Is Manny Machado the Missing Piece?

Red Sox fans know that July 31st is always an important date on the baseball calendar. It is the non-waiver trade deadline. The big prize this year will presumably be Baltimore Orioles shortstop Manny Machado. Machado is having his usual MVP caliber year hitting over .300, with more than 50 runs batted in at the halfway point. He will be a free agent this offseason and will inevitably demand a big payday. The Orioles are already 29.5 games back and will likely look to get assets for their current star this summer.

Orioles general manager Dan Duquette wants a current promising major leaguer in anyMachado package. Usually, the Red Sox have a lot of assets and clout at their disposal during this time of year, enough to make a generous offer for such a player. However, most of those prospects have been either promoted or traded. Top prospects Michael Chavis, unfortunately, is suspended for PEDs and Jason Groome is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Therefore, the main pieces in any deal would probably be from the big league club.

With young star players such as Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi seemingly off the table, the logical name becomes Red Sox third baseman, Rafael Devers. Devers gives the Orioles some young pop, the talent now and for the future. Meanwhile, Machado, who has third base experience, could slide to the hot corner and not only improve the offense, but the defense. He’s a gold-glover at that position, meanwhile, Devers currently leads the position in errors.

Manny Machado Could Be the Missing Championship Piece

The problem with Machado is the impending free agency. Devers is under team control and the Red Sox will be risking taking on the free-agent to be and him not signing long-term with the team. However, that risk may be worth it considering how much he would improve the team this season. Dombrowski would want to have an initial talk with Machado about a framework of an extension, before dealing Devers. Devers is too good to let go for a rental.

The other caveat, of course, is Machado’s recent disdain for the Red Sox organization. Last year he was involved in the Red Sox-Orioles second base, year-long confrontation with Pedroia. This could be an issue. Many thought Machado went in too strong at second and Pedroia wasn’t happy. That caused a back and forth between the teams, with pitchers throwing at different batters, causing Machado to say “I’ve lost respect for that organization”. Now that seems to be a distant memory. The Orioles are almost irrelevant and Machado probably wants a shot at playing for a title. Also, Alex Cora is now at the helm for the Red Sox, not John Farrell. This could change Machado’s thoughts on the franchise.

Red Sox Offense Continues to Flourish

You can wave goodbye to the narrative that the Red Sox’ unheralded start to theRed Sox Offense season is a result of poor competition. After opening the season with nine games against the Rays and Marlins, they took two of three from the Yankees. Then they swept the Orioles. Then they took their high-powered offense across the country and swept the Los Angeles Angels. The Red Sox offense picked up right where they left off against their counterpart atop the American League standings, outscoring the Halos 27-3 in the series. Boston has won 7 straight and their 16-2 record is the MLB’s best start since 1987.

The brilliance of Boston’s offense has been no secret this season. They entered the series on a 4-game win streak with a top-two offense in Major League Baseball. The Angels boasted the league’s top offense as of Monday. Just days later, the Red Sox now own the best offense, and best record, in the nation.

Red Sox Offense: The Ohtani Test

In the series opener, the Red Sox got their first look at rookie phenom Shohei Ohtani. Ohtani has taken the MLB by storm with his dynamic two-way talent and jumped out to a 2-0 start with only four hits allowed. Boston’s juggernaut of an offense had other plans.

The Red Sox matched Ohtani’s hit total for the season in just two innings. The first came a mere seven pitches into the game when Mookie Betts sent one of his praised fastballs 411 feet over the center field wall. Ohtani’s night ended after just two innings, but Boston’s offense was just getting started. Betts added two more solo shots, tying Ted Williams’ franchise record for most career games with three home runs (3). Rafael Devers, Brock Holt, and Jackie Bradley Jr. all went deep as well. The Sox, totaling 15 hits in this offensive showcase, cruised to a 10-1 victory in the series opener.

Consistent Offense

In game two, the best offense in the MLB picked up right where they left off. Home runs from J.D. Martinez and Mitch Moreland, and a grand slam from Rafael Devers paced the Red Sox in their 9-0 win. In game three, Mookie Betts hit his second leadoff home run of the series, only needing three pitches this time. Andrew Benintendi, who sat out game two, added a home run and 3 RBI to the team’s 8-2 win.

With their latest sweep, the Red Sox extend their win streak to seven games as their offense looks more dangerous by the day. In 18 games, Boston has scored 6 or more runs in 11 of them, and average a league-best 6.35 runs per game. They lead the MLB in hits (190), batting average (.292), on-base percentage (.362), slugging percentage (.496), runs (116), and extra-base hits (82). After not hitting a single grand slam in 2017, they already have four this year. Able to produce with contact or power, this dynamic offense is the real deal, and here to stay.

