The Red Sox Need to be Active at the Trade Deadline

As the Red Sox grow closer to the halfway point, and the trade deadline, in the 2018 regular season, they have given us all a pretty good idea of what’s working, and what isn’t. Back on June 11, the Sox went on a nice four-game win streak which included a sweep of the Baltimore Orioles. They went on to lose four of their next five, splitting a series with the Seattle Mariners and falling to the Minnesota Twins on consecutive nights. They salvaged their third contest against the Twins and then took two of three from the Mariners.

At 34-40, the Twins are not a team the Red Sox should be losing a series to. Meanwhile, theTrade Deadline Mariners, at 48-31, are within reach of the Houston Astros (52-28) atop the AL West standings. Boston’s recent inconsistency and their ongoing grapple with the Yankees atop the division leave this team in need of action at the trade deadline.

Trade Deadline Action: Relief Pitcher

I’ve lost track of how many games this bullpen has lost. At this point, this should be a no-brainer for Dave Dombrowski. The woes in Boston’s bullpen have been no secret this season. Carson Smith recently had season-ending surgery after throwing his glove. Tyler Thornburg is still trying to get healthy, and still hasn’t taken the mound in a Red Sox uniform. Heath Hembree and Brian Johnson, both with ERAs north of 3.80, have simply not pitched well at all. And to top it off, Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly will both hit the free agent market at the end of this season. Kimbrel and Kelly, along with Matt Barnes and Hector Velazquez, have emerged as the only serviceable arms in Boston’s bullpen.

So what are Boston’s options at the trade deadline? The most popular name in circulation is the Orioles’ left-hander Zach Britton. Baltimore looks to be in a complete and total rebuild at 23-54 on the year, so they are as viable a trade partner as they come. Britton underwent Achilles surgery this past offseason and has only appeared in seven contests this year. However, he is just two years removed from consecutive All-Star appearances and a fourth-place finish in CY Young voting. As it stands, Brian Johnson is the only southpaw in Boston’s bullpen, so Britton would be a massive addition. His contract expires after this year, so it would make sense for the Orioles to get some value out of him while they can.

Baltimore has another relief pitcher set to enter free agency. Brad Brach, a right-hander, has appeared in 32 contests this year with ten saves. Britton is the much more attractive option and is linked to several other teams as the trade deadline approaches.

Trade Deadline Action: Right-Handed Hitting

Since the Red Sox designated Hanley Ramirez for assignment on May 25, Boston’s lineup has been missing some pop. Ramirez hit .330 in April but fell into a major slump in May before his departure. While Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez have shouldered much of the offensive workload, the Yankees have as much firepower, if not more.

The Sox have a few different options in terms of what position to go after to fulfill this. They have shown some interest in Adrian Beltre, the veteran third-basemen currently employed by the Texas Rangers. The Rangers are in the AL West basement and are another legitimate trade partner. Beltre’s hitting .309 with 25 runs batted with Texas so far this year and won a Gold Glove in 2016. He would be warmly welcomed back for a second stint in Boston as an alternative to the streaky Rafael Devers at third base. Manny Machado is another popular name on the rumor mill, but his financial demands and lofty asking price make it a long shot.

They could also look to the outfield. Jackie Bradley Jr. continues to struggle at the plate and having outfield depth that can swing the bat come October could be instrumental for a playoff run. The Orioles’ Adam Jones is an obvious candidate, given his expiring contract and the situation in Baltimore. Mark Canha of the Oakland Athletics is on Boston’s radar as well. Canha is batting .253 with 27 RBI and 10 home runs on the year.

The 2018 trade deadline is July 31. The Red Sox continue their back-and-forth with the Yankees in the division, and the right move or two could go a long way in their quest for another AL East crown and World Series run.

Red Sox Gaining In American League

Seeing the Boston Red Sox gaining in the American League comes as welcomed news to Red Sox Nation. While the Red Sox continue to battle it out with the Yankees in the American League East, they’re slaying other adversaries. I stated in my June 15th article that if the Red Sox won four out of seven against the Mariners they’d stand a good chance of getting ahead of the Yankees. The Red Sox are .5 game behind the Yankees as of June 25th. So while the Red Sox haven’t overcome the Yankees yet, they’re closer to taking back first place than they have been in recent weeks.

The Red Sox take on the Los Angeles Angels in a three-game series between June 26-red sox gaining28th. The Angels’ pitching staff isn’t the strongest. However, the Angles have Mike Trout, who’s currently hitting .325 with 23 home runs. They also have Justin Upton and future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols. Trout and Pujols were both Rookies of the Year, and they won the AL MVP award three and two times, respectively. So while the Red Sox have a strong chance of combating their pitching rotation, the Angels’ lineup will be more difficult to overcome.

With the Red Sox Gaining, the Houston Astros Remain a Threat

The Houston Astros, the 2017 World Series Champions, remain the biggest threat to the Red Sox. They have the third-best winning percentage in the American League behind the Red Sox and Yankees.

