Red Sox Need Another Lefty Pitcher

John Danks lefty pitcher

The trade of Jon Lester opened up a void of veteran leadership and a lefty in the starting rotation. The Red Sox have a kid with a bright future in Henry Owens, but he may need more seasoning next year down in AAA Pawtucket. An intriguing possibility for the Red Sox could be Chicago White Sox lefty John Danks.

Danks is currently 29-years-old and is signed to two more years after this season. The original deal he signed in 2011 was for five years worth a total of $65 million, making $8 million in 2012 and $14.25 per season each year after. The money is hefty, but the years are just where the Sox would like to be without a long-term risk.

Danks has had some health issues having had surgery on August 6, 2012. He came back last year to pitch and kind of reinvented himself under pitching Coach Don Cooper in Chicago to become “crafty”. He still can throw in the low 90’s, and mixes things up with an arsenal of a sharp cutter, a very good straight change, a big slow curve ball and a two- seam fastball; he has gotten stronger since his return.

His best year to date was in 2008, his first full year in the starting rotation, going 12-9 with a 3.32 ERA (fifth in the American League) and 1.23 WHIP in 33 starts. He finished just shy of the coveted 200 innings mark with 195. He pitched a one game playoff that year, defeating the Minnesota Twins 1-0 to clinch the American League Central Division, which was dubbed the “Black Out” game—all fans in Chicago wore black.

The White Sox were rumored to have been having talks with the Yankees at the trade deadline, but in the end nothing materialized. There were some sniffs by other teams, but GM Rick Hahn decided to stand pat as nothing made sense at the time to get better for the short or long-term benefit of the team. Some groundwork was laid for a future deal though with these discussions and if the Red Sox weren’t already in them, they may be in the future.

With the trade deadline passed, waiver deals are the next steps if any teams are looking to still make moves. (A player would have to clear waivers first which is always kind of risky.) The good news is the Red Sox have a worse record than the Yankees, so they would get a chance at him first if they act on him this year. If not, then I would expect them to talk in the off season.

John Danks is not Jon Lester talent wise, but is from Texas and is a grinder who has battled adversity and keeps on fighting.

Red Sox First Half Report Card By Position: Starting Pitchers

Red Sox First Half

The Red Sox first half has come and gone and seven pitchers have gotten starts so far. Jon Lester is proving that he is an ace and deserves ace money, while some of the other veterans have been shaky.

Lester is coming off a terrific postseason and could be headed for free agency next year, putting the Red Sox in a tough place. Some think the Sox won’t pay him and should trade him to a contender. The Red Sox have been on a run recently though and Lester is a big part of it. Coming into the year, his best season was probably 2010, when he went 19-9 with a 3.25 ERA. Going into the break this year, he’s 9-7 with a 2.65 ERA. While he probably won’t get a high win total, that’s not on him because he has been pitching great with only a few rough starts. Lester ranks in the top ten in virtually every category in the AL and has without a doubt been the team’s ace this year.

John Lackey is having a similar year to 2013, but has been shaky as of late. Following his nine inning scoreless outing against the Twins, Lackey’s ERA has gone up from 2.96 to 3.79 in four starts, despite getting the win in two of them. Lackey has only had an ERA below 3.5 twice in his career and was close to a third time last season when he finished at 3.52. So while it would have been nice if he continued to pitch sub-3.00, it is hard to expect a pitcher to have a career year at age 35.

Clay Buchholz could have really done anything this season and it wouldn’t be too surprising, but his first half was almost shockingly bad. Since returning from the DL, he has been much better, but he still has the tendency to leave some pitches over the middle of the plate, resulting in home runs. He finished the first half with a bang, shutting out the Astros while striking out 12. His ERA has gone down from 7.02 (yikes) to 5.42 since coming back from the DL four starts ago, but that should continue to go down if he continues to have the stuff he did against the Astros. Physically, he looks fine, so this may be a mental battle from now on for Buchholz.

Jake Peavy has been mediocre at best and may be at the end of his run in Boston. With trade rumors swirling around the former Cy Young winner, he may be gone by the deadline. With a 4.59 ERA and 1.41 WHIP, he doesn’t seem to be fooling batters very often. The Sox have lost nine of the last ten games he’s started and with a few youngsters ready to get a chance, it just doesn’t make sense to keep Peavy around.