It Gets Better

Let us not forget about Xander Bogaerts and Dustin Pedroia, both sidelined due to injury. Bogaerts was proving to be a valuable cog in this offense, batting .368 before hurting his ankle. Pedroia hasn’t seen the field yet, but his value to this lineup is undeniable.

Bogaerts took batting practice on Tuesday and is expected to return sometime next week. Pedroia is still a couple weeks away from returning, nursing his knee after receiving surgery over the summer.

Clearly, these absences have not impacted Boston’s bats in the slightest. But with two important starters set to return over the next few weeks, Red Sox Nation has every reason to be excited about this commanding offense.

Red Sox Rookies and Newcomers Carry The Team

The Red Sox rookies are posting some amazing debut numbers! Rookies Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers, and veteran newcomer Eduardo Nunez are tearing up the American League. The arrival of the first two concerned people who thought they came too soon. While many of the Red Sox are on the disabled list or slumping at the plate, these Red Sox rookies are on fire.

Andrew Benintendi came up late in the 2016 season straight from Portland. Hered sox rookies bypassed AAA and quickly proved that he belonged in the MLB. He hasn’t left since. Benintendi hit .295 in 34 games with the Red Sox in 2016, including a home run in the ALDS against the Indians. He earned a place in left field too with his above average defensive skills. He’s also on pace for a 20+ home run season and should received the Rookie of the Year Award.

Rafael Devers has only played fifteen games as of August 15rd but he’s hitting .339 in 64 plate appearances, nothing to shrug off. He also hit six home runs in those fifteen games. On August 13th, Devers hit a home run that came in at 102.8 miles per hour off Aroldis Chapman. According to Statcast, Devers hit the fastest pitch-turned-home run recorded since experts started tracking such statistics in 2008. That’s impressive for anyone. For a 20-year old rookie though? It’s nothing short of amazing.

Veterans Add Their Own Clout Alongside Red Sox Rookies

Eduardo Nunez, who came to the Red Sox from the San Francisco Giants, contributes years of skill to Red Sox offense. A 2016 All-Star, Nunez comes as a boon to the Red Sox. In 68 plate appearances as of August 14th, Nunez has a .382 average with four home runs.

The Red Sox won’t reach the playoffs because of regular players. Dustin Pedroia or Hanley Ramirez will play a role but not a big one. That accolade should go to the these newcomers and acquired veterans.

Red Sox Winning Streak Reflects New Focus

The Red Sox winning streak of six games is debunking the idea that the team is still struggling from David Ortiz’s absence. Not only has the Price/Eckersley hoopla finally died down, but their rookies are coming alive too. This Red Sox winning streak is a sign that Boston will surely contend for the World Series title come October.

Rookies Contributing To Red Sox Winning Streak

The Red Sox struggled after the All-Star break and briefly relinquished first place to theRed Sox winning Yankees. Then a sweep of the Indians and White Sox not only moved them back into first place, but it also gave its rookie stars the attention they deserve. Between August 1st and 8th, Andrew Benintendi hit .462 with a home run effectively breaking out of his slump. Raphael Devers is hitting .349 in 49 plate appearances with three home runs as of August 7th. That comes after hitting 20 home runs in 86 games in AA and AAA this year.

Veterans Also Contributing To Red Sox Winning Streak

MLB veterans like Chris Young and Eduardo Nunez also showed Red Sox Nation that they still have plenty of steam left to help win. Young slammed two home runs, including a tie-breaking shot in addition to driving in five ribbies against the White Sox on Sunday. Nunez, a late season addition to the Red Sox, has 4 home runs with a .400 batting average in the nine games he’s played with Boston so far. These two play with a zeal that clearly reflects their love for the game.

The Red Sox rookies and veterans are playing baseball like kids on sandlot do. They’re eager to contribute. They play to win. And they know they can reach the World Series. Some say the remaining problem lies with its other veterans. Hanley Ramirez hits for power but not average. Dustin Pedroia landed on the DL again, as did David Price. If these three can capture some of the same enthusiasm as their younger and older teammates, the Red Sox will be unstoppable come October.

After Deadline, Red Sox and Yankees Duel for East

A month ago, the Red Sox were the clear favorites to win the AL East after surging through June. But as July comes to a close, the Yankees and Rays have made major strides to tighten the race. As it stands today, New York leads the division by half a game, with the Red Sox second and the Rays three behind Boston. Clearly, the Rays, Red Sox and Yankees are in this for the long haul.

Red Sox and Yankees

But that could all change – either for the better or for worse. Though, here’s a quick recap.

