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.

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.

Boston Breaks Out Bats in Clean Sweep

The Red Sox offense has been on fire lately, torching the Oakland A’s for 40 runs in a clean sweep this past week and racking up 17 more in the first two games of this weekend’s four-game set against the Houston Astros. Boston now leads all of baseball in runs, hits, doubles, slugging, total bases, and OPS while hitting .296 as a team, looking like the murderer’s row that made three straight playoff appearances from 2003-2005.

Boston Breaks Out Bats in Clean Sweep

Monday marked the unofficial start of spring in Boston as temperatures in the city pushedClean Sweep 70 degrees, which, along with a return to Fenway’s cozy confines, seemed to help the Olde Towne Team break out of their mini-slump. After scoring just nine runs in their Mother’s Day weekend series at Yankee Stadium, the Red Sox kicked off their home stand in grand fashion, pummeling the A’s 14-7.

That set the tone for the rest of the series, which saw Boston batter Oakland for 13 runs and 16 hits in the middle game, followed by 13 more runs and 17 hits in the series finale as they put the finishing touches on their clean sweep.

Though every Red Sox player contributed in some form or fashion, Jackie Bradley, Jr. was the star of the series with a pair of six-RBI games, continuing his recent breakthrough at the plate.

New Opponent, Similar Results

Boston’s bats didn’t cool off when Oakland left town. The Red Sox greeted the Houston Astros with another offensive outburst on Thursday, pounding last year’s AL Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel for eight runs on 10 hits in six innings. They later added three more runs to their ledger against Houston’s bullpen, breaking double digits for the fourth night in a row. Every Sox starter notched at least one hit, which had been the case the previous night as well.

Boston’s streak finally came to an end Friday night, as the Sox lost (there will be no clean sweep of Houston) after scoring “only” six runs on 11 hits. It looked like they might reach double digits again after getting halfway there in the second inning, but they scored only once more the rest of the way. Perhaps the evening’s rain dampened their bats as well as the field.

But with warm weather and plenty of sunshine forecast for the weekend, Boston looks to finish its home stand with a flourish. With thumpers such as Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer, Colby Rasmus, and Carlos Gomez, among others, the Astros have a thunderous lineup that rivals Boston’s, so the Sox will need to keep up the pace to continue winning. Seeing as how Houston’s pitching staff ranks last in the AL in hits allowed and second-to-last in runs allowed, that shouldn’t be too difficult.

Red Sox May Benefit from Being Bad

Rejoice, Red Sox fans. All is not lost after the Red Sox stood pat at the July 31st trade deadline. It is possible that being bad could benefit the Red Sox. At the moment, the Red Sox are in possession of the worst record in the American League, which means they get first priority on waivers. That means the Red Sox could get first crack on a guy like Sonny Gray, should he become available, or any other player they want to claim on waivers.

This is significant because if a top starter is put on trade waivers, the Red Sox Red Soxwould get exclusive rights to negotiate for the guy. It doesn’t guarantee that they’ll get a deal done, but it does mean even if they can’t make a deal, they can figure out what it would take to get him in the off-season. That would give them a head start on any trade targets on guys they want to go after later.

This might not make any difference, but if the Red Sox get an ace out of it, it would be a big win for 2016. Forget about 2015. Any moves they make with this will, and should be, geared towards winning in 2016. It’s just good to think that maybe, just maybe, something could be done after an extremely disappointing trade deadline in which the Red Sox accomplished nothing significant towards possibly making 2016 better.

Red Sox Lose 4 in a Row to Angels

I probably should have guessed that the Red Sox streak right before the All-Star game was too good to be true—and I would have been right. The Red Sox lost their first 4 games after the All-Star break against the L.A. Angels, putting up a grand total of 4 runs in 4 games. Those 4 runs all came Monday as part of a day-night double-header. Not that they did any good, though, as Los Angeles put up 18 runs in those 2 games against Red Sox pitching. The Angels out scored the Red Sox 22-4 for the series. Yikes!

A small part of me thought this would happen, that the Red Sox didn’t really stand a Red Soxchance, and I probably should have listened to that part of me, because they really are done now. This team doesn’t have the talent or the will to make a push, even in a division as weak as the AL East has been this year. Any hope I might have had died this weekend, watching this sad display against the Angels.

Now, it doesn’t really matter if the Red Sox go out and trade for Sonny Gray, Cole Hamels, Johnny Cueto, or all 3! It’s officially too late for them to dig themselves out of this hole, especially after this weekend’s display. My only hope right now is that the Red Sox can get their act together enough to at least pull themselves out of last place in the Al East, but even that might be too much to ask.

After this series, it’s pretty clear that the Red Sox should be sellers at the trade deadline, because, as I mentioned above, any hopes they might have had of playing themselves back into contention died after being so thoroughly out-played in Anaheim. I thought before the All-Star break that the Red Sox might be able acquire a few good veteran pieces and get themselves back into contention, but I’ve now given up on that. Any moves they make should be geared towards 2016, because 2015 is now a lost cause.

Red Sox Exec Watched Cole Hamels

On Sunday, the Red Sox were rumored to have an executive in the crowd in Philadelphia to possibly scout out Cole Hamels, who started for the Phillies against the Miami Marlins, according to Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston. Edes reports that it was Senior Vice President of Player Personnel, Allard Baird.

On Sunday, Cole Hamels was roughed up for 5 runs on 8 hits in 3 innings, and his last Cole Hamelsstart was even worse—9 runs on 12 hits in 3.1 innings. Aside from his recent struggles, he is owed $70.5 million guaranteed over the next 3 years, plus either a $20 million team option or a $24 million vesting option for 2019, and the Red Sox have been reluctant to make major financial commitment to pitchers over 30 (Hamels in now 31). That was the reason they didn’t bring Jon Lester back after last season.

Cole Hamels has had his ups and downs this season, and to me, he’s not worth what it would cost, both financially and in terms of prospects. Gordon Edes talks about a package deal including the likes of Jackie Bradley Jr, Henry Owens, and Manuel Margot, among others, which would be too much to give up in my opinion.

To me, Hamels is an 11th hour type deal if they can’t get anyone else. If it were me, I would prioritize younger blood – Sonny Gray and Johnny Cueto could both be on the block, and both would be preferable to me, over a guy like Hamels, who could make around $100 million for the next few years, which isn’t worth it in my opinion. He’s had some ups this season, but he’s also had his downs, especially recently, as I mentioned above. We also roughed him up on Opening Day, and I’m going to have to say pass on Hamels unless our options are limited come deadline day. But, we’ll see. The Red Sox might decide to make Hamels a priority, or they might decide to blow it up like last season. It’s still unclear whether they’ll be buyers or sellers at the deadline.