The Boston Red Sox have been hovering about the top of the division standings for most of this early season. Their lofty position has been based on an age-defying performance of their 40-year old retiring star David Ortiz, along with emergence of young talent. The batting order has put forth some impressive performances in the past week, scoring 10 or more runs in five of the last seven contests (averaging 7.4 runs per game in the month of May). While the offense has been impressive, the opposite can be said about the pitching, where they have surrendered five or more runs in half of their 14 May contests. In order for the Red Sox to remain in the hunt this season and be a serious contender for a World Series title, a couple of roster moves would be key.
First and foremost, I believe I echo the majority of Red Sox Nation by stating that it is time to remove Clay Buchholz from the rotation. Whether he needs to be sent to work on mechanics as a long reliever or send him off for a rehab assignment, clearly there is something wrong with this pitcher; and the Sox can ill afford to have him work out his issues every fifth day in the American League East. While there are some internal moves that could be made to address key roster concerns, there are also trade options the team should consider to reinforce this talent base for a long postseason run.
Below are key position areas the team should consider upgrading through the trade route. A couple of assumptions are made in this assessment. Given the current MLB landscape, the primary targets will come from teams already at the bottom looking up in the standings. In addition, these teams have moderate contracts or nearing free agency
Left fielder with power
As well as Brock Holt has played for the Red Sox, the team could use a corner outfielder with some power to supplement the middle of the batting order. Through obtaining such a player, Holt can resume his best fit on this roster, super utility player. Having Holt available as an indispensable reserve, the impact of struggles or injuries to any of the infielders would be lessened through inserting a player capable of handling both the position as well as perform at the plate.
Potential targets the Red Sox should consider include Jay Bruce (CIN), Matt Kemp (SD), Melvin Upton Jr. (SD), Nick Markasis (ATL).
Synopsis: Each of the aforementioned outfielders take up sizeable salaries on cellar-dweller teams. As each franchise seeks to reconfigure it’s roster and balance their finances, these players could be had for mid-level prospects. Among the candidates, Markakis would be the best fit for this roster.
Middle of rotation starter
With Clay Buchholz yet to prove his worth on this team, the Red Sox are in desperate need to fortify their rotation. Should David Price return to the form that made him the most sought after pitcher this past off-season, adding a #2 / #3 rotation starter would go a long way in cementing this team among the league’s best. Beyond Price, Rick Porcello and Steven Wright, the lack of quality arms will eventually tax a bullpen beyond what their bodies and talents can afford. The return of Joe Kelly and Eduardo Rodriguez would also be a huge bonus for Boston. Should either or both falter upon their return, look for the Red Sox to seek help outside the organization.
Potential starters to target include: James Shields (SD), Sonny Gray (OAK), Zack Greinke (ARI), Wily Peralta (MIL), Jeremy Hellickson (PHI), Tim Lincecum (FA)
Synopsis: Despite his 2016 struggles, acquiring Sonny Gray would be a big enhancement to the Red Sox rotation. Knowing Billy Beane’s tendency to jettison young talent in advance of free agency, Gray could potentially be had for AA or AAA talent. Shields brings experience and durability to a Red Sox team. As a pitcher capable of eating innings, the bullpen would be greatly served by having Shields take the ball every fifth day. Peralta is struggling thus far in 2016 but has past history of double digit wins and ERAs in the mid to high 3s to be at least considered. In order of priority Gray should be targeted, with Shields as fall back option #2 should Oakland’s price tag be too steep. If we were talking the last season and prior, Greinke would be a no-brainer. I am not sure the Diamondbacks would be willing to give up on this top of the rotation starter after just a handful of starts; and if so may want a king’s ransom in return. Peralta and Hellickson could likely be had for a mid-level prospect or two but the jury is out whether they would represent a real improvement over the current starters (except Buccholz of course). At present, I am not sure what Lincecum has left to offer, but at present he is a free agent auditioning for a roster spot. While he is rumored to be negotiating a deal with the Los Angeles Angels, it would not hurt to kick the tires, especially since he could be had for money alone.
Middle and short relief
Not that the Red Sox relief has been problematic; perhaps more so overworked in the season’s early stages. Through acquiring a starter, some of the bullpen issues may be resolved by shifting a pitcher like Joe Kelly into a relief role. Perhaps recently utilized Buchholz is not an option here, as his struggles this season tend to come in the first couple of innings of each outing. Struggling starters Sean O’Sullivan and Henry Owens may also be options for reduced roles and used in relief. The Sox are high on both pitchers for different reasons; with a change of use being a first option before considering trade options.
The Red Sox would be best served to leverage the strong start of 2016 and find ways to send David Ortiz into retirement as a World Series champion. After last place finishes in two straight seasons (and three of the past four), the Boston Red Sox would be wise to capitalize on strong seasons from a handful of their veteran and young stars.
The priority of the aforementioned roster needs will be further necessitated by player struggles or injury. At present, the Boston Red Sox have enough offensive power to remain in contention through the All Star break; but as the season approached the dog days of summer, lack of quality pitching could eventually lead to a slide in the standings. It can never be said that the Red Sox shy away from obtaining large salaries as evidenced by their free agency maneuvers in the past. Many of the options outlined would not break the franchise from a talent exchange standpoint and could provide the talent depth to extend their season well into October.