  • On July 18, the White Sox traded Robertson, Todd Frazier, and Tommy Kahnleto the Yankees for Blake Rutherford, Tyler Clippard, Ian Clarkin, and Tito Polo.
  • Last Sunday, the Red Sox called up top infield prospect Rafael Devers – but later traded for utility player Eduardo Nunez.
  • Thursday, the Rays traded minor league pitcher Drew Smith for Mets first baseman and left-handed hitter Lucas Duda. Further, the Rays also acquired relief pitcher Steve Cishek and Sergio Romo. This came after the Rays had also added Peter Bourjos and Trevor Plouffe earlier in the summer.
  • Monday morning, the Red Sox finalized a deal for Mets setup pitcher Addison Reed.
  • Monday afternoon, the Yankees acquired Sonny Gray from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for Dustin Fowler, Jorge Mateo, and James Kaprielian. The night before, they traded for Twins pitcher Jaime Garcia and cash.

Trade Implications for Rays, Red Sox and Yankees

There is no question that the Yankees come out of July with the best chance on paper to win the division. Since having a dismal stretch in late June, New York has added three bona fide relievers, a middle of the order bat, and a proven regular right-handed starter. All of those moves filled significant holes on their roster and happened without giving up blue chip prospects like Clint Frazier and Gleyber Torres.

From a pure roster standpoint, Tampa improved more than Boston did from where they stood two weeks ago. The core of the Red Sox has underperformed, but if the Sox can’t solve their offensive woes, then Tampa Bay could steal some games, especially considering their boosted bullpen and a slew of versatile position players.

Addison Reed clearly fills a major hole in the Red Sox bullpen. Matt Barnes and Robby Scott let yesterday’s game against Kansas City get away, much like they did weeks ago. And with the injuries to Joe Kelly, Carson Smith, and Tyler Thornburg, it was time for a change.

Breakdown

While the Yankees may have added more depth to their bullpen, the Red Sox have just as good of an 8/9th inning combo in Reed and Craig Kimbrel. Likewise, the Sox believe Devers and Nunez are just as much of an upgrade as Todd Frazier would have been.

Bottom line: The Sox may have slightly improved their team, but all of it hinges on the production of “pre-existing” players on the team. Meanwhile, the Rays and Yankees made significant upgrades. This ensures that this division won’t be decided in early August. The Red Sox and Yankees rivalry may, in fact, be back.

Devers, Nunez Look to Solve Red Sox Depth Problem

There is no question that the offense is struggling, partly because of the Red Sox depthproblem. As of 7/25, Mitch Moreland was batting .067, Benintendi .145, Bogaerts .164, and Jackie Bradley.114.

Woof.

Red Sox Depth Problem

In the last 18, the Red Sox are 7-11, and averaging only 3.3 runs per game.

 

Woof again.

Despite this, they’re still in the thick of the AL East division race and only a half game out of first. And with the Yankees seemingly getting better with the additions of David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, and Todd Frazier, there was only one solution in their minds to stay ahead.

Calling up 20-year-old infield prospect Rafael Devers.

In 86 minor league games this season, Devers hit .311 with 20 home runs and 60 RBI. But his bat was never in question, for it was his defense that drew criticism from some advanced analysts and scouts. Though from what I’ve seen personally, watching Devers in the majority of home games in Portland, he has the physical and mental makeup to succeed in the big leagues. He also hit a bomb to center field for his first MLB hit.

So based on that, seems like he’d be the sole answer this season, right?

Wrong.

Tuesday, the Red Sox acquired Eduardo Nunez for minor league pitchers Gregory Santos and Shaun Anderson. Nunez was previously a member of the San Francisco Giants and Minnesota Twins. Based on his current .308 average, I’m not surprised San Fran’ was selling on him, but I would’ve thought the Red Sox would stand pat unless they were able to get a bona fide middle-of-the-order bat. No disrespect to Nunez, but he is basically here for depth.

A Red Sox Depth Problem

A lot of their infield depth is either injured or underperforming. Marco Hernandez and Josh Rutledge haven’t played at all since summer began. Tzu-Wei Lin was productive in late June and early July, but was sent back to the minors. Deven Marrero is a great defender, but can’t seem to hit consistently. He was sent down Friday. And if the top of the order is already struggling, the Sox cannot withstand that either.

To keep up with such deficiencies, Boston has added Devers and Nunez to the roster on this road trip. The latter of which will join the team Friday.

Whether this will solve the Red Sox on the field problems remains to be seen. But with the Yankees and Rays closely behind, something needed to be done.

And in fact, Dombrowski could still be trying to make a deal up until Monday’s deadline.