The Boston Red Sox have surprised almost all of baseball this season by becoming contenders after having the second worst record in franchise history. In the offseason they changed the culture of the team, ousting manager Bobby Valentine and negative influences like Josh Beckett, and have added players who have been known as “good guys” around the league, like Jonny Gomes and David Ross. The change has been day and night for the Sox, instead of the constant soap opera that was the Red Sox clubhouse coupled with losing game after game, they have quietly worked their way to the best record in the American League.
Now this hasn’t come without some difficulties on the way, though. The bullpen hasn’t had much success, with the only two consistent relievers being Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa. Andrew Miller was working his way to joining the Japanese duo, but his season has ended due to foot surgery. The Sox’s starting rotation has also been inconsistent. Although it hasn’t been to the level of the bullpen, the rotation has had issues. After hot starts from Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, they have both fallen off. Buchholz has struggled with injuries, while Lester hasn’t been able to pitch anywhere near the level he was at, at the beginning of the season. The last major problem the Sox have had is the left side of the infield. So far this year Jose Iglesias, Will Middlebrooks, Stephen Drew, Brandon Snyder, Jonathon Diaz, and Brock Holt have played either shortstop or third base this season, and aside from Jose Iglesias, none have been all that great. Currently the two men who were projected to be the starters for the year, Middlebrooks and Drew find themselves in the minors and on the DL respectively. Overall, those three areas are where they should consider upgrading at the trade deadline. Here are some names who may find themselves on the Red Sox come August:
NOTE: Since writing this the Red Sox acquired Matt Thornton and cash considerations from the White Sox for Brandon Jacobs.
Matt Thornton (CWS): The 36 year old, 10 year veteran reliever’s name has been mentioned in trade talks the past few years, and the Red Sox name always pops up. The Sox’s interest has likely picked in the lefty after losing Andrew Miller for the season leaving Craig Breslow as the only left handed reliever in the Sox’s pen. Thornton hasn’t been as dominant as he was in previous seasons, he’s still been better than a lot of the Red Sox’s relievers this year. He’s posted a 4.00 ERA, but has a career ERA of 3.54. He’s also only allowed 4 home runs, which has been the root of many of the Sox relievers problems. He’s been one of the top lefties in the game the past several years and shouldn’t cost too much based on his age and expiring contract ($6 million option for next season). He’d be a worthwhile investment for the Sox if they can get him for their price.
Bobby Parnell (NYM): The Mets’ closer has had ups and downs throughout his career, but the past couple of seasons he’s seemingly figured it all out and has become a force in the back end of the Mets’ bullpen. The hard throwing righty has posted 2.48 ERA in 48 innings pitched allowing no home runs and allowing just 9 walks. The Sox have reportedly had talks with the Mets about Parnell already, but their price was too much. More recently it appears like he’s been pulled off the market. It’ to be expected when a team has control over a player for multiple years and hope to contend with the player before they hit free agency. Parnell is first eligible for free agency in 2016, but the Mets are in dire indeed of assets to build around and Parnell can give them that. His value has never been higher, so it wouldn’t be shocking to find him in a Red Sox jersey by the end of the month.
Matt Garza (CHC): Matt Garza is a name known to many Sox’s fans. He spent 3 years pitching for the Tampa Bay Rays before being traded to the Chicago Cubs. He was part of the Rays team that knocked out the Red Sox in the 2008 ALCS before losing in the World Series to the Philadelphia Phillies. Needless to say he’s pitched in big games before, although not recently, because of the deplorable state of the Cubs. Luckily for the Sox though, that same reason is why he’s available. Although they are reportedly working on a contract extension, due to the great interest they are more than likely to move him. He’s gotten off to a good start this year after being injured to begin the year. In 10 starts he’s had a 3.22 ERA while averaging 8.1 K/9. The down side to it all is dealing with Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, former heads of the Red Sox front office. They know nearly every prospect in the Sox’s system and know who to pursue and who to avoid. If the Sox can find a way to get him for a reasonable price, but if the price is too high, then there’s no sense in going after a marginal upgrade.
