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.
Last year Jacoby Ellsbury stunned the baseball world by going from a slightly above average outfielder to MVP caliber player. His numbers were off the charts, producing a .321/.376/.552 slash line alongside 32 home runs and 39 stolen bases. He provided the Red Sox with something every team dreams of having, a five tool player. Now with all that said, I think it’s best if Ellsbury and Sox part ways.
Now most of you would probably dismiss this as madness. After all he is one of the leagues premier players, but how much has he really proven. Coming off an amazing season his value is at an all time high, but he’s yet to back it up due to his subluxed shoulder. Since he has been unable to prove he can consistently play at an MVP level, his value has not been diminished. This is a huge reason why he should be moved, because I doubt that he’ll be able to have many 30-30 seasons, but he’s currently perceived as a guy who can.
Another reason is he struggles to return from injuries. Back in 2010 he fractured 4 of his ribs, which is a fairly severe injury, but it took him the entire year to recover. He did make 2 attempts at a comeback, but his ribs were sore which is understandable, but recovering from soreness shouldn’t take 4+ months. I do realize playing any professional sport takes a toll on your body, but being sore for several months shouldn’t qualify. You look at Dustin Pedroia and what he’s done this year with a bone bruise which gets re-aggravated whenever he gets jammed and he refused to go on the DL until now where it looks like it needs a full 15 day DL stint to recover, but after that 15 days is up he’ll be right back in the lineup. Also this year with his subluxed shoulder he has been slow to recover. it’s said to take 4-6 weeks to recover, and I know he needs to rehab, but it’s been 12 weeks since he was injured which is ample time to return from the injury. If this continues you can never be sure when he’ll be back from any injury. So it is a major reason why the Red Sox should be compelled to move him.
Now the biggest reason is his contract situation. In a perfect world Ellsbury would have signed an extension following last year eating his final 2 years of arbitration. Sadly this world is not perfect and Jacoby’s agent is Scott Boras. Boras is notorious for not wanting to give up arbitration years, and Ellsbury said that despite his love for Boston he’ll leave his contract negotiations up to Boras. This means he will hit free agency following the 2013 season. He’ll likely demand a 7 year 100M+ contract much like the one given to Carl Crawford. Now many people who were against the Carl Crawford contract said his age could be a factor due to declining speed being a part of aging. When Ellsbury hits free agency he’ll be a year older than Crawford was when he signed with the Sox. Now Ellsbury could end up being like Johnny Damon, who always seems to find a way to stay productive, or a an Alfonso Soriano, who has been a disaster. I doubt he’ll end up like Soriano, but after the Sox have gotten burned by bad contracts several times, they may not want to venture into a long term deal.
Now if the Sox do go through with the idea of trading Ellsbury what would they get. They could make him the center of a deal for an impact starting pitcher such as a Zack Greinke or a Cole Hamels. If they were to go for a pitcher at the deadline, trading Ellsbury would have a lot less long term ramifications than trading a high ceiling prospect like Anthony Raunado or Xander Bogarts. They could also sell him for a huge prospect package. If they were to sell him they’d likely wait until after the season, so that they could try for the World Series this year. If they were do a trade like that, a trade like the one that brought Matt Latos to the Reds would be very good. The Padres received a major league pitcher and 3 major league ready prospects. This would be fantastic for the Sox as you can always use more pitching and an infuse a young talent would be good for the Sox especially to complement guys like Will Middlebrooks and Ryan Kalish. Now a deal for Ellsbury is a stretch, but as the deadline approaches anything could happen.
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.
The biggest surprise this spring has been Pedro Ciriaco, but with April around the corner and him still being on the roster you have to consider him a legitimate contender for a roster spot. Ciriaco is a 26 year old, speedy, shortstop with a good glove. This spring he’s had a .417/.432/.639 line, which is impressive for anybody. Although Nick Punto was thought to be a lock for the utility infielder job because of his contract, but Ciriaco could change that. If he could perform near this level in the regular season Punto would be useless. Punto would also be very easy to get rid, because a player whose as versatile as he is, he can be an asset to any team. The Phillies would be a perfect fit for him because of their need for an extra infielder. But even if the Phillies don’t bite I’m sure there’d be other suitors willing to take Punto in. Ciriaco could be a worthwhile investment, or a huge flop. Although the latter is more likely, I believe Ciriaco can be an asset, and anything would be better than Punto based on this spring. It’s a tough choice between the proven veteran and the young unproven guy. My vote right now is for Ciriaco, but that choice could bite the Sox in the butt later this year.
Today the Sox lost a valuable part of their bullpen in Jonathon Papelbon. He signed with the Philles for 4 years and $50 million. I’m glad the Sox didn’t go way over for him, but the ninth inning will never be same without Pap finishing out the game. Now the Sox have to go out and find a new closer or use an in-house option. I’ll write an article about today or tommorow.
The Astros are apparently close to moving Hunter Pence to one of six teams. The Sox may or may not be in on him but regardless he’d be a great addition to any team. Phillies, Braves, Reds, and Red Sox are the most likely destination according to Buster Olney.
UPDATE 12:01: Last night Pence was planned to be pulled from the lineup due to a trade which likely fell apart. The deal was most likely to the Phillies. Also it appears that the Red Sox are out on Pence.
UPDATE 10:10: Pence has been acquired by the Phillies for Jarred Cosart, Jonathan Singleton, Josh Zeid, and one other unknown prospect. Dominic Brown was not part of the deal.