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.
Last night the Red Sox made their first move of the trade deadline season. They acquired left handed reliever Matt Thornton and $750,000 from the Chicago White Sox for minor league outfielder Brandon Jacobs. Thornton was acquired to plug the hole in the bullpen left by the injury to Andrew Miller. Knuckleballer Steven Wright was optioned to Pawtucket and Andrew Miller was transferred to the 60 day DL to make room for Thornton on the 25 and 40 man rosters.
The immediate impact of the move is that it improves the bullpen. Over the past several years Thornton has been a force in the White Sox’s pen, being able to shut down whoever he faced, righty or lefty. In eight seasons with the White Sox he’s posted a 3.28 ERA and a 1.196 WHIP. However, this year righties have figure him out batting .314 off him with a .414 OBP, but he’s been as good as ever against lefties. They’re only batting .170 off of him with an OBP of .232. The only oddity in his numbers is that 3 of the home runs he’s given up have been to left handed batters, which has played a part in the fact that they are slugging .385 off him. Regardless, despite his declining stuff he can still get lefties out. He should end up being a valuable part of the pen and will hopefully add some consistency to this otherwise volatile pen. Also the cash is likely to help the Sox pay Thornton’s $1,000,000 buyout for next year, because the Sox are unlikely to pick up the $6,00,000 option for 2014.
With every trade you have to give something to get something. That something happened to be Brandon Jacobs, a minor league outfielder who was promoted to Portland just a few days prior to the trade. Jacobs, according to Sox Prospects, was once the 8th ranked prospect is the Red Sox system, but he had struggled the past year and a half in Salem and fallen to 36th and was also rated the most disappointing Red Sox prospect by Baseball America. He showed good power, hitting 13 home runs last year and 11 so far this year, but struggled batting for average . He was hitting just .244 when he was called up to Portland. He was tremendous upside because he’s a 5 tool player, but putting all together has been an issue. The reason he was so expendable, was because he is eligible for the Rule 5 draft this off-season and was unlikely to be added to the 40 man roster to protect him from other teams. All in all he’s a great prospect, but he was an expendable piece.
All in all, it appears to be a great trade for the Sox. They filled their biggest need, and only lost a guy who they were likely to lose next off-season anyways. Thornton is said to be a high character guy and should fit right in with the club. This could be the biggest move the Sox make this month.
A busy day for the Red Sox as they made 4 roster moves. Daisuke Matsuzaka was placed on the DL with a stiff neck, Mauro Gomez was recalled from AAA, Bobby Jenks was released, and the contract of Justin Germano opted out of his contract.
Dice-K’s returning right back where his 2012 season began, the DL. This time it’s for something a lot less serious, just a stiff neck. Still it’s another set back in the up and down career of Daisuke Matsuzaka. In all honesty though, I think this is best for the team as he became the least reliable member of the pitching staff. At this point I’m sure everyone would rather see Franklin Morales and Aaron Cook take the mound, then see Dice-K at this point. With a somewhat under performing and overcrowded pitching staff you can’t have mediocre performances like Dice-K was giving, so I truly believe that the team is better with Dice-K not on it.
Now to replace Dice-K the Sox added some needed infield depth with corner infielder Mauro Gomez. He’s a true first basemen, but has a little experience as a third basemen and that’s where Bobby intends to use him with Middlebrooks’ health in question. He’s more depth for a short bench that only has Brent Lillibridge and Kelley Shoppach. Gomez signed as a free agent with the Sox this year. Aside from a quick stint with the big league club he’s been in Pawtucket all year and has played exceptionally well. With a slash line of .311/.366/.614 and 19 home runs and 55 RBI he earned the starting DH role in the International League All Star Game. He probably won’t play much, because he’s there for a worst case scenario. He’s a good hitter, but his lacking defense will keep him away from the starting lineup.