Felix Doubront began the year in the rotation, but worked his way out of it with poor pitching and injuries. In ten starts, he posted a 5.19 ERA and had trouble with accuracy. He has only came out of the bullpen three times since his last start on June 20th, so it is unclear what the team wants to do with him moving forward.

Brandon Workman has seen eight starts and has had varying results. In his last three starts, he’s allowed five home runs and has seen his ERA go from 2.88 to 4.13. He still has been able to maintain a low WHIP of 1.18, so if he is able to cut down on the long ball, his ERA should lower quite a bit. If Peavy is dealt, Workman is sure to see some more starts in the second half.

Rubby De La Rosa has pitched very well so far and has had a couple of lights-out starts. With a WHIP hovering around 1.00 and a sub-3.00 ERA, De La Rosa is finally showing why he was such a big factor in the blockbuster trade with the Dodgers in 2012. He has still made some mistakes here and there, but should be able to stay in the rotation unless he works his way out of it.

Jon Lester- Grade: A

John Lackey- Grade: B-

Clay Buchholz- Grade: F

Jake Peavy- Grade: D

Felix Doubront- Grade: F

Brandon Workman- Grade: C

Rubby De La Rosa- Grade: A

Red Sox First Half Report Card By Position: Shortstop

Red Sox First Half shortstop

The Red Sox first half has been a tale of two shortstops: Xander Bogaerts and Stephen Drew; the super-prospect and the mid-season free agent acquisition. Drew was signed on May 20th for $10 million and played his first game on June 2nd. This move of course shifted Bogaerts over to 3rd base and everything has seemed to go downhill since then.

As a shortstop, Bogaerts definitely looked a bit shaky in the field and was a downgrade defensively from Stephen Drew. Everyone knew that going into the season, but the only way a 21-year-old is going to get better in the field is through experience. However, not even two months into the season, Bogaerts was back to third base. In 199 at-bats at short, he posted a .296/.389/.427 line to go along with his six errors in the field. Not bad for a kid. Since he’s moved to third, he’s put up a horrendous line of .140/.181/.225 and hasn’t exactly been Brooks Robinson in the field either. He has already accumulated seven errors, including a few costly ones, in twenty less games than he played at short. So was the Stephen Drew signing worth the mental destruction of the team’s best prospect in years?

If you happened to catch the July 5th double-header against the O’s, Stephen Drew looked like a great player. A home run in both games?! Can’t beat that. Well, if he hadn’t hit those home runs, he would be hitting .129 with two RBIs in a month’s worth of games. Even with the home runs, he’s hitting .151 with five RBIs. If he was a gold glove shortstop, maybe these offensive numbers could slide, but he’s not. He’s a top ten defensive shortstop that clearly lost some of his ability at the plate in his extended offseason. If the team wanted a defensive shortstop, they could have brought up Deven Marrero and saved some money. Drew’s playing so bad that I doubt anyone would even want him in a trade. Another bad decision by Ben Cherington in a year where his ideas have failed the team.

Xander Bogaerts (At SS)- Grade: B+

Stephen Drew- Grade: F

Red Sox First Half Report Card by Position: First Base

Red Sox first half Mike Napoli

The Red Sox have had a slew of guys play first base this year, with six different players making starts there. Mike Napoli has held down the fort for the most part, starting 72 of the 95 games so far, with Mike Carp and Brock Holt getting the second and third most starts.

Nap was brought back this year after a solid first year at the plate and in the field. However, he hasn’t been quite as productive during the Red Sox first half of 2014. Last year, in 139 games, Napoli drove in 92 runs, but in 75 games this year, he only has 34 RBI’s. While he has been getting on base frequently, he is only batting .187 with runners in scoring position. If he is going to continue to bat in the 4th or 5th spot in the lineup, the Sox will need those numbers to go up.

Mike Carp has missed a fair amount of time while on the DL, but he has also under performed. Carp has the ability to add some pop to the lineup against right handed pitching, but with no home runs and only six extra base hits in 38 games, he isn’t fulfilling his role. Like I said, he hasn’t had a chance to play a bunch, but his slugging percentage is down over .200 points. Carp could be at risk of losing his job if he doesn’t pick it up soon.

Mr. Everything, Brock Holt, has also seen some time at first base, but he has recently been playing mostly in the outfield. Obviously, Holt has been one of the best stories of this disappointing season for Red Sox fans, and he left his mark on Sunday, collecting five more hits before the break. We will take a closer look at Holt in the outfield report card.

