Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Red Sox at the Trade Deadline

The Sox are in an interesting position in terms of personnel moves as the trade deadline approaches. They're at the top of the AL East with the best offense in the bigs, with at least two contenders for AL MVP and one serious contender for AL Cy Young (anyone remember the last time Beckett gave up a run?). Right now, their best players are playing so well, that their weak links aren't really causing a problem. Of course, every team wishes they could have this problem, but that makes it quite a challenge to find the perfect missing piece that will lead to a World Series Title. Here's what I think they shouldn't, probably should do, and definitely should do in terms of personnel changes.

What They Shouldn't Do: Get a right fielder. I know a lot of people like to hate on J. D. Drew and it is absolutely true that he never lived up to his expectations or salary. But J.D. Drew makes very few errors and though he also doesn't make any great plays either, you don't need a superstar in right field at Fenway to contribute to the success of the Sox. What you need is a player who can judge how the ball is going to bounce around in the corner and Drew is pretty good at that. Furthermore, there is value to a batter near the bottom of the order who sees a lot of pitches. (Though, even this attribute has been waning a bit with Drew lately.) Obviously, you want .400 hitters top to bottom, but given that's impossible, it's useful to have someone 7-9 who makes the pitcher throw strikes. Drew is not ideal, but he is fine for right field and the Red Sox don't need another big bat. Furthermore, the Sox have outfield prospects, not only Reddick, who seems to have earned the starting job anyway, but also, Nava, and Kalish. Why spend money and resources for a big name player to solve a problem that isn't much of a problem, especially when the solution might already be here?

What They Probably Should Do: Make a bid for Jose Reyes. A month ago, I would have said there's no point in going for Reyes when Jed Lowrie is the shortstop of the future, but Lowrie can't seem to stay healthy. Scuttaro has done fine as a backup, but only as a backup. What the Red Sox really need at short stop is a player who can take away hits. Ellsbury and Crawford can do it in the outfield and Pedroia can do it at second, but Scuttaro can't and I'm not sure that a healthy Lowrie can either. Though it's not possible, the current Red Sox plus Astrubal Cabrera win the World Series. Reyes isn't as good in the field as Cabrera, but nobody else is either, and Reyes will add even more batting depth to the line up. Also, the Sox won't have to fight the Yankees for Reyes. The Mets won't give him up for nothing, but at least there's unlikely to be a bidding war. Of course, the Mets still might ask for more than the Sox are willing to part with, and Jed Lowrie might finally get healthy, and the Sox would still be World Series contenders if someone else got Reyes, but there would be a lot of second guessing if they didn't go for Reyes and also didn't win the World Series.

What They Absolutely Should Do: Pick up a couple veteran pitchers on the waiver wire. The Sox shouldn't need pitching. But Bucholzt's injury is nagging and mysterious and that is not good. Furthermore, after Lester and Beckett, the other pitchers have been good, but I can't say they've been World Series Championship good. There's always the chance Lackey could do something special in the post-season, and Wakefield gives you a chance to win pretty much 3 out of 5 starts, and, of course, Bucholtz could get healthy, but a couple of cheap options couldn't hurt. If they can find somebody who can start and come out of the pen even better. Ultimately, 15-30 good innings at the end of the season while key pitchers (including middle relief guys like Aceves and Wheeler) rest could be absolutely vital, especially against the elite pitching the Sox are likely to encounter on the way to a World Series.

Right now, the Red Sox don't have to really do anything at the trade deadline. Not only are they first in the A.L east, but they have perhaps the deepest offensive line up the game has seen in quite a few years. Furthermore, their every-fifth-game players like Varitek and McDonald are contributing about as much as you could expect from off the bench players. And given the market, there really isn't a player out there, the Yankees could get to completely turn the dynamic around. So, ultimately, the Sox might be best served by standing pat at the trade deadline and picking up some bargains on the waiver wire. As we learned from Dave Roberts' steal in 2004, sometimes a single, small contribution from a bit player can lead to a championship.


  1. Starting pitching should be their number one target right now. I like Reyes, but he's injury prone and I wouldn't want to trade our farm system to get him, especially since Scutaro is a pretty good player. Maybe Nomar's available?

  2. You can never have too much starting pitching. Even if you go to 3 starters in the playoffs anything that keeps those three fresh is a good thing. I wouldn't trade the farm for Reyes either, but it'd be nice to see the asking price. One of the pitching prospects and maybe two of the fielding prospects would be fine. Who knows, maybe there's a slick fielding short stop in the National League I don't know about who could fill a similar role and cost a lot less. Still, the Sox might get their best value from the waivers this year.