Sox Trade For Tyler Thornburg

The Red Sox, amid plenty of rumors for deals and signings, finally made a move Tuesday. The move was not earth-shattering, but it certainly tells a lot about the 2017 team. The Red Sox acquired Tyler Thornburg, a late-inning reliever from the Milwaukee Brewers. In return, they sent two prospects, IF Mauricio Dubon and P Josh Pennington to Milwaukee. The final piece to the deal was fan-favorite Travis Shaw, whose offensive numbers declined every month of the 2016 season.

Dave Dombrowski added some bullpen depth, but this also raises plenty of questions. ThornburgFirst off, who is Tyler Thornburg and what is his role? Thornburg is fireballer who was both a set-up man and closer for the Brewers last season. In 2016, he earned 13 saves after Jeremy Jeffress was traded and had a 2.15 ERA and a WHIP of 0.94 in 67 innings. With Dombrowski wanting a closer-type to set-up Craig Kimbrel, Thornburg fits the mold. That almost certainly sends free agents Koji Uehara and Brad Ziegler packing.

With the acquisition of Thornburg, Carson Smith may be the odd man out. After undergoing Tommy John surgery last year, the long-awaited return to Boston may never come. Smith has had an injury history in the past and Thornburg seems like a carbon copy. He fills the same role as Smith with the same arsenal. Coincidentally, Thornburg has also had elbow problems like Smith as well.

This trade can also shake up the future of the starting rotation. Not that Josh Pennington was a serious pitching prospect, but he’s gone now. That means they will probably pursue a big-time starter in free agency next year. The 2018 free-agent class is star-studded, with the likes of Kershaw, Bumgarner, Arrieta, Darvish, Tanaka, Sale (tentatively), Tillman and Cueto on the market. The Red Sox will hope to make a big splash there, as their pitching prospects are fading fast.

Thornburg Trade’s Impact on Third Base

Finally, this leave’s Travis Shaw’s position open. The Red Sox are now faced with two options. The first is Yoan Moncada. The Minor League Player of the Year just is not ready for the big leagues as he showed in September, needing to strike out like he needed air to breathe. Moncada may be a nice option at some point, not Opening Day. That leaves Pablo Sandoval. Looking lean and fit in his recent trip to Barcelona, Sandoval looks like a new man. Assuming he didn’t gain a pound a day there, he looks ready to play third base again. Whether he can hit will be a totally different story. Right now, the Red Sox look like they are going to trust Sandoval here. Knowing Brock Holt is not an every day player, it looks like it’s Sandoval’s job once again.

So yes, this trade tells a lot about next year’s Red Sox. Dombrowski has put emphasis on a playoff caliber bullpen this year. He has now acquired a guy who was dominant in 2016 while getting rid of an empty bat in Travis Shaw. They also get him for cheap money at $513,900 and with team control through 2019. Tyler Thornburg may officially usher in the Kung-Fu Panda Era back to Boston, and isn’t that glorious news to wake up to?

Is the Red Sox Pitching Staff Coming Around?

It’s finally happening. The Boston Red Sox are finding that groove they couldn’t quite grasp all season. For a while the Red Sox took a “two steps forward, one step back” approach. It didn’t work. Particular frustration fell on the Red Sox pitching staff. Blown leads and poor relief pitching added to that “one step back” mentality. But with the Red Sox in a safe lead in the American League East, it’s clear that the pitching staff is finding its groove.

Let’s start with Clay Buchholz. I gave up on Buchholz as a Red Sox pitcherRed Sox Pitching Staff  after he gave up a home run on his first pitch last summer. Enraged, I left Fenway Park. The first inning hadn’t even ended yet. For the next several weeks, I watched Buchholz struggle on the mound as he gave up numerous runs in his first few innings. Recently, however, Buchholz has won the two of his last three starts. While the teams Buchholz has beaten aren’t exactly contenders (Tampa Bay, San Diego), it’s still an improvement, especially compared to where he was last summer. He still has to bring his ERA down, but for now, let’s be thankful it’s not going up!

After being on the disabled list for almost two months, Koji Uehara is finally back. Uehara doesn’t seem to have lost much of his magic either. As of September 17th, Uehara has a 0.67 WHIP and a 0.00 ERA in the last seven days. While he hasn’t registered a save since mid-July, it’s good to know that Uehara’s time on the DL didn’t affected his performance.