Yovani Gallardo (MIL): The Brewers ace is widely considered to be the second best starter on the market, behind Garza. He’s been one of the Brewers top pitcher since 2009, but this year his numbers are at an all time low. If he continues to this trend he’ll have his highest ERA of his career by a wide margin and his lowest K/9 rate. His walks are down, but is batting average against is at an all time which negates that. All in in all it’s been a tough year for Gallardo, but his track record shows that he’s capable of being much better. Maybe a move to a winning atmosphere where he’s not looked as the ace could help him perform better, or he may just be starting is decline, although at 27 that is very unlikely. Also, moving to the American League, especially the east, could make matters even worse. The Sox should, and likely will, avoid Gallardo, unless they discover Clay Buchholz will miss a significant amount of time.
Francisco Rodriguez (MIL): K-Rod has had a bumpy road since setting the single season save record for the Angels. After that season he bolted for the glitz and glamor (and the money) of New York, where he stumbled on and off the field. He’s now in Milwaukee, and this year he’s seemingly regained his form. He’s appeared in just 22 games this season after starting the year in the minors. He’s posted a 1.25 ERA in 21.2 innings and striking out batters at a great rate, 10.38 per innings. He’s also allowed just .195 batting average against with a WHIP of just 1.06. Overall, he’s a risky pick up, but he could be worth it for the Sox.
Michael Young (PHI): Young fits in exactly with what the Sox have been doing. He’s one the most respected guys in the league who always puts the team first, but can he help them win games? After being the face of the Rangers for the better part of the past 13 years, he was shipped to Philadelphia and has responded well. He’s hitting .288/.344/.411 in 83 games with 6 home runs and 24 RBIs. Although the power is down a little he’s still performed better than all of the Red Sox’s other third basemen and shortstops. The Phillies gave up very little to get him and likely wouldn’t ask for much more in return. He’d be a great fit in the clubhouse and the lineup.
Chase Utley (PHI): This seems like an odd target with Utley being a long time second baseman, and has only played first and second base, but he told the Phillies he could play third if need be. If the Sox believe he can make a successful transition to third he might be a risk worth taking. Utley has batted .276/.340/.504 this year with 11 home runs and 30 RBIs in just 61 games. The 5 time All Star has been arguably the Phillies most consistent hitter this year. It’d take a quality prospect or two to get the face of the Phillies franchise, but he may just be worth it.
Jonathon Papelbon (PHI): Last, but not least, every body’s favorite trade target the former Red Sox’s closer Jonathon Papelbon. One of the most dominant closers Boston has ever seen. He bolted for Philly following the collapse of 2011, but his new team didn’t perform up to expectations finishing with a 81-81 record. This year they appear to be out of the hunt once again, so the rumors start to swirl. Phillies GM has been adamant that he won’t move Papelbon, but that could be just for leverage. His contract runs through 2015, so if Amaro believes they can contend next year and/or the year after, he has a reason to hold on to him. The thing is, Papelbon is aging and so is the rest of the roster, so unloading big contacts might be the first step. The Sox are interested if the Phillies want to negotiate, but the price might be extremely high. If the Sox feel this is the year than they should go all in, but the reason they never paid him like the Phillies did was to avoid the back end of the deal, the same part they’d be picking up. Logically it doesn’t make sense, but the bullpen is in such disarray that the Sox might just go for it.
Obviously these aren’t the only options for the Red Sox, and they can numerous directions. All in all, I think the Sox will be aggressive at the deadline and try to improve the club as much as possible.
