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.

Sox Should Trade Blake Swihart

After moving Clay Buchholz to the bullpen and demoting Joe Kelly to Pawtucket, the Red Sox desperately need starting pitching. Their starters have been battered to the tune of a 4.79 ERA and .748 OPS this year, which isn’t a recipe for a successful season. Boston’s won anyways because the offense has been crushing it, but when happens when the lineup slumps? The Red Sox don’t really have much minor league talent ready to make an impact in the rotation, so the quickest and most direct way to an upgrade is through the trade market. To accomplish this, the Sox should trade Blake Swihart.

Not too long ago, such a proposal would have seemed outrageousSox Should Trade Blake Swihart. Swihart is a prized prospect, an athletic 24-year-old catcher who can switch-hit and provide plus offense at a premium position. Teams love to build around guys like that. He seemed destined to become the next Jason Varitek or Carlton Fisk.

Now, his future in Boston is uncertain. The team has committed to Christian Vazquez, another talented young backstop, due to his superior game management and receiving skills. Swihart was demoted in April despite a strong start at the plate, learned to play left field, and is now back with the big club in a part-time role. The problem is, his bat plays much better behind the plate, where he’s a clear offensive plus. In left, however, his hitting is average at best.

So therein lies the problem. Swihart is a great player without a clear role on the Red Sox, which limits his value to them at the present. He’s still very attractive to other teams, however, where he would represent a clear improvement at catcher. Ipso facto, Swihart is worth more to other teams than he is to the Sox, which is why they should move him now while his perceived value is still high, before a prolonged slump or injury potentially drags it down.

Swihart alone should net a pretty sweet return, and if Boston packages him with some prospects they could land another top-shelf starter to pair with Price (Sonny Gray, perhaps?). The Red Sox should trade Blake Swihart soon, however, because if they wait until late July it might be too late.

Yoan Moncada Should Be Untouchable at Trade Deadline

Red Sox top minor league prospect, second basemen Yoan Moncada, is the one prospect that should be untouchable. Moncada, 21 years old, has shown great potential and will only get better. Elite offense at second base is very hard to come by and dealing Moncada would be a major mistake. He is also the ideal candidate to replace Dustin Pedroia at second base when Pedroia retires.

When people think of elite offense production, the outfield spots and the corner infieldYoan Moncada spots are what comes to mind. When a team gets offense from the shortstop, second base and catching position, that is seen as a luxury. Pedroia has given the Sox that luxury as a career .299 hitter to go along with his four time gold glove defense. With Pedroia signed through the 2021 season, some may question how Moncada will wait in the minor leagues that long. Moncada would be 25 years old if that were the case. Him waiting in the minor leagues that long will not happen and should not happen. So where does he fit in the makeup of the Red Sox? There are two likely scenarios I see for Moncada in a Sox uniform. One of those is to trade away Travis Shaw and stick Moncada at third base until Pedroia’s contract ends. Another option is to trade away Pedroia if his production goes down.

What Is Moncada’s Future With The Red Sox?

Shaw has been a pleasant surprise for the Sox and at 26 years old many teams would want him as he is entering his prime. Shaw is under team control until the 2019 season and if Moncada is ready before then, the team could get a nice return for Shaw while not losing much of the production if any from Shaw. Trading away Pedroia when his production goes down is the less likely and less ideal situation. The Sox would have to eat a lot of Pedroia’s contract in this case, something the Sox seem to do enough with aging players. Even if neither of these options are the route Dombrowski decides to take, Moncada will not be traded and doing so would turn out to be a huge mistake for the Sox.

Moncada is a .284 hitter in the minor leagues up to this point in his career with 11 homers in 479 at bats. He has drawn comparisons to former Yankee and current Mariner, Robinson Cano. Moncada has the switch hitting dimension to his game, something Cano does not have. If Moncada continues to grow, seeing him come close to Cano’s numbers would not be a big surprise. His power is there and he has a great eye at the plate, showing that with his .424 OBP this season.

Sox fans have a lot to look forward to this season and in future seasons. Having a Bogaerts and Moncada middle infield would be special and if Dombrowski is as smart as I believe he is, he knows not to trade Moncada unless he is blown away and offered a trade involving a pitcher like Clayton Kershaw or even Chris Sale.

Andrew Benintendi Looking to Take Next Step

Portland Sea Dogs outfielder Andrew Benintendi, one of the top prospects in the Red Sox system, has gotten off to a slow start in Portland. Benintendi is rated the 15th best prospect by Baseball America. This is his second year in minor league baseball following being the first round pick by the Sox out of the University of Arkansas in 2015.

In 198 at bats in 2015, Benintendi hit 11 homers with a .313 batting average. FollowingAndrew Benintendi this season, people were aware of what he could do. He showed decent speed as well with 10 steals, only being caught three times. With his strong first season, many expected him to build upon that in his second year.