Don’t get me wrong. The Yankees remain a viable threat. But their performance in the ALCS last year showed that they can freeze up under pressure. Another thing to consider is that both the Red Sox and Yankees have new managers at their helm. The Yankees’ Aaron Boone played in one World Series in 2003. That’s when he was with the Yankees and they lost to the Florida Marlins. Alex Cora has played in four postseasons, compared to Boone’s one. While that might not be the deciding factor, it reflects how little experience Boone has to personally work with verses Cora, who won a World Series with the Red Sox in 2007.

The Yankees will be hard to beat in the postseason but they’ll fall apart. The Astros, however, will be tougher. That doesn’t mean, however, that the Red Sox, with new momentum propelled by Alex Cora, can’t overcome them.

Steven Wright Needs A Permanent Rotation Spot

The Boston Red Sox are in a tight battle with the New York Yankees for superiority in the AL East, and that won’t change anytime soon. It’s time to stop letting Drew Pomeranz take the mound and give Steven Wright, one of the league’s only knuckleballers, a permanent spot in the starting rotation.

Steven Wright joined the Red Sox at the trade deadline in 2013. After acquiring the Steven Wrightknuckleballer from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for Lars Anderson, the Sox only used Wright in ten contests over his first two seasons with the club. Wright found a niche in 2015 as a reliever, going 5-4 with a 4.09 ERA in 16 appearances. After a last-place finish in the AL East that year, the Red Sox entered 2016 with a revamped starting rotation. Wright was a part of this makeover, and he capitalized on his first season as a full-time starter. In 24 starts, he went 13-6 with a 3.33 ERA, 127 strikeouts, and four complete games. Wright’s breakout 2016 season also landed him a spot on the American League All-Star Team.

After consecutive last-place finishes, the Red Sox went 93-69 in 2016 and looked to have mended their rotation with the signing of David Price, the CY Young season of Rick Porcello, and the rise of Boston’s newest knuckleballer. Wright’s reign was short-lived, however. The following May, he underwent surgery to restore cartilage in his left knee and missed the remainder of 2017.

His problems followed him into the 2018 season. In March, the league suspended Wright for 15 games for violating the MLB’s personal conduct policy. Having completed his suspension on May 14,  Wright returned to his ballclub, but without a starting job. The culprit? Drew Pomeranz, who became a starter in Wright’s absence in 2017.

I will give credit where credit is due. In 2017, Drew Pomeranz looked every bit deserving of a spot in the Red Sox rotation. He went 17-6 with a 3.32 ERA and 174 punchouts and was a key cog in helping the Sox replicate their 2016 record of 93-69. And to begin this season, there was no justifiable reason to demote Pomeranz. He pitched as well as Wright did in his All-Star season, if not better.

Steven Wright Got His Groove Back

But now, over 60 games into the year, Steven Wright needs his spot back. Drew Pomeranz has allowed at least two earned runs in every single one of his starts this season. In eight starts, he is 1-3 with a staggering 6.81 ERA. And most recently, the team placed Pomeranz on the 10-day disabled list with tendinitis in his left bicep. Steven Wright made his first start of 2018 on June 5th against the Detroit Tigers. Throwing seven shutout innings with six strikeouts and just two hits, he reminded everyone what they’d been missing out on. On June 11th, Wright followed it up with another scoreless start against the Baltimore Orioles, surrendering just four hits in six innings of work. The knuckleballer has not allowed a run in 22 consecutive innings, and his ERA is down to 1.21 on the season.

The numbers alone are compelling enough. The knuckleball is a rare commodity in today’s MLB, and Wright’s superior numbers and novelty pitch make him all the more worthy of a starting job for this team.

Who Will Be The Red Sox All-Stars This Year?

The 2018 All-Star game is still over a month and a half away but speculation about who the Red Sox All-Stars will be is already heating up. Let’s take a look at a few likely candidates for the Red Sox 2018 All-Star team.

2x Red Sox All-Star Mookie Betts

It’s a safe bet that Mookie Betts will make the 2018 All-Star team. He’s hitting .359 with ared sox all league-leading 52 runs as well as 17 home runs. Betts is also in the running for the American League MVP (if he can stay healthy). As someone who sportswriters compare to Mike Trout, Betts will not only make the All-Star team, but he’ll become a Red Sox legend in years to come.

1x Red Sox All-Star J.D. Martinez

Anyone who says Martinez won’t make the All-Star team doesn’t know baseball. He’s leading the league in home runs (20) and RBIs (52) and has a .317 batting average as of June 6th. A modern-day Johnny Mize, Martinez knows how to hit the long ball, and he’s already fitting in better in Boston than Hanley Ramirez or Pablo Sandoval ever did.

Andrew Benintendi

If Aaron Judge hadn’t made his debut last year Andrew Benintendi would have been the American League Rookie of the Year. He hit 20 home runs last year and already has 10 this year as of June 6th. He’s a fan favorite in Boston and it’ll be a surprise to Red Sox Nation.

6x All-Star Chris Sale

While some are concerned about Chris Sale’s performance so far this season, he still has 110 strikeouts for the season. Many are speculating that Alex Cora is pacing Sale this season, hence why we’re not seeing him repeat last year’s numbers. Regardless, he’s an All-Star.

