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.

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.

 

It’s Time to Start Playing Sandy Leon More Often

After defeating the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday, the Boston Red Sox improved to 38-17. That is the best record in Major League Baseball, and good for a 2.5 game lead in the AL East. The offense continues to flourish, and this team is giving fans every reason to be excited. Lost in all this excitement is an issue at the catcher position. Specifically, the lopsided playing time between Christian Vazquez and Sandy Leon.

In 2015, Vazquez underwent Tommy John surgery and missed the entire season. This isSandy Leon when the Sox brought in Sandy Leon from the Washington Nationals. It was not until 2016 when Vazquez and Leon began their timeshare behind the plate. Leon appeared in 78 games to Vazquez’ 57. And for good reason. Leon batted .310 with 78 hits that year and provided solid production from the catcher position. His average regressed to .225 in 85 games the next year. Vazquez capitalized, notching 99 starts and batting .290, both career-highs. The timeshare worked with success, as neither emerged as the true alpha catcher.

And now, 55 games deep into the 2018 season, Christian Vazquez has logged 39 starts to Sandy Leon’s 22. But the results are not at all a reflection of 2017. Vazquez is only batting .188 with 6 RBIs and no home runs. That average comes out to a meager 26 hits in 138 plate appearances. Meanwhile, Leon is batting .254 with more RBIs (8) and home runs (2) than his counterpart.

Granted, Vazquez has proven to be more valuable behind the plate than next to it. However, aside from steals, the numbers are nearly negligible. Vazquez is 5-12 on steal attempts with a .992 fielding percentage and three errors. In comparison, Leon is 0-8 with a .995 fielding percentage and only one error.

With very similar defensive skills, the Red Sox must look at who can contribute more to the team as a whole. With Hanley Ramirez designated for assignment last week, the team must do something to sustain the offensive production that has got them to this point. That point being the best team in Major League Baseball. Sandy Leon’s ability to hit for power, past success at the plate, and relatively superior numbers this year make him every bit worthy of more playing time.

Then there’s always Blake Swihart, but that’s a different, and much more complicated, situation.

 

It’s Time to Trade Jackie Bradley Jr.

As much as I love the man, it’s time the Red Sox trade Jackie Bradley Jr. away. For years, I’ve been saying that Bradley Jr. only needed a few more years to develop his swing and improve his batting average. But he’s only hitting .173 as of May 8th. He’s also not hitting the home runs he used to hit. With over 500 games played and 1800 at-bats, his career average is only .235. While he’ll always have one of the best gloves in the American League, it’s clear Bradley Jr. is becoming a detriment rather than an asset to the Red Sox.

Last night’s game against the Yankees only solidified this notion. He went 0-3 against thetrade jackie bradley Yankees in a crucial 3-2 loss. In the month of May alone, Bradley Jr. has only two hits in twenty-three at-bats. According to ESPN, “Bradley’s .173 batting average and .528 OPS are better than only three qualified hitters in baseball.” So when does Dave Dombrowski say enough’s enough?

It’s not like the Red Sox need him anyway. J.D. Martinez could easily take his place, and he has one of the hottest bats in the American League right now. Bradley Jr.’s current WAR is -0.3 whereas Martinez’s is 1.6. Bradley Jr. has a .173 batting average vs. Martinez’s .346 as of May 9th. Martinez has eight home runs compared to Bradley Jr.’s two. If the math doesn’t make it clear who’s more valuable, that what can?

Trade Jackie Bradley Jr. for the Benefit of the Team

Trading Bradley Jr. would allow for stronger players to get more playing time and solidify the Red Sox’s lead in the AL East. Alex Cora could replace Bradley Jr. with J.D. Martinez in the outfield. Hanley Ramirez could become the designated hitter again, a role he thrived in. Cora could then replace Ramirez at first base with Gold Glove-winner Mitch Moreland.

Cora and Dombrowski can no longer keep giving Bradley Jr. more chances to improve his hitting. After so many seasons, it’s clear he’s never going to be a .300 hitter. If anything, his lack of offense is now a liability. If the Red Sox were to trade Jackie Bradley Jr., stronger players like Hanley Ramirez and Mitch Moreland would get more playing time, and they have great offensive numbers.