In the past two days there’s been a flurry of roster moves made by the Red Sox in the past couple days. Yesterday the Red Sox said in a press release:
“BOSTON — The Boston Red Sox today placed outfielder Ryan Sweeney on the 15-day disabled list with a fractured bone in his left hand and recalled both outfielder Ryan Kalish and right-handed pitcher Clayton Mortensen from Triple-A Pawtucket. Kalish and Mortensen will be active for tonight’s game against the Tigers at Fenway Park. Additionally, the club today activated right-handed pitcher Chris Carpenter from the 60-day disabled list and optioned him to Triple-A Pawtucket.”
Sweeney is likely done for the season if the Sox miss the playoffs, but he may return for the final games of the season. Kalish is returning to the Sox after a brief and largely unsuccessful stint in the majors earlier this year. Mortensen was called up to fill the open spot Albers left, until Craig Breslow arrived which was just a few minutes ago. Chris Carpenter has missed the entire year with a right elbow surgery. He was the compensation received by the Sox for Theo Epstein.
Now on to the trades. Yesterday the Sox made two trades. The first was the Sox acquiring lefty Craig Breslow from the Arizona Diamondbacks for right-handed Matt Albers and Scott Podsednik. This move was made to give the Sox bullpen flexibility, so that Franklin Morales could be put back into the starting rotation. I like this move, because Morales had been very effective as a starter and I love that he’ll be returning to this role. Also the bullpen doesn’t lose anything, because Breslow is a great left reliever. I am a huge Albers and Podsednic fan, but there wasn’t a need for either of them (although you can never have enough pitching.)
The other trade was between the Cleveland Indians and the BoSox. The Sox acquired righty, knuckleballer Steven Wright for first baseman Lars Anderson. This a great move, because it brings everyone’s favorite pitch, the knuckleball. Also, Lars needed to be moved, because he had been blocked for a long while now and I’m glad they got a good return for him. Another great thing is that Tim Wakefield will work with Wright, so he’ll be taught well.
Today there were a few more roster moves that took place. Daniel Nava was placed on the DL with a sprained left wrist and able to be activated on Sunday August 12th. Ryan Lavarnway was recalled from Pawtucket to take his place. Clayton Mortensen was optioned to AAA to make room for Craig Breslow who was added to the 25-man roster.
And with that, that’s all the Red Sox have done the past two days. Ben Cherrington is a very busy man.
The Red Sox looked good tonight in a win over the Marlins for the second straight win putting them in a tie for fourth with the Toronto Blue Jays. They batted around in the eighth and were 7 for 10 with runners in scoring position. This has to be the start of a huge run that puts them in the playoff race, otherwise this season may not be able to be salvaged. Right now it looks bleak, but if they can ride this momentum it could be huge.
Tommorow the Sox have an off day before they go to Wrigley to face the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs have the second worst record in the MLB and have proven to be very beatable. With 3 straight very winable games ahead this could be the start of a huge streak that outs the Sox in the top 3 of the division with hope of grabbing at least the second wild card spot. If this doesn’t pan out, come August 1st this team could end up looking very different. So fingers crossed Bobby V’s crew shows up and they do their job.
IN OTHER NEWS: The Red Sox released Marlon Byrd the other day. It surprises me that they would let him go for nothing, or at least leave him in Pawtucket for outfield depth. I enjoyed having him here and I wish him the best (unless he signs with the Yankees.)
The Red Sox are close to signing Taiwanese shortstop Tzu-Wei Lin. He’s 18, but I guess he’s worth more than $2 million, because that’s what he’s getting paid. I hope this signing proves to be worthwhile because I’m skeptical for now.
Today Daisuke Matsuzaka returned to the mound for the first time in over a year. He faced Gio Gonzalez and the Washington Nationals, and he picked up his first loss of 2012 and put the Sox back under .500. Now that sounds terrible, but it wasn’t all bad. Dice-K hadn’t seen big league hitters in over a year so you have to cut him some slack, but the most encouraging sign was his strikeout to walk rate. He struck out 8 and walked only one batter in just 5 innings. Dice-K’s biggest problem has always been walks. In the past would always walk himself into trouble, but find a way to Houdini his way out of it, sometimes. Everyone knew Jonathon Papelbon as a heart attack closer, well Dice-K is a heart attack starter. He was difficult to watch, but I’m not here to talk about his inconsistent past, I’m here to talk about his bright future. Like I mentioned earlier, his 8:1 strikeout to walk ratio was amazing. Hitters have always had trouble hitting Matsuzaka, but he’s struggled because of his control problems.Now if he can duplicate his low walk, high strikeout performance and go even deeper into games, he can become the ace of this staff.