Red Sox All-Star Honorable Mentions

The Red Sox are such a good team this year, which makes it hard to pick more than just a few. But some honorable mentions that are worthy of an All-Star team include Xander Bogaerts, Craig Kimbrel, Mitch Moreland, and Rick Porcello. Bogaerts is hitting below .300 but he’s still a solid hitter. Kimbrel is always good for a save. Mitch Moreland would surely make the All-Star team if he got more playing time. With Hanley Ramirez gone that might happen. Rick Porcello’s performance is reflecting his 2016 numbers. Regardless, the Red Sox seem to finally be playing with the determination and energy we saw back in 2013. That’s the year they won the World Series.

Are Red Sox Regretting Losing Ramirez?

The decision to designate Hanley Ramirez for assignment brought on the skeptics. The argument widely made was by getting rid of Hanley, the Red Sox would save money this year and next, but lose a veteran power presence in the middle of the lineup. Manager Alex Cora discussed the option with David Dombrowski and in order to make room for second baseman Dustin Pedroia, Hanley was ultimately DFA’d. That financial decision may hurt the Sox as they head towards the summer and beyond.

During Cora’s playing days, he was widely known as a great “clubhouse guy” who is willingRamirez to play anywhere that benefits the team. He was a super utility guy, much like Brock Holt. It seems Cora has maintained that same mindset of clubhouse friendly but versatile type players even as a skipper. By letting Ramirez go, it meant versatile guys like Blake Swihart, Eduardo Nunez, and Holt types would get more playing time. That may be great in theory, but now Pedroia, who was the reason for the Hanley roster move, is back on the D.L., Mookie remains sidelined and guys like Sam Travis are playing left field.

In the final game against the Detroit Tigers this week, Cora changed up his lineup. He had Swihart start at catcher, Nunez at second, Vasquez at DH, Travis starting in left field and J.D. Martinez playing the intricate Fenway Park right field. I can’t help but think Hanley could have helped the Red Sox in some sort of way in that game. A game that ended in a loss.

Red Sox May Regret Losing the Depth That Ramirez Created

Depth is huge right now in the game of baseball. Now with starters going less and less deep into games, routinely seen exiting after five or six innings, depth is all more important. Relievers now come in that specialize in getting certain types of hitters out. By having more utility guys on the bench, rather than in the starting nine, managers can counter that specialized approach. Losing Hanley hinders that depth.

With Hanley gone, Moreland, who historically is great as a pinch hitter, is now starting at first every day. Swihart becomes much more needed as a backup outfield plan. Players such as Holt and Nunez have to start more due to other player’s injuries. Playing time is always a preference, but that isn’t normally these players niche. Sometimes those type of players gain value on the bench. Value they gain with the ability to be played in different defensive and offensive situations.

World Champion Houston Astros, exemplified this approach last season with utility depth like Marwin Gonzalez seen playing any position, any game. Charlie Morton also provided depth. He became the new wave “utility-type” bullpen arm if the starter struggles, much like Cleveland Indians Andrew Miller.

It will be interesting to see how this progresses. Maybe I am overthinking it now, but you can’t help but think Ramirez will be missed at some point.

 

Carson Smith is Likely Done for the Year

As many of you may recall, Carson Smith was shut down in mid-May after injuring his throwing shoulder. On May 14, Smith surrendered a run to the Oakland Athletics in the eighth inning, putting the A’s up for good, 6-5. As he returned to the dugout, Smith threw his glove in the dugout out of frustration. Boston’s promising reliever hasn’t seen the field since.

Carson Smith’s fit of rage not only left his glove on the dugout floor but the rest of his Carson Smithseason in jeopardy. Until this week, there had not been any medical decision as doctors did not want to rush to any conclusions. Now, about a month after the temper tantrum, the severity of the injury has become clear. On Wednesday, Smith underwent shoulder surgery which likely spells the end of his 2018 season.

The late-inning relief pitcher spent the majority of the previous two seasons recovering from Tommy-John surgery. To begin the 2018 campaign, Smith emerged as a solid option out of a Red Sox bullpen which has had its fair share of struggles this year. But now, the 28-year-old will have yet another season cut staggeringly short because of injury.

Carson Smith Continues to Frustrate

His tenure in Boston has been a frustrating one. The Red Sox acquired Carson Smith from the Seattle Mariners in 2015, trading southpaw Wade Miley and a prospect for Smith and starting pitcher Roenis Elias. He joined the Red Sox after dominating in his first full season, posting a 2.31 ERA and 92 strikeouts out of the Mariners’ bullpen. Smith began his tenure as a promising 26-year-old that would not hit the free-agent market until 2021. To say it has not gone as planned would be an understatement. Through his first three seasons with the Red Sox, Smith has appeared in a mere 29 contests. In those 29 games, he’s pitched in under 25 innings and just underwent his second season-ending surgery in three years.

After a shaky start to the year, the Red Sox’s corps of relievers actually has improved of late. Joe Kelly and Matt Barnes have established themselves as trustworthy late-inning arms to precede the ever-consistent Craig Kimbrel. While the struggles have subsided, Carson Smith’s inability to control his temper has put another significant blemish on his Red Sox tenure and provided yet another test for Boston’s bullpen.