After a disappointing extra-innings loss on Saturday, the Boston Red Sox are set to finish their three-game series with the Los Angeles Angels tonight. They'll do so on the national stage of ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball. With the trade deadline looming large and the Red Sox major contenders, we picked the mind of ESPN's Buster Olney about the two teams headed into Sunday night.
1) The Angels and Josh Hamilton have both put together a strong run over the last eleven games. Is a resurgent Hamilton the difference between a contending Angels team, and what we've seen so far?
Hamilton is certainly a big part of that, in that he's actually having the sort of impact that they felt they were paying for when they signed him. But I always think it ultimately comes back to pitching. After having a disastrous start, their rotation has been at least respectable of late.
2) What would it take over the next three weeks to convince the Angels that they should be buyers at the deadline?
I don't think that will matter much, because even if they decided they wanted to be big buyers, they really wouldn't have much opportunity. Rival officials view their farm system as almost barren. Jerry Dipoto said sometime in late May or early June that the Angels are what they are, signaling there won't be upgrades. They don't really have the necessary resources to go and get anything more than bit parts.
3) The Red Sox have the American League's best record, and one of its deepest farm systems. How willing are they to part with their best prospects if it means getting a top talent back for the playoff push? Where do they draw that line?
It's an interesting question, and I think you could really build it around Matt Garza. He is clearly the best available starting pitcher (for the moment, Cliff Lee has been made available by the Phillies), and so the Red Sox have to ask themselves: Is it worth it to spend the assets to get Garza -- to bolster the rotation, but also as a hedge against continued struggles (perhaps) for Jon Lester and more injury trouble for Clay Buchholz. Garza is AL East-tested, and has had success in big games, and he's throwing great. If Lester bounces back and Buchholz comes back, the Red Sox would have a rotation as good as any in the AL.
Is that worth a top-tier prospect?
In my opinion: The Red Sox clearly have a shot to have postseason success, to win the World Series. I think a serious pursuit of Garza would be worthwhile.
4) With Clay Buchholz struggling to return to the mound, and Jon Lester struggling to keep runs off the board, how important is their progress over the next few weeks to Boston's plans at the deadline?
It's important, for all the reasons I mention above. Webster is impressive, other pitchers have promise, but I think the 2013 Red Sox are good enough to invest in, even with a short-term rental like Garza, who is headed into free agency.
Thanks to Buster for taking the time out of his day to talk with us. Sunday Night Baseball starts at 8:00 tonight on ESPN, with Baseball Tonight airing the hour before.
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