3.54 ERA in 28 innings pitched at Pawtucket, only striking out 17 in those innings. The lack of strikeouts can be seen as a concern as Rodriguez has been seen as a guy with strong strikeout potential but has yet to flash that at the big league level. Although, with Buchholz having struggled greatly in the rotation and coming off a shaky start, the timing was perfect for Rodriguez to replace him in the starting rotation.

Last season Rodriguez was the ace of the Sox staff. To go along with his 3.85 ERA, his command at a young age was very impressive. Rodriguez does not seem to get phased by tough situations in a game. He walked just 37 batters in 121.2 innings pitched. As he approaches his second year at the major league level, expect Rodriguez to improve on these numbers.

Rodriguez will eventually become a strong strikeout pitcher and president of baseball operations for the Red Sox, Dave Dombrowski, believes Rodriguez can be an ace at the major league level. Rodriguez’s strong three pitch make-up featuring his fastball, slider and changeup give him three impressive pitches to bring at major league hitters. To improve upon his second season, new ace and veteran pitcher, David Price, can be of great help to propelling Rodriguez to that next level. One pitch that Price features and Rodriguez doesn’t is the cut fastball. If Rodriguez can learn this pitch from Price and begin to add it to his repertoire, he could become a very lethal starting pitcher.

Tonight is an exciting night for Sox fans and Rodriguez in general. With Buchholz to the bullpen and Rodriguez back, the Sox have a more reliable option on the mound even if he doesn’t improve but stays on track with last year’s numbers.

Sox Need a Fifth Starting Option

With Joe Kelly having a very tough outing against the Toronto Blue Jays, giving up 5 earned runs in 4.2 innings pitched, the Sox need a fifth starting option. With the recent demotion of starter Clay Buchholz to the bullpen, Kelly was expected to step up and replace him. Kelly may be a little better than Buchholz, which isn’t saying much. The Sox are in desperate need of a fifth option behind David Price, Rick Porcello, Steven Wright and Eduardo Rodriguez. While the trade deadline is the most likely scenario for adding a fifth and likely a sixth starter, what should the Sox do for now?

The problem with the Sox minor league system right now regarding starting pitching is thatJoe Kelly they don’t have any pitcher major league ready that’ll pitch better than either Buchholz or Kelly. The one option they could turn to is lefty Brian Johnson. Johnson is really not much of an upgrade and the lack of major league ready arms down on the farm is an issue for this team.

Johnson has a 4.64 ERA at Pawtucket and has walked 22 batters in just 33 innings, reminiscent of fellow lefty prospect Henry Owens. While he has strikeout potential, 28 strikeouts in those innings, the lack of command just won’t cut it. Johnson may very well get the call if Kelly’s struggles persist but it will likely just be another disaster. Another option could be moving Matt Barnes back into the rotation, not a good baseball move though.

Barnes has been stellar in the bullpen this year and the fact that he was formerly a starting pitcher may have some lobbying for him to get another chance. This would also end up being a disaster as Barnes lacks an arsenal of pitches and relies on his fastball around 70% of the time. Without secondary pitches, there is little chance of succeeding at the big league level as a starter. So where do the sox go from here?

With an offense that is putting up gaudy numbers, the Sox have the luxury of waiting until the deadline to get improved starting pitching. Every fifth day the Sox are capable of scoring in double digits, eliminating the importance of pitching. With this, the Sox will lack a decent fifth option but their elite offense is more than capable of bailing out whoever the number five starter is every fifth day.