In the last few weeks, the Red Sox have been very busy indeed, raiding the trade market for Aaron Hill, Brad Ziegler, and Drew Pomeranz (and, I suppose, Michael Martinez). But with two weeks still left to them, there's some speculation that there's still more to come from Dave Dombrowski, though it's hard to get much of a consensus opinion on what kind of player the Red Sox would actually be targeting.
The obvious way to figure that out is to consider the team's needs, and right now those aren't too hard to find, particularly given how many injuries the Sox have endured over the past month or two. Just looking at the active 25-man roster, you could argue they need help at just about every part of the field. Eduardo Rodriguez is an uncertain commodity in the rotation, Brad Ziegler is alone as the one reliever who brings present reliability and a convincing track record, The Sox are leaning heavily on Sandy Leon to continue his torrid pace at the plate, and still have the likes of Bryce Brentz, Ryan Hanigan, and the aforementioned Michael Martinez filling potentially important bench roles.
But that's the Sox as they are today, not as they might be in a few week's time. There's just too many names missing currently to paint any sort of accurate picture of the resources available to the Sox this season. So instead, let's take a look at what the roster might look like when the players who stand to return before season's end are in the mix.
Brock Holt, Chris Young, Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts
Bradley has of course long since joined Betts as an obvious lock, leaving only the platoon situation in left field in question. When given a proper chance to face lefties, Chris Young proved every bit the valuable role player that the Sox expected him to be, and when left to shoulder even more of the burden without a clear partner, he actually came through reasonably well. While it's taking him a long time to return from injury, for the purpose of this article, we're going to assume he is, in fact, on his way back.
Still, his career suggests he's best as a specialist against lefties, meaning the Sox would ideally have a left-handed hitter to pair with him. As it stands, Brock Holt is that guy, and he has put together a nice little run at the plate since returning from concussion. That being said, Holt certainly does tend to wear down, and it would be no surprise to see that production slip again as we head into August and beyond. Given that Holt also provides great flexibility on the bench as a super-utility man when he's not starting, this is one area where the Red Sox could still improve, and might look to do so in August with a waiver trade if Holt goes cold again and one can be found.
Of course, the fact that the team has said Blake Swihart may not get back behind the plate this year but will be doing rehab work in the outfield suggests that him nearly breaking himself in two playing the unfamiliar position hasn't deterred them from that foolish experiment, so maybe that's their go-to backup plan. Grumble grumble grumble
Hanley Ramirez, Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts, Travis Shaw, Aaron Hill
Well, this group is pretty much set. Hanley Ramirez had managed an OPS over .900 since that huge homer against Baltimore, and that was before he destroyed the Giants on Wednesday night. Dustin Pedroia's power renaissance has fallen off of late, but he's still Dustin Pedroia, still reaching base, still saving runs. Xander Bogaerts is as much of a lock as Betts and Bradley.
The biggest question is with Travis Shaw and the third base situation. He hasn't been the star that he looked like in the first month-and-a-half. He has still been a very reasonable player both these past few weeks and this year as a whole. He does it in streaks, and he's made much better by having a platoon partner to hide his struggles against lefties. But the Sox have that in Hill now, and together, they should be able to hold down third base without much trouble.
Sandy Leon, Ryan Hanigan
This is one of the more obvious places the Sox can improve. Sandy Leon is crushing the ball, but not long enough to have any real confidence in it. With Ryan Hanigan doing next to nothing, Vazquez having hit to a 54 OPS+, and Blake Swihart out of this particular picture for the year, Leon's tear has masked what might be the biggest weakness on the team for the time being.
Photo Credit: Adam Glanzman
And there is in fact, a pretty healthy supply of catchers available, ranging the gamut in terms of likely price. The Sox could go big and pursue Jonathan Lucroy for both now and 2017. They could look in the middle tiers for someone like Kurt Suzuki or Welington Castillo. Or they could aim low with someone like the aging--now aged--Carlos Ruiz, who can at least get on base when he does play.
Frankly, if there's a trade left in the Sox, my guess is that this is where it will come. Supply is high, perhaps to the point of saturation, and the Sox can improve at the position without getting a premium player.
Drew Pomeranz, Rick Porcello, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez, Steven Wright
So Pomeranz' debut went south in a hurry. But that's one game, and he still leaves the Red Sox with, at long last, a rotation that at least has the four members they would need for October if they make it.
The question is Eduardo Rodriguez. He's had a disaster year after his spring injury, He finally came through with a productive start in his last outing against the Yankees, but he did so with all of one strikeout, which usually isn't a great sign for future success. He'll take the mound two more times before July 31st, and given that he's still sitting on an ERA over 7.00, if those don't go particularly well, it'll be pretty easy to write off this one semi-positive outing and declare the Red Sox rotation once again in need of an arm.
Well...maybe not need. They can live with one really unfortunate starter. But if Rodriguez' 2016 really does end up as a lost season, they could look to find a mediocre replacement on the relative cheap. That may or may not be available given the horrