Thursday, June 30, 2016
Red Sox Front Office Will Conduct a Balancing Act in July
The Red Sox have played 78 games and are nearing the season's midway point.
The Sox got off to a hot start, going 13-10 in April and posting a sizzling 18-10 record in May. But then things went downhill quickly.
Due to the failings of Clay Buchholz, Joe Kelly and Eduardo Rodriguez, plus the loss of reliever Carson Smith to season-ending Tommy John surgery, the Red Sox struggled mightily. Quite predictably, the bullpen was overworked and faltered.
The beleaguered Red Sox went 10-16 in June. The team, which once looked so mighty and sturdy, is suddenly taking on water as it approaches the second half.
Though the Red Sox have slipped -- surrendering both first place and numerous games in the standings -- in the midst of their June swoon, they are still 42-36 (six game over .500), tied for second place in the AL East and would be the AL Wild Card team if the season ended today.
That's the bright side.
But given the absence of reliable No. 4 and 5 pitchers, and the stress that has created on the bullpen, this team appears to be in big trouble as it heads into the second half.
In my view, obtaining a starter is the top priority for the Red Sox right now. There is no justification for trusting Clay Buchholz, Joe Kelly, Roenis Elias or Henry Owens in the rotation at this point.
As for Eduardo Rodriguez, all the Sox can do is keep their fingers crossed and hope that he can get it together quickly at Pawtucket. The organization must help the lefty rediscover the form that made him so effective last season.
Otherwise, the Red Sox problems are much bigger -- they'll need two starters, not just one.
Securing a mid-rotation starter in a trade shouldn’t be too costly in terms of the Sox top prospects (Yoan Moncada, Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers and Anderson Espinoza). Additionally, it would also take stress off the withering bullpen.
John Farrell needs another option in the seventh and eighth innings because Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa have been overused. But that sort of help could come from within.
While the Boston front office is surely exploring trades for bullpen pieces, Pat Light could prove to be an internal solution since he possesses a 100 mph fastball. The hard-throwing righty was recalled earlier this week from Pawtucket. Prior to his latest promotion (his second this season), Light hadn’t allowed a run in any of his 10 outings with Pawtucket, posting a 2.05 ERA and .161 batting average against.
Despite his struggles as a starter, Kelly can be converted to a reliever once he recovers from his going strain. His 98 mph heater would play nicely out of the pen, where he would only have to pitch one inning per outing. Kelly hasn’t fared well the second (10.38 ERA) and third times (24.00 ERA) through the order. Though he prefers to be a starter, Kelly has a 3.25 ERA in 30 career relief appearances – compared to 4.13 as a starter.
Finally, Brandon Workman, who had Tommy John surgery on June 15, 2015 and hasn’t thrown a pitch in the majors since Sept. 18, 2014, hopes to see action with the Red Sox again this season. Though he can’t be relied upon right now, the 27-year-old’s presence could make a difference in the second half (likely August) for a team in desperate need of bullpen help.
Don’t forget, the right-hander pitched meaningful innings for the Red Sox during their 2013 World Series run, even completing a scoreless eighth in Boston’s series-clinching win over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 6 of the Fall Classic.
The key is for the Red Sox to improve a ball club that looked like a World Series contender in May without giving away too much out of desperation.
They need to trade for a young, controllable pitcher if they are to make any trade at all (I don’t think that 36-year-old Rich Hill, who will be a free agent at season’s end, is the answer).
Let’s hope Dave Dombrowski can execute a trade or two that improves the club for the second half, without sacrificing its future.