Red Sox Post All-Star Break Review

The Boston Red Sox entered the All-Star break at 68-30. That was the best record in Major League Baseball, and they’ve kept a firm grasp on that honor. Back on July 2nd, Rick Porcello and the Sox took down the Washington Nationals 4-3. You may remember Porcello driving a shot into the gap and clearing the bases off a pitch from reigning NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer to put Boston ahead. They went on to win the next nine contests. In the series opener against the Blue Jays, you may remember Mookie Betts’ at-bat heard around the world when he launched a grand slam over the Green Monster on the 13th pitch he saw. If you haven’t seen it, you should.

Boston’s next loss came eleven days later, on Friday the 13th no less, in their second All Star breakgame against the Blue Jays. The bad luck didn’t last long, however. The following game, the Sox and Jays headed to extra innings knotted at 2 when Xander Bogaerts stepped to the plate with the bases loaded. One run was all Boston needed, but Bogaerts went ahead and sent one over the fence in dead center instead, walking the game off in glorious fashion. It was Boston’s first walk-off grand slam since the year 2000.

Just a year after not hitting a single grand slam, the Sox, with nine at the break, are in striking distance of the franchise record for grand slams in a season (11), and the MLB record (14). The Red Sox concluded the first half winning 12 of their last 13 contests and 17 of their last 20. Now, as Boston’s dominant pace continues, let’s take a look back on the first half for the winningest team in Major League Baseball.

Starting Pitching

For the first time in Red Sox history, Boston entered the break with four pitchers with ten or more wins. Porcello and Eduardo Rodriguez have eleven, while Chris Sale and David Price, each with ten, are just behind.

Rodriguez continues to progress in Boston, with his 11-3 record, 3.44 ERA, and 110 strikeouts on pace to be career-highs. He was just placed on the ten-day disabled list with a right ankle sprain and is still sidelined to this day. While Porcello hasn’t returned to his Cy Young form from two years ago, he remains a respectable arm in the middle of the rotation. However, Porcello looked like Cy Young himself in his recent start against the Yankees, where he tossed a complete, one-hit gem of a game that aided the Sox in their relentless sweep of New York, comfortably in second place in the AL East.

Price continues to be a wild card with his injury hiccups and apparent inability to pitch against the Yankees. At 10-6 with an ERA north of four, there is certainly room for improvement from Boston’s 217-million-dollar southpaw. While we’re on the subject, Price looked to find some sort of groove against the Yankees in their last series. He wasn’t dominant, but it was a significant step in the right direction. Steven Wright and Drew Pomeranz will likely return to health soon after the break, and the claim for the fifth rotation spot is something to keep an eye on. Meanwhile, Sale, with an AL-best 2.23 ERA and MLB-best 188 strikeouts, is throwing as well as anyone in the MLB and is a front-runner for the American League Cy Young. I’ve paid my respects to him already.

Relief Pitching

In a word, unimpressive. We all know about Carson Smith by now. Joe Kelly has enjoyed a successful year as Boston’s setup man, but his ERA had ballooned to 4.31 recently after a stretch of shaky outings. Heath Hembree and Brian Johnson haven’t been anything special, and Tyler Thornburg had only appeared in four games. Craig Kimbrel had 30 saves at the break and continues to look like one of the best closers in baseball. But unfortunately, he can’t do it all.

Offense

The main reason for the best first half in franchise history? This right here. Mookie Betts led Major League Baseball with a .359 batting average and is gunning for MVP honors. J.D. Martinez, who batted .328, is third, and his 29 home runs and 80 runs batted in led the league at the break. The influence of Martinez on this lineup has been nothing short of incredible. He continues to make his case for one of the best free agent acquisitions the Red Sox have ever made. Expect his name right next to Mookie’s on the MVP ballot.