I love Jackie Bradley Jr., especially his glove, but if Dombrowski wants to win a third straight AL East title and go to the World Series, it’ll have to be without him.

Red Sox’ Injuries Plague Team into Bad Stretch

It seems that the Red Sox can not catch a break when it comes to staying healthy. Drew Red Sox' InjuriesPomeranz left his most recent game after experiencing left-forearm tightness, while Marco Hernandez banged up his shoulder just the other day. This is a team that is looking to turn things around after losing consecutive series to Milwaukee and Tampa Bay. If it weren’t for a late Mookie Betts home-run on Thursday, we would have been swept by Travis Shaw’s Brewers. The Red Sox’ injuries have been coming fast and furious so far, and hopefully can come to an end soon.

Are the Red Sox’ Injuries to blame for hitting rough patch?

Pomeranz, Hernandez, Stephen Wright, Pablo Sandoval (surprisingly), Brock Holt, and Hanley Ramirez have all faced injuries this season. Meanwhile, David Price, Roenis Elias, Tyler Thornburg, and Carson Smith have not appeared in a game yet this year. Going into this season, arguably every one of those names were ones that were going to make a huge impact this year. Sure, there is still plenty of time for some of these guys to contribute. Dave Dombrowski is going to have to make a decision soon, though. The inconsistencies in the lineup, bullpen, and back-end of the starting rotation all start with the injuries.

Red Sox’ Injuries or Red Sox’ Slump?

With a lack of depth in the roster due to injuries, several players have hit their own cold spells. Rick Porcello and Jackie Bradley Jr have slumped in their respective roles because they have so much pressure on them to succeed. Last year, Porcello went under the radar for a decent amount of the year before ultimately winning the Cy Young. Bradley was able to alleviate stressful situations last season because there were more guys in the lineup who could get RBI. Are these guys slumping because of the added pressure that injuries bring, or because they simply are struggling? The same question can be asked about Mitch Moreland and Andrew Benintendi, who started the year off hot, but have cooled down tremendously, (as the injuries have rolled in). Only time will tell if the Sox will break their rut, but a little more luck with health wouldn’t hurt either.

Top Ten Current Red Sox Players: Part 1

After winning the AL East in 2017, Boston looks to continue their success this season. This series will look at the top ten Red Sox players on the roster in all positions. The rankings are based mainly on performances from 2016 and early 2017.

Top Ten Current Red Sox Players

  1. Jackie Bradley Jr.

Known mostly for his superb defense, Bradley has the ability to kill rallies by gunning out bradley red sox playersrunners trying to advance. Likewise, he can take hits away by making incredible catches. Additionally, the center fielder can knock in runs hitting in the middle of the lineup—87 in 2016 to be exact.

  1. Hanley Ramirez

After a rough transition back to the Red Sox and the American League, Han-Ram became a force in the lineup during the 2016 season. He batted .236 with 30 homers and 11 RBI. Now that David Ortiz is gone, Hanley must continue to drive in runs and fill his shoes at DH if the lineup is to be as successful.

  1. David Price

Even though he is currently on the disabled list, Price deserves the respect because of his consistent major league success. In 2016, he led the American League in innings pitched and was fourth in wins. This was during a so called “down year.” Maybe when he returns from injury, he’ll be back to the dominant form. And if not for playoff struggles, he’d be higher on this list.

  1. Rick Porcello

When you win the American League Cy Young Award and lead the league in wins the previous year, you deserve to find yourself near the top of any list. However so far in 2017, Porcello hasn’t had as much success, going 1-2 with a 5.32 ERA in four starts. Granted it is a small sample size, though.

  1. Dustin Pedroia

            Following Ortiz’s retirement, Pedroia is now the undisputed leader and captain of the Red Sox. And to no surprise, he is still producing despite his age. In 2016, Pedey was tied with Betts for second in the AL with a .318 average. So far this season, he is averaging a hit per game. Furthermore, his defense is as strong as ever.