Probably the most surprising the news of the day is the release of Bobby Jenks. The only reason it is so surprising is, because I forgot we even had him. Bobby Jenks’ tenure with the BoSox is the definition of a good idea gone bad. The deal was universally praised by baseball analysts from far and wide. The bullpen looked unstoppable with a 7,8,9 combo of Daniel Bard, Jenks, and Jonathon Papelbon what could wrong? The answer was everything. As you know none of those 3 are with the team anymore and now Bard is only one left in the entire organization with Pap in Philly and now Jenks getting cut. Everything with Jenks as Red Sox was a disaster. From his terrible outings, to the injuries, and then the surgery death scare, and lastly the DUI, he could never get his life together. I do feel terrible for the guy though. He went from a dominant closer to almost out of the game. I’ll be amazed if he gets another chance anywhere, but I sure hope he does. He doesn’t deserve the fate given to him, but he may never get another chance again.
Lastly, Justin Germano has decided to exercise his opt out clause for his contract. The Sox now have 48 hours to decide whether they want to add him to the 25 man roster or let him go. Some people believe Clayton Mortensen may be sent down to make room for the reliever. I doubt a move will be made, because Mortensen’s been effective in his time with the team. He’ll likely be let go on Thursday and become a free agent, and I wish him the best.
Lately the blog as been pretty inactive, but I have a legitimate reason for it. I’ve been in Chicago the past few days (fittingly enough) but I thought this was big enough story to attempt to write about it.
Yesterday after the Red Sox 9-4 win against the Braves, Kevin Youkilis was traded to the Chicago White Sox for Zach Stewart and Brent Lillibridge. Youkilis ended his Red Sox career in style. He hit an RBI triple and left for a pinch runner. He walked off blowing kisses and giving hugs to all the players. He was 2-4 overall on the day in one of his best games of the year. He’ll definitely be missed, but we couldn’t keep juggling the lineup around and Middlebrooks needing ABs something had to be done.
Now to talk about what we got in return. The guy whose going to have an immediate impact is Brent Lillibridge. Lillibridge is a poor mans Nick Punto, but he provides something that the Sox have shown they need, depth. With Dustin Pedroia hurting another infielder off the bench has been needed and Lillibridge will provide that. Will he play much? No, but he’s there for precautionary reasons.
Zach Stewart is the more valuable guy in the trade. He’s a 25 year old swingman who Cherrington has decided to make him a starter. The White Sox had the opposite idea. They wanted him to be a reliever. He made 15 appearances for the South Siders including one start with a 6.00 ERA before getting sent down. He’s going immediately into Pawtucket’s rotation and we’ll see if he can make his way back up to the majors. He could be an asset down the line or just a bust. We’ll see. But what makes Stewart so valuable is the fact that he has two options left.
Overall I think its a decent trade that adds much needed depth.
First off I’d like to apologize for my absence. I haven’t had the time to update the blog.
Yesterday the White Sox announced they hired Robin Ventura as their new manager. This is a great thing for the Red Sox, because now the manager market is wide open without any of their top canidates taken. Dave Marinez and Sandy Alomar Jr., the two top canidates for both jobs, are still available. Then again they could shock everyone and sign someone else like White Sox did. Now they have that luxury, so they can do whatever they want.
Carlos Quentin and Matt Thornton might have to switch dugouts for Sunday’s series finale. The Red Sox are rumored to be making a strong push to acquire the outfielder and lefty reliever from the White Sox. Quentin would solve the problem in right and Thornton would give the Red Sox a solid second lefty reliever out of the ‘pen. The White Sox have put a high price on Quentin, but it’s expected to come down as they try to work out a deal. The Red Sox would be able to hit him anywhere 3-7 and he’ll produce. He’s got really good power, but occasionally can go on power slumps. Thornton is a top notch lefty who the White Sox really liked going into the season but have “fallen out of love” with him. The Red Sox are also discussing a deal with Oakland for Rich Harden and Josh Willingham or Coco Crisp.