Mike Napoli- Grade: C+

Mike Carp- Grade: D

Red Sox First Half Report Card by Position: Catcher

Red Sox first half catchers

With maybe the Red Sox’ biggest free agency signing of last offseason gone in A.J. Pierzynski, the team has caught a good glimpse of who may be their future catcher—Christian Vazquez. Pierzynski replaced Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who posted solid numbers last season which included a slash line of .273/.338/.466. The most hated player in the league just wasn’t putting up the numbers that would warrant him staying with the team though. With just 15 extra base hits and nine walks through 72 games, the “offensive” catcher may have trouble finding a new job elsewhere.

David Ross isn’t quite doing his job as well as last year either. Base stealers have been successful 74% of the time, up from 59% last year. While we don’t expect much at the plate from him, his .176 average needs to improve a bit. With all this being said, it is clear that he has a connection with some of the pitchers on the team, including the ace, Jon Lester.

Ross isn’t the only catcher on the team that knows how to call a game anymore though.

If there wasn’t anyone waiting in the wings, the Sox may have had to stick out the rest of the season with Pierzynski. Luckily, Christian Vazquez appears as if he is ready to play in the big leagues. He has already shown his quickness behind the plate, making some confident snap throws down to first, which is something that not all rookies would do in their first few games. At the plate, he’s gone 5-11 in his first three games, with three doubles and five RBIs. He wasn’t brought up for his bat, but the 23-year-old hit .289 in Portland last season and was hitting .279 in Pawtucket at the time of his call-up. It would be great if Vazquez could provide similar numbers in the majors, which I don’t think any Sox fan would complain about.

A.J. Pierzynski- Grade: D

David Ross- Grade: C

Christian Vazquez: Incomplete (A so far)

Quantity vs. Quality: The Red Sox Bullpen Problem with Lefties

Boston Red Sox Bullpen

Monday’s blowout loss to the Seattle Mariners served as an important reminder to the Boston Red Sox bullpen. While they have an abundance of left-handed relievers in there, the quality is low.

Chris Capuano, who is the rumored odd man out with Clay Buchholz returning, did not help his case to stay when he entered to relieve John Lackey in the 4th inning. The left-handed long relief man started his fifth outing of the month, playing an attempted bunt-hit off the bat of James Jones well to end the six-run 4th.

The 5th inning was a bit troublesome for Capuano as he allowed back-to-back hits to right field, which scored the Mariners’ eighth run of the contest.

Then, the southpaw retired the side in order in the bottom 6th, including striking out shortstop Brad Miller. Capuano struggled mightily in the month of June coming into the game. In 1 and 2/3 innings, he’d allowed five earned runs. The previous two months he only enabled opposing teams to score seven runs, and ended May with a stellar 1.95 ERA. So, obviously, this was a pivotal game for Capuano to prove his worth, and he did fine — well, that is, until the 7th inning.

It started with a James Jones ground-rule double and ended with a Logan Morrison home run, which was his second of the night. Capuano came out of the game allowing five earned runs, six hits, and inflating his ERA to a pedestrian 4.55. The 7th inning implosion most likely sealed his fate, and he could be gone within the week.

However, Capuano was not the only reliever, or left-hand reliever for that matter, who struggled Monday. Craig Breslow entered Monday with an underwhelming 4.18 ERA, but because of his track record, there was no indication that his future with Boston was in jeopardy.

Nevertheless, Breslow relieved Capuano after he failed to collect an out in the 7th. His outing began allowing a double to Mike Zunino, followed by a walk to Dustin Ackley. A fielder’s choice advanced runners to second and third while simultaneously getting the first out of the long 7th inning. Switch-hitting utility man Willie Bloomquist then struck out. With two outs in the inning, Breslow allowed his second walk to Cole Gillespie that loaded the bases. Luckily, he escaped it by inducing a ground ball off the bat of Jones. The 8th inning was much smoother, but was not without a blemish as Logan Morrision was walked, marking Breslow’s third in two innings.

Even Andrew Miller, the final of the three southpaws in the ‘pen, has choked in key spots this year. Though his 2.67 ERA is tremendous, his five losses are alarming.

The Boston Red Sox are very weak in this aspect of their team. Excuse me if I don’t believe moving Felix Doubront and his 5.19 ERA this year and career 7.76 ERA in 22 games out of the bullpen is the solution.