Red Sox Pitching Staff Still Has Some Work To Do

While Clay Buchholz and Koji Uerhara are improving, there’s a few pitchers who have a ways to go before they’re dependable again. Eduardo Rodriguez, who everyone expected to have a strong season, is 2-7 in 17 starts. He only lasted 2.1 innings against New York on September 15th, yielding eight hits and four runs. He hasn’t won a game since July 16th. As for Steve Wright, fans haven’t seen him at all in September as he  works on rehabilitating his arm. Wright, like Rick Porcello, emerged as a surprise success this season. It’s only obvious that the team wants to get him back as soon as he’s healthy.

Run support hasn’t been much of an issue this year. The bats have been on fire all season. The Red Sox pitching staff suffered from inconsistency throughout much of the season. However, it’s clear that the pitching is finally synching with the hard hitting lineup. With that said, this optimistic fan and sports writer is growing more and more confident that he’ll see the Red Sox in the World Series.

Finding The Man For The Enigmatic Eighth Inning

As the Red Sox look for a division title, their main weakness is not a mystery. Their bullpen struggles have come up far too often this season, costing the Red Sox games in the late innings. The biggest problem for the beleaguered bullpen has undoubtedly been getting the ball to Craig Kimbrel, as they have been terrible in the eighth inning.

All season long, John Farrell has had to wrestle with whom he can send to the mound in Eighth inningthe eighth inning of a close game. Most of the guys he has tried there have had injuries or career-threatening implosions on the field. These eighth inning woes have certainly contributed to the Red Sox’s 3-50 record this season when trailing after eight.

It seems rather sensible to put Koji Uehara in that role. Uehara started the season there and obviously has some closing experience. After a torn pectoral muscle that has kept him out close to two months, it’s unclear just what you’ll get from the 41-year old though. Brad Ziegler finds himself in a similar scenario. As a guy who has closed a majority of his career, he seems like another good man for the eighth. However, his recent illness, as well as command issues, have certainly placed him out of that conversation. Junichi Tazawa has also been hurt this season, but that has not been his biggest issue. Since he came back from the DL in July, Tazawa’s ERA has been 6.75 and opponents are hitting .328 off him. His ineffectiveness has been so bad that he may not have a career after October.

The most recent guy thrown into that role has been Clay Buchholz. Buchholz was not bad in that role, but obviously now he can not be the guy. Since Steven Wright may be out for the season, Buchholz has been thrown back into the rotation and has flourished. It would be very smart for the Red Sox to keep him there and use this hot streak before he inevitably gets injured.

So Who Should Really Be The Eighth Inning Guy?

That leaves the most intriguing and most qualified candidate. While the trade for him now seems like a bust, Joe Kelly could be absolutely perfect to fill this void. Kelly’s stuff is tremendous; it always has been. However, he clearly does not have great baseball IQ and gets hit hard the second time around the order. Luckily, he should not face that problem anymore. Kelly has three potentially devastating pitches and he has clearly let himself loose out of the bullpen. His fastball touching 100 MPH on the radar gun and with good location, he can be unhittable. If he can locate those pitches consistently, the Red Sox could potentially throw two Craig Kimbrel’s at opponents in the eighth and ninth inning.

Joe Kelly may have finally found purpose on this team and could really live up to a role. Kelly has seems a few different scenarios out of the bullpen since his return to the club, but the eighth inning is the most sensible for him. Let’s face it, if the Red Sox can solve this problem, they will be a really dangerous team in September and into October. If Joe Kelly can electrify and baffle hitters like his stuff shows he can, watch out for the Red Sox.

Sox Need Pitching Help

Coming into the season, most pundits predicted that the Red Sox lineup would produce enough runs to keep the team in contention, which it has. Most analysts also expected that Boston’s pitching staff, specifically the starting rotation, would be a problem, and in that regard they were also correct. Many anticipated Dave Dombrowski dealing prospects to upgrade their pitching at the deadline, which he seems likely to do. Because the Red Sox need pitching help, and they need it now.

With Boston fading fast, Dombrowski can’t afford to wait another month before bolstering the staffSox Need Pitching Help. The Red Sox are 9-14 in June with a minus-12 run differential. They’ve gone from three games up on the AL East at the start of June to four games out of first in under four weeks. Boston’s offense has cooled considerably, but that’s less worrisome because lineups typically rise and fall over the course of the season. Barring serious injuries, that lineup will be fine.

The same can not be said, however, of Boston’s pitching staff. The rotation has been a mess, particularly at the back end. David Price has not been up to snuff. Joe Kelly and Clay Buchholz have bombed. Rick Porcello has been hot and cold. John Farrell has exhausted all his options for the last two rotation spots with middling results.

With none of the young Red Sox starters proving ready to contribute, Dombrowski must seek pitching help outside the organization. Several big-names will likely be available, including Sonny Gray and Julio Teheran, but would require bundles of prospects to acquire. Boston must stabilize its rotation, however, and it’s worth trading a few kids now to avoid relying on Sean O’Sullivan and Henry Owens down the stretch.

The bullpen could also use reinforcements, as reliable options for high leverage situations are lacking. There’s Craig Kimbrel, obviously, and Junichi Tazawa, but that’s pretty much it. Carson Smith’s done for the year and Koji Uehara is finally showing his age. Boston needs another power arm to strengthen the bridge to Kimbrel. Relievers are always plentiful near the deadline, so acquiring one shouldn’t be too difficult.

So even though the trade deadline is still more than a month away, Boston shouldn’t wait. The Red Sox need pitching help now. If they wait, it might be too late.

Where Will Dombrowski and the Red Sox Strike Next?

The Red Sox got their ace, and they got a solid closer as well. So, the question is now where will Dombrowski and company go from here? On paper, the team looks like a team that should be in the playoffs next year, assuming they can stay relatively healthy.

Dave Dombrowski has said that acquiring David Price will most likely be the last “major Dombrowski Red Soxmove,” but I disagree with that to an extent, and here is why: The Red Sox are not a World Series team yet. They have an ace in Price, but I believe the Red Sox still need either a number 2 starter or another solid reliever. Right now, the greater need is probably bullpen help because 2 of their key guys, Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara, have struggled with inconsistencies over the past season and a half or so. And Koji is nearing the end of the line at 40 years old, so I don’t know how much gas he has left in the tank. And no team can win without a good bullpen (see: Kansas City).

True, acquiring Craig Kimbrel was a good start, but I think they still need at least one more 7th or 8th inning guy in front of Kimbrel to really shore up the back end of the pen up and take some of the pressure off Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa.

In my opinion, getting another starter behind David Price is less of a need than another bullpen help because if the starters we already have pitch like they can, then the rotation should be set. And getting Price will take the pressure off guys like Clay Buchholz and Rick Porcello, as well as help the young guys we have develop, since they can definitely learn a lot from a great pitcher like David Price. If they go out and get a #2 starter, that would be good, but if it came down to it, I’d like to see the Red Sox go after another bullpen arm instead of resting on what they have now, as good as it is at the moment.

 

What Are the Options for a Red Sox Closer?

The Red Sox season took another unfortunate turn when the team found out that closer Koji Uehara will miss the rest of the season on Monday. Uehara was struck by an Ian Kinsler line drive in the series against the Tigers over the weekend, and fractured his wrist as a result.

This is just the latest in a series of unfortunate events this season, and takes a toll on a Red Sox closerRed Sox bullpen that is already struggling. It also takes one of the team’s more reliable pitchers out of the equation for the rest of the year, as Koji will end this season with 25 saves and a 2.23 ERA in 43 appearances.

While Koji had a rough spell towards the end of last year, he’s been one of the most consistent relievers the Red Sox have had over the past couple of seasons, and this presents a tough situation for the Red Sox.

ESPN said that manager John Farrell had mentioned Junichi Tazawa and Jean Maichi, who the Red Sox acquired off waivers from the San Francisco Giants, as short-term replacements for Koji Uehara, while the empty roster space also allowed the team to call up Ryan Cook from Pawtucket. The Red Sox acquired Cook from the Athletics on July 31st at the trade deadline.

Hopefully, this injury isn’t too serious for Koji and he’ll be able to return to the team for the start of 2016. Aside from being fun to watch when he’s on form, he’s also owed $9 million next season, the 2nd year of a 2-year/$18 million deal, so it would be nice to see him get back out there next season and earn that money.

At this point, it doesn’t really matter who they replace him with, since 2015 is a lost cause. Maybe they can use this as an opportunity to test out some young arms on the farm.