Two weeks is a long time in baseball, as the Red Sox are currently discovering to their benefit. In the last 13 games, Boston has gone 9-4, transitioning from 10 to 5 games below .500, and changing the outlook of a mediocre American League. Once hopeless cellar-dwellers, the Red Sox took two of three from Tampa Bay; three of four from Toronto; two of three from Houston; and the series opener against Miami, hauling themselves back into contention.
On June 27th, the Sox were nine games out in the AL East and eight adrift of a Wildcard spot. Now, their division deficit is just five games, while the Wildcard is only five-and-a-half games out of reach. When the East-leading Yankees roll into town this weekend, the Red Sox may have an opportunity to draw level in the standings, a situation that seemed virtually impossible just three weeks ago.
In light of this resurgence, Boston’s need to add talent, rather than shed salary, at the upcoming trade deadline is even more pronounced. Having invested heavily in elite talent over the winter, then watched it struggle but enjoy a renaissance, Ben Cherington would be wrong not to double down and reward his battling players by acquiring some reinforcements. David Ortiz said as much in a recent interview, articulating his hope that the front office “can get something that can help you continue winning games.”
So, what exactly is that “something” for the 2015 Red Sox? What does this team need to continue its forward momentum? Well, offensively, the Sox have really improved lately, to the point where the team now ranks in the top ten in hits, runs scored and OBP. Finally, the powerful lineup we all envisaged is coming to fruition, with Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval joining Mookie Betts, Brock Holt, Xander Bogaerts and Dustin Pedroia as consistently productive bats. I feel confident that, with the present lineup, the Red Sox will score enough runs to compete.
However, the pitching staff inspires no such confidence. Quite frankly, it’s a mess. Always has been, always will be, until management admits it’s mistakes and finally corrects them. Admittedly, Clay Buchholz has been tremendous recently, and Eduardo Rodriguez adds a youthful enthusiasm to proceedings, but the remainder of this rotation, namely Rick Porcello, Wade Miley and Justin Masterson, has simply been awful.
Porcello currently has a 6.08 ERA and 1.40 WHIP; Miley is at 4.50 and 1.44; and Masterson tops the field with his astonishing marks of 6.14 and 1.68. Essentially, regardless of the money they’re owed, and regardless of the commitment Red Sox management has made to these guys, this team isn’t going to reach the postseason with truly woeful pitchers starting three out of every five games. You could tolerate one of the trio sticking around to fill out the rotation, but two makes this team bad, and three makes it borderline embarrassing.
So, what starters are available? Of course, Cole Hamels is on the block, but new Phillies chief Andy MacPhail may wait until the offseason to move him. Elsewhere, Miami may deal Dan Haren and Mat Latos; San Diego could take their annual offers on Ian Kennedy and Andrew Cashner; while Cincinnati is likely to seriously consider bids for Mike Leake and ace Johnny Cueto.
Whether the Red Sox’ perpetually disappointing front office is finally prepared to deal prospects for a rotation upgrade, or indeed let a strong two-week run force them into acquiring talent, remains to be seen. But, philosophically, there is no doubt. This team needs new blood, new stars, new hope. This team must buy at the deadline. After all, they’re the Boston Red Sox, whose loyal fans deserve the opportunity to dream again.