At the turning point in the season, Xander Bogaerts had already surpassed his 2017 home run total and matched his RBI total. Mitch Moreland played his way to his first career All-Star game in his second season in Beantown. Andrew Benintendi was flat out robbed of an All-Star appearance. He is on pace for career-highs in batting average, stolen bases, home runs, doubles, and RBI. The struggles of Jackie Bradley Jr. subsided as the first half wound down and he looks to have found some sort of groove at the plate. Newly acquired Steve Pearce is fitting in nicely so far. Through nine games, he’s batting .458 and is another cog in the stacked Red Sox lineup. Oh, and he absolutely torched the Yankees in the series sweep, hitting four dingers and driving in eight runs.

Review of the Red Sox After the All-Star Break

The Red Sox entered the break with a 4.5 game lead on the Yankees in the AL East, and it has skyrocketed since then. Betts, Martinez, Moreland, Sale, and Kimbrel all secured a trip to the All-Star Game. The Sox were the only team in the American League with multiple starters in the All-Star Game (Betts, Martinez).

Looking back, the Red Sox started the year 17-2 on their way to the best start in franchise history. And they hit the All-Star break after going 17-3 over their last 20. The Boston Red Sox are statistically the best team in Major League Baseball. If their historic first half is any indication, this ballclub will be a force to be reckoned with come October.

Second Half Questions For the Red Sox

Can you believe it? It’s already Independence day. As I was sitting at my friends’ barbecue, I looked up at the television and saw the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. As I couldn’t help but watch Joey Chestnut impressively devour another record 74 hot dogs in just 10 minutes, a different kind of record peaked my attention. The Red Sox record at the season halfway point of 59-29. A whopping 30 games over .500. It truly is impressive what Alex Cora and this team have done thus far. However, as the day went on and I was baking in the heat, waiting for the fireworks and having a good holiday, I couldn’t help but think of a few questions for the second half of this potential record Red Sox season.

Can J.D. Martinez Continue This Record First Season Pace For the Red Sox?

I have not witnessed such a great Red Sox signing in my lifetime since Manny Ramirez.Red Sox J.D. is often compared to the eccentric Red Sox great, because of his hitting ability, opposite field power, and high annual salary. Martinez seems like the same player just with a lesser personality/more game devoted approach. J.D. is currently hitting .327, with 26 dingers and 71 RBI. If he continues on the pace, he can eclipse the production of Manny Ramirez in his inaugural Red Sox season. Manny finished the 2001 debut campaign batting .306, with 41 home runs and 125 RBI. J.D. is notoriously known as a second-half player. That notion should terrorize opposing pitchers this second half. In fact, no one since the 2017 All-Star break has hit more balls out of the park than Martinez. It will be a fun summer watching J.D. continue to demolish balls at Fenway Park.

When will Dustin Pedroia Be Back In A Red Sox Uniform?

The veteran former MVP Dustin Pedroia is still sidelined. The career .300 hitter has only had 11 official at-bats this year. The Red Sox let go of Hanley Ramirez to bring back Pedroia in late May. However, his knee caused him to head right back to the disabled list in less than a week. Pedroia is, and always has been, the heart and soul of this ball club since his rookie 2007 year. He is the grit, the hustle, and the self-proclaimed laser-show that this team could use, as it chases its third straight division title. Sure these “killer B’s”, Devers, and Martinez have been terrific, but second base has been a carousel of inconsistency. The Red Sox need number 15 back healthy, sooner rather than later.

How Will the Red Sox Approach the Trade Deadline?

The Red Sox have a couple burning holes that need to be addressed. Right handed hitting as well as bullpen relief. The Red Sox already got their right-handed hitter. Last week, Dave Dombrowski acquired Steve Pearce from the rival Toronto Blue Jays. Dombrowski got some right-handed assurance early. That will help the corner infield and corner outfield depth. The other hole is still a question mark. Dombrowski loves to get bullpen help at the deadline, as he got Brad Ziegler two seasons ago and Addison Reed last year. Tyler Thornburg is now back in the majors, after missing a season and a half. We don’t know if he can return to his 2016 Brewers dominant form. Since we don’t know if Thornburg can return to form, I think Dombrowski will most likely get another arm and make yet another deadline splash.

 

 

 

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.

