Tuesday, July 14, 2015
Assessing the Red Sox at the All Star Break
After 89 games, or 55 percent of the 2015 season, the Boston Red Sox entered the All Star break at 42-47.
Somehow, being five games below .500 seems like a moral victory.
The Sox started the season fairly well, going 12-10 in April. But it was all down hill in May, when they went an abysmal 10-19. As bad as June seemed, the Sox went 14-14, and they're 6-4 so far in July.
As the break approached, the Old Towne Team seemed to have suddenly righted the ship.
They had won four straight games for the first time all year, and four straight series, before running into the Yankees last weekend. But the Sox proceeded to drop two of three to New York and lost all the momentum they had built over the previous two weeks.
Consequently, the next couple of weeks present a moment of truth for Boston.
The July 31st non-waiver trade deadline is now just two weeks away, What was unimaginable on Opening Day is now a reality: The Boston Red Sox are actually in a position to be sellers.
Boston has the highest payroll in club history, yet finds itself in the basement of the AL East. Though it's just a 6 1/2 game deficit, first place seems a long way off.
With that in mind, the Sox might be willing to listen to offers on just about anyone at this point.
The trouble is that all the dead weight — the players who have woefully under-perfomed — will be the hardest to move.
What team wants Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval or Rick Porcello, considering their on-field struggles and bloated contracts? Likely, no one. The only way to move those players would be to pay most, if not all, the remaining money on their enormous, long term contracts. That's an ugly prospect.
The two players the Sox received for John Lackey last July — Joe Kelly and Allen Craig — were so bad that they are now at Triple-A. They are likely untradable as well.
The players other teams will ask about are the young, homegrown talents the Red Sox project as part of a bright future.
Would the Red Sox be willing to part with Mookie Betts, Xander Boegarts, or Blake Swihart? Not likely. The Sox are trying to build for the future from within, and homegrown talent is cheap. It allows for the acquisition of higher priced free agents.
More than anything else, the Red Sox need a staring pitcher to help anchor the staff. Both Justin Masterson and Joe Kelly have lost their spots in the rotation this season, and Clay Buchholz is now on the DL.
Among the 15 AL teams, Boston pitching is last in ERA (4.44), first in earned runs (392), first in runs allowed (419), and second to last in opponents' batting average (.266).
It doesn't seem likely that the Sox will be interested in a short term rental, such as Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto, who will be a free agent at season's end. Cueto will be 30 next season, and we know how the Red Sox feel about free agent pitchers that age.
Will Cole Hamels be able to get the Sox over the hump this season? That doesn't seem likely, and the 31-year-old is owed big money over the next three to four seasons: $22.5 million in 2016-2018, with a $20 million club option for 2019 that includes a $6 million buyout. This means Hamels is owed at least $73.5 million, and up to $87.5 million, over the next four seasons.
Does Red Sox' management actually believe that a team with just one winning month this season is worth investing in even further? That seems dubious. But management is always thinking ahead.
Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reported that the Sox top priority heading into the trade deadline is to target younger arms that are under control beyond the 2015 season.
The Sox might be willing to deal Jackie Bradley Jr. and/or Deven Marerro from their farm system, and certainly Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli, whatever their limited value may be.
Sadly, despite the weakness of the AL East, this season may already be lost. Only New York and Tampa have records above .500, yet the Red Sox seem incapable of surpassing them, much less advancing in the playoffs.
The Red Sox could be headed for their third last place finish in four years, a prospect that most of us couldn't have conceived during spring training.
That said, anything management can do to improve this club next year and beyond would be welcomed.
Though we thought we were done saying it, Red Sox fans, there's always next year?