John Lackey Should Still Be With Boston

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher John Lackey was a strong contributor to the 2013 World Series team and trading him was a big mistake. Lackey had a roller coaster ride in a Sox uniform as he struggled in his first two seasons before becoming a reliable arm every fifth day for the organization. When the 2014 team was scuffling and the trade deadline came around, former Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington decided to part ways with John Lackey, trading him for Joe Kelly and Allen Craig.

Craig was struggling and his career looked to be dwindling and Kelly had his struggles inJohn Lackey the National League which typically doesn’t lead to success in the more hitter friendly American League. Meanwhile, Lackey seemed to be gaining form and becoming who the Sox thought they were getting him when they signed him to a five year $82.5 million deal. That improvement has continued and John Lackey is pitching like an ace, often going unnoticed behind Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester in the best starting pitching rotation in baseball.

Last season in St. Louis, Lackey had a 2.77 ERA and this season he has a 2.63 ERA for the Cubs. At this point in his career he will not wow you with his stuff but he hits his spots and gets guys out, something many Sox pitchers struggle to do. Lackey seems to be blossoming late in his career as last season was his best season to date and he’s on track to improve on those numbers this year. With John Lackey pitching so great, the Sox return of Joe Kelly and Allen Craig in the trade has been a catastrophe.

John Lackey Belongs with Red Sox Nation

Kelly has not established himself in the Sox rotation and is not looking likely to do so. Kelly has good stuff to work with but he has yet to put it together and it seems like yesterday the 28 year old was still a promising prospect. Kelly is now in the minor leagues, joining the other piece in the trade, Craig. Craig has been a disaster as he has been a minor leaguer for most of his tenure with the Sox organization. A once promising offensive player for the St. Louis Cardinals, Craig has seen his career vanish quickly and likely has played his last inning in the major leagues.

The Sox let go of a pitcher that was big time in the postseason in 2013 in order to gamble on a pitcher with upside who hadn’t put it together and a bat that was on the downfall. As a result, this trade is one of the worst in recent memory and the Sox 4.22 ERA as a pitching staff would be much better if Ben Cherington had stayed with John Lackey.

Bartolo Colon a Great Target for the Red Sox

Following Wednesday night’s game, it is becoming clearer that the Red Sox need to acquire starting pitching and one target not being talked about is New York Mets starter Bartolo Colon. Yes, that is the 43 year old Colon who throws an 88 MPH fastball on average according to FanGraphs. Colon would bring stability at the back end of the Sox rotation and the ability to eat innings as an established veteran starting pitcher.

Colon has a 3.39 ERA this year for the Mets with 45 strikeouts in 61 innings pitched.Bartolo Colon These numbers would be very strong in the Sox rotation. However, in the Mets starting rotation, Bartolo Colon currently serves as the 5th starter behind Noah Syndergaard, Jacob DeGrom, Steven Matz and Matt Harvey.

Noah Syndergaard: 63.2 IP, 81 Strikeouts, 1.84 ERA, 0.96 WHIP

Jacob DeGrom: 55 IP, 47 Strikeouts, 2.62 ERA, 1.16 WHIP

Steven Matz: 55.1 IP, 53 Strikeouts, 2.60 ERA, 1.05 WHIP

Matt Harvey: 60.1 IP, 50 strikeouts, 5.37 ERA, 1.54 WHIP

Looking at these four guys, some may say that Harvey should be the odd man out in the Mets rotation. There were some questions about whether or not the Mets would demote him so he could work on his game before his last start in which he silenced those critics with 7 shutout innings against the Chicago White Sox. Harvey has been a top prospect in the Mets system and he has a bright future, meaning the organization will not start Bartolo Colon ahead of him. If Colon is the fifth starter and is pitching at such a level, why would the Mets deal him?

The Mets have another elite young starting pitcher rehabbing from a Tommy John surgery, 26 year old Zack Wheeler. Wheeler put together two productive seasons at the major league level before going down with the elbow injury. In 285.1 innings in the majors, Wheeler has a 3.50 ERA with 271 strikeouts. While Wheeler is no guarantee to come back strong, Colon will be the odd man out if he does return. If this is the case, the Red Sox should make the move for Colon.

Bartolo Colon is on a one year deal worth $7.25 million for the 2016 season. The Red Sox could take on this contract and the Mets may even be willing to eat some of it if the Sox throw in an offensive piece that could improve upon the Mets 26th ranked offense. While some may want one of the younger arms from the Mets such as a Steven Matz, the Mets likely will not give these young arms away unless they get an outstanding offer.

Pitching has proved to be the key to World Series championships and the Mets have plenty of it. The Sox have the offense to make a run at a championship but they need improved starting pitching and Colon gives them a cheap but solid option to bolster their staff.

Sox Need a Fifth Starting Option

With Joe Kelly having a very tough outing against the Toronto Blue Jays, giving up 5 earned runs in 4.2 innings pitched, the Sox need a fifth starting option. With the recent demotion of starter Clay Buchholz to the bullpen, Kelly was expected to step up and replace him. Kelly may be a little better than Buchholz, which isn’t saying much. The Sox are in desperate need of a fifth option behind David Price, Rick Porcello, Steven Wright and Eduardo Rodriguez. While the trade deadline is the most likely scenario for adding a fifth and likely a sixth starter, what should the Sox do for now?

The problem with the Sox minor league system right now regarding starting pitching is thatJoe Kelly they don’t have any pitcher major league ready that’ll pitch better than either Buchholz or Kelly. The one option they could turn to is lefty Brian Johnson. Johnson is really not much of an upgrade and the lack of major league ready arms down on the farm is an issue for this team.

Johnson has a 4.64 ERA at Pawtucket and has walked 22 batters in just 33 innings, reminiscent of fellow lefty prospect Henry Owens. While he has strikeout potential, 28 strikeouts in those innings, the lack of command just won’t cut it. Johnson may very well get the call if Kelly’s struggles persist but it will likely just be another disaster. Another option could be moving Matt Barnes back into the rotation, not a good baseball move though.

Barnes has been stellar in the bullpen this year and the fact that he was formerly a starting pitcher may have some lobbying for him to get another chance. This would also end up being a disaster as Barnes lacks an arsenal of pitches and relies on his fastball around 70% of the time. Without secondary pitches, there is little chance of succeeding at the big league level as a starter. So where do the sox go from here?

With an offense that is putting up gaudy numbers, the Sox have the luxury of waiting until the deadline to get improved starting pitching. Every fifth day the Sox are capable of scoring in double digits, eliminating the importance of pitching. With this, the Sox will lack a decent fifth option but their elite offense is more than capable of bailing out whoever the number five starter is every fifth day.

Jackie Bradley Hit Streak Ends at 29 Games

Jackie Bradley showed Sox nation that he’s arrived offensively at the big league level. During the 29 game hit streak, Bradley hit .415 (44-for-106) with 20 extra-base hits, including eight homers and 30 RBIs. All great things come to an end as Sox fans know with this being the final year for Sox great and one of baseball’s great ambassadors, David Ortiz. However, Bradley has many strong years ahead and this hit streak showed that.

Bradley came into this season with just 700 at bats in the big leagues and 238 gamesJackie Bradley played. So while he technically has three years of major league experience, his plate appearances represent less than two full years of experience. Major league experience is commonly misinterpreted if one just looks at years played. So with under two years of actual playing time and exposure to the highest level, Bradley is on track to being a very strong major league hitter.

Following the hit streak, Bradley’s average sits at .341. While this average is unlikely to persist throughout the rigorous 162 game season, Bradley has shown me he can be a .300 hitter with 20-25 homers. The most impressive component to his game that I have noticed this season is his willingness to go with the ball and use the monster as his best friend. Countless times Bradley has knocked a double off the monster. Bradley also can run, stealing 15 bases out of 15 attempts. To go along with his outstanding defense, Bradley is becoming an all star with all of the work he has put in during the offseason. Meanwhile, some people are questioning whether or not he is using PED’s.

Bradley has always had the reputation of being a listener and having a strong work ethic. The improvements in his game are a product of that rather than PED’s. Nowadays, whenever somebody takes off it seems that the PED questions surface. This is an absolute joke and is a disgrace to the game in general, improvement can be made with work being put in. Bradley has put in the work and as a result he is becoming one of the better hitters in the league. What’s next for Bradley?

Bradley cannot improve much upon the numbers he has put up. In fact, he is likely to regress to a fairly great extent. Bradley will probably end the season with a .304 batting average with 22 homers and 93 RBI. That is regression on his current projected stats based off of his performance thus far, 28 homers and 117 RBI. Bradley has been awesome to watch during his streak and that will not change, Bradley has arrived and he is here to stay.

Sonny Gray is the Missing Piece to the Red Sox Rotation

The Boston Red Sox are on a historic pace offensively. However, some nights even the offense is incapable of bailing out the runs given up by the starting rotation. With Price rounding into form to go along with the solid seasons put together by Steven Wright and Rick Porcello, the Sox are two starting pitchers away from being serious World Series contenders. One of those starters is Eduardo Rodriguez who is nearing a return in theSonny Gray rotation. The other starter should be Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Sonny Gray, a guy the Sox must target at the 2016 MLB trade deadline.

Gray has had his struggles this season after posting a 2.73 ERA last season. The Sox
offense recently lit him up for seven earned runs in 3.2 innings pitched. However, the talent is there and the resume is there with Gray. He’s had two consecutive seasons with over 200 innings pitched and has been a reliable arm for the Athletics. He comes at a reasonable price for the Sox as well.

Gray is under team control through 2020. The Sox would likely have to ship out one of the top prospects in our farm system. The guy I would ship out would be Andrew Benintendi, the outfielder who was just recently promoted to Double A Portland. Benintendi would provide Oakland with a centerfielder to build an offense around. While it would be tough seeing Benintendi go, the Sox have the guys in place to deal him away. After all, starting pitching is essential to winning a world series.

Without a strong starting rotation, it is very tough to win it all, even with an offense as potent as the Red Sox. With Gray and Price, the Sox would have a solid one-two punch at the front end of their rotation, something the Sox have lacked for years. Acquiring him would also slide Porcello into the third spot in the rotation, a much more comfortable place for him to pitch. Porcello would be followed by Rodriguez and Wright in a very improved starting rotation. The pieces are there to pull it off, the question is whether or not Dave Dombrowski will do it.

Travis Shaw Close to Being Best at Third Base

Coming into the 2016 season, Travis Shaw was the fan favorite for the starting third base job. The reason for this was because Pablo Sandoval came in overweight, showing a lack of commitment in the off-season. Since winning the third base job after a strong spring, Shaw has looked strong and Sandoval is now out for the season due to a shoulder injury, resulting in Shaw having the job sealed. Shaw has been very successful offensively atTravis Shaw home and has done a better job defensively than expected at the hot corner.

Since debuting last season at the big league level, Shaw has been one of the best hitters at Fenway Park. Last season, he hit a cool .329 at home in 119 at bats. This season, the success has continued, hitting at a .387 clip in 62 at bats. Shaw has shown the ability to spray the ball to all fields and looks like a guy who is here to stay.

Shaw has been playing corner infield positions throughout his life, spending time at both first base and third base. However, he has spent less time at third base, only having five starts there last season. Coming into this season, Shaw’s defense was something to watch. With 4 errors on the season through 28 starts, the numbers do not help Shaw’s case. Sometimes numbers are deceiving and in this case they are. He has showed good range and good decision making thus far and as long as he continues hitting, the defense will be an afterthought. With the offense clicking and the better than expected defense, Shaw seems to have it all figured out right?

The answer to that is no. While Shaw has impressed me and made Sandoval an afterthought, he still has areas of his game to work on. On offense, Shaw has to show that he can hit on the road and hit lefties. He has crushed right-handers to a .376 clip but has only hit .143 against lefties. Both of these can be fixed and Shaw should be able to do just that. Last season he hit lefties better than righties. He had a .329 average against lefties last season compared to a .243 against righties. On defense, he just needs more starts and to continue adjusting to the other side of the diamond. He is not a defensive liability but he also is below average this season regarding third base defense, ranking 22nd in baseball in defensive fielding percentage.

Shaw has been a pleasant surprise and the potential is there to be even better, scary for opposing teams. If he figures out left-handers again and improves his play on the road, Shaw is on track to being an elite offensive third baseman in baseball.