Benintendi started this season at High A Salem. In 135 at bats, he hit .341 with one homer and stole 8 bases, only getting caught two times. Following his start at Salem, Benintendi received the promotion to Portland. While Triple A is the highest minor league baseball game, Double A always seems to be better baseball to watch because of the youth in the game rather than the career minor league players that you tend to see at Pawtucket. With the promotion, Benintendi was at a much improved level. Would he continue to grow and turn into an elite prospect?

So far at Portland, Benintendi is off to a slow start, batting just .214 in 42 at bats with no homers. He has also has stolen three bases but been caught stealing twice, showing the improvement in catching at this level. His struggles don’t necessarily suggest anything as it is still early but it is a cause for concern as he is likely a guy the Sox are considering trading at the deadline. Will Benintendi turn it around in time for the Sox to shop him as an elite prospect?

In these next few weeks, Benintendi will turn the corner. He has started to show flashes of doing so in his last three games, two of them multi hit games. As a groomed hitter coming from the college game and being 21 years old, his path to the major leagues will be much shorter than most prospects as he adjusts to the higher levels quickly. However, Sox fans should be hoping he’s wearing another uniform in return for quality starting pitching.

 

Eduardo Rodriguez Trade Was a Steal for the Red Sox

Two years ago at the MLB trade deadline, former Boston Red Sox GM Ben Cherington made one of the best trades in recent seasons, trading away one year rental relief pitcher Andrew Miller to the Baltimore Orioles for the once highly regarded starting pitching prospect, Eduardo Rodriguez. Rodriguez signed with the Orioles at the age of 16 from Venezuela. He had been a highly regarded pitching prospect in the Orioles system since Eduardo Rodriguezsigning. Following a rough 2014 season at the Double A level for Rodriguez, the Orioles traded him in order to bolster their bullpen for a World Series run. However, the Orioles ended up being ousted in the postseason by the Kansas City Royals and Miller left in the off season, signing with the New York Yankees. Rodriguez is still with the Sox following a strong rookie campaign, proving to the Orioles that his 2014 campaign at Double A Bowie was a fluke and he actually is the pitcher they once believed he was.

Eduardo Rodriguez: How Good Can He Be?

As a 22 year old last season, Rodriguez had a 3.85 ERA in 121.2 innings pitched for the Sox. Their starting pitching was horrible, but Rodriguez provided a glimmer of hope for the future whenever he toed the rubber. Though he has the potential to be a strikeout pitcher, he only had 98 strikeouts. Rodriguez brings a deceptive fastball to the table.”It’s just experience what he needs now. Every time he throws his fastball to the inside corner, see how the guys react. It’s a late reaction every single time. That’s how he whips. You think it looks like 88, it comes by you at 95,” said the Orioles scout who was responsible for the team signing him when he was just 16, Calvin Maduro. With so much praise from scouts and front office guys, what does the future hold for Rodriguez in a Sox uniform, how good can he be?

Rodriguez has ace potential for the Sox as long as he continues to develop. While he was considered the ace of the team last year, that was only because nobody else was pitching near the level of a major league pitcher. Now, with David Price in the clubhouse, Rodriguez has the chance to learn from one of the game’s best. Current Sox GM Dave Dombrowski has already come out publicly and said that he believes Rodriguez can be an ace in a rotation. As Rodriguez nears his 2016 debut for the Sox, look to see if he can take that next step toward becoming just that.

The Red Sox’ Bullpen Needs A Change to Remain On Top

Red Sox Bullpen

They may be number one in the AL East right now, but the Red Sox have a lot to improve if they want to stay on top.  Their offense is immaculate, but that’s beside the point.  It’s their pitching that is far from perfect.  With Andrew Bailey as a closer this season and Joel Hanrahan out with an injury, the Red Sox bullpen is not looking so strong.  Should they pull up Junichi Tazawa and Uehara from the middle and make them closers?  But what would happen to the middle?  No matter, manager John Farrell must take a closer look at his players and begin to consider making a trade soon, before things worsen.  After all, baseball season is far from over and if the Red Sox want to remain on top they must look at their weakest link which is their bullpen.

Starters are also not looking so promising.  John Lester, for example, has gone 1-4 with a 7.30 ERA and Clay Bucholz is on the disabled list for bursitis in his elbow.  Ryan Dempster, John Lackey and Alfredo Aceves have made some promising starts, but being on the back end of the rotation and seemingly unpredictable most of the time (especially Aceves), it’s not going to cut it for the Red Sox if they want to remain on top as July and August approach.

They are only half way through the season, with September 29, against the Baltimore Orioles, being their closing game. If they don’t make a trade soon, or a move in the case of Koji Uehara, it will be a far cry from the World Series.

Although Uehara would be taken from the middle to closer, he is a strong athlete with consistency on the mound.  The 38 year old has thus far struck out six batters in three innings over the course of his last three games, but again, the Sox still need to look for another closer so as not to tire out Uehara.  One thing for sure, we, as fans, do not want to see another Sock placed on the DL.