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 Promote Andrew Benintendi

Overnight, the Red Sox promoted prized prospect Andrew Benintendi to the Major Leagues, adding to the trade deadline intrigue. Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald broke the news, and Michael Martinez was designated for assignment to make way for Benintendi. The outfielder will join the team in Seattle on Tuesday.

Who is Andrew Benintendi?

Andrew Benintendi

Benintendi was a first round pick in the 2015 draft, and his rise has been meteoric. He reached Single-A in his first professional season, and has dominated this year, too. A .312/.378/.532 slash line at High-A Salem earned Benintendi a promotion to Double-A Portland. In 63 games with the Sea Dogs, he slashed .295/.357/.515 with 8 home runs and 44 RBI. That piqued the attention of Dave Dombrowski, who will slot the 22-year old in left field amid a heated pennant race.

Andrew Benintendi is the Red Sox’ number two prospect, behind Yoan Moncada. A lefty hitter, he is above average in every facet of the game, with obvious upside offensively. His promotion should provide a jolt of energy to the Red Sox, with Brock Holt likely sliding back into a utility role.

The Risk of Skipping Triple-A

Even though Benintendi is very highly rated, this is a risky move. The guy has still only played 151 professional baseball games. None of them were above Double-A. By all account, his makeup and ability should enable a smooth transition, but skipping an entire level of minor league development is rarely advisable. Whether people like it or not, Andrew Benintendi will still have plenty to learn. The Red Sox just figure that process should happen at the Major League level.

Benintendi is likely to be in uniform tonight against the Mariners. His debut will come Wednesday, as the youngster is given time to settle. Andrew is likely to see plenty of playing time against right-handed pitching, with further opportunities arising based on his performance. He will join other young stars like Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts to create a great core for the Red Sox.

“Our people kept coming up and saying, ‘We think he can play at the big league level,'” said Dombrowski. “Don’t look for him to hit in the middle of the lineup like he will eventually, but he’s a well-rounded player, he’s a good defensive player, and he runs the bases well. He has a good arm, we’ve been working him out at left field and he’s been able to play the wall well in Portland there.”

It will be fun to see how this plays out. Every young player is likely to struggle at some point, especially after jumping two whole levels in a system. But the future face of your Boston Red Sox has arrived. Andrew Benintendi has reached the Majors. It’s time to get excited.

Abad Joins Red Sox. Sale Deal Off?

The Red Sox obtained some much needed relief pitching from the Minnesota Twins today. Needing more relief pitching, Fernando Abad joins Red Sox pitching staff with hours left to go before Monday’s 4pm trade deadline. In terms of Chris Sale, however, all signs point to no deal between the Red Sox and White Sox southpaw.

USA Today’s Bob Nightingale has stated that the Chicago White Sox will keep Chris SaleAbad Joins Red Sox after Monday’s trade deadline. Despite high hopes, the Red Sox reportedly spent most of last night trying to work out a deal for Sale. As of 3:30 pm though, no deal has been announced. With that, it is likely that Sale will remain with the White Sox for the remainder of the season. The Red Sox will walk away from today with at least one new addition to their pitching roster though.

Abad Joins Red Sox

Fernando Abad comes from Minnesota after posting a 1-4 record in 39 games this season. Abad’s numbers aren’t particularly strong. However, it’s hard to blame him for his paltry season. The Twins currently rank 20th in on-base percentage (.317) and 18th in runs scored (461). With the Red Sox offense, there’s a good chance that Abad could be a missing piece to a bullpen puzzle. Maybe Abad will become our premiere closer. Who knows?

Abad joins the Red Sox as its bullpen continues to struggle. Craig Kimbrel went onto the disabled list with a bad knee weeks ago and hasn’t returned yet. Koji Uehara is out indefinitely with a strained right pectoral muscle. Clay Buchholz and Joe Kelly aren’t working out the way the team has hoped. The addition of Chris Sale might have been a welcome sight for the Red Sox, who could have moved one of their stronger pitchers to the bullpen, but as I’ve said before, Sale is too unpredictable. So as Abad joins Red Sox staff, it’ll be interesting to see how he’ll contribute.