IN OTHER NEWS: To make room for Daisuke Matsuzaka on the roster the Red Sox designated Marlon Byrd for assignment. The Sox now have 10 days to decide whether they want to release him, trade him, or place him on optional waivers to try to send him to Pawtucket. My guess is they’ll try to trade him and see what they can get, and if there’s nothing good they’ll option him where he’ll likely be claimed. Byrd filled in nicely in his short time up in Boston as the team’s primary center fielder. The Sox got him from the Cubs in April trading Michael Bowden and a player to be named later who eventually became Hunter Cervenka. He was just 3 for 47 with a walk for the Cubs, but had a .273/.288/.333 line in Boston. He’s likely done for good in Boston and I’m sure he’ll be missed for about a week and then be forgotten about forever.
FINAL NOTE: Go Celtics! They lead by 5 with about 30 seconds to go in the first half with the season on the line.
Today the Red Sox acquired Marlon Byrd from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for Michael Bowden and a player to be named later. I have mixed feelings about this move. On one hand it’s nice to have an experienced center fielder, but is it a pressing need? Not really. After what unfolded today Ben Cherrington should have put center on the back burner and focused on relief. The thing I like most about at this move though, is how much we have to pay. Bowden’s not the top prospect he once was and he really needed a change pf scenery before he was going to have success at the big league level. Also, the Sox only have to pay $400k of his $6.5 million contract. This move is either a hit or miss, and who knows we might be able to flip him to somebody for relief help.
The Red Sox and Cubs have finally agreed on compensation for Theo Epstein. An announcement is coming soon.
Most Red Sox fans, myself included, are saddened by Theo Epstein‘s looming departure, but it does have some positives. Theo has made some great moves throughout his career. He made fantastic trades and found some great under valued players. But in recent years he’s slipped up on one thing. He has read the free agent market terribly. He has also taken advantage of John Henry’s wallet by overspending on just about everyone of the free agents he’s picked up. He just struggles with making an adequate contract offer that meets both sides needs. He’s always gone way over the top for veterans services. He should know that their near decline, and if they want more years than their bodies are going to give them than just stay away. Theo was never able to stay away. He was so overly aggressive that it hurt the Sox rather than helped them. The only time he’s backed off a contract for health is with Jason Bay, and it proved to be an excellent idea. Didn’t anybody learn from that, or is everyone still upset we lost a guy whose hit .251 the past two years? The Mets are just as upset as we are with the contracts of Carl Crawford, John Lackey, J.D. Drew, and Mike Cameron. If Theo takes this approach in Chicago, the Cubs will be buried in debt due to terrible contracts. Another problem I’ve had with Theo is his protection of the farm system. Guys like Lars Anderson whose value was sky high a few years ago and the Sox had no use for him, but Theo had some sort of plan for him. Now he’s not even worth an unhealthy Rich Harden. Years ago he could of been used as guy in a Adrian Gonzalez type trade, but now that will never happen, except as a throw in. I’m not saying toss away all homegrown guys, because that would be insanity, but guys who aren’t going to serve a purpose when their value is at his highest needs to be moved if the right deal is made. Another good example is Josh Reddick. Right now, other teams are admiring the fantastic job he’s done this year, but he still wasn’t the most consistent guy. The Sox can sell high with him, because they have a plethora of internal and external options in the outfield. Hopefully, Cherrington will realize everything Theo did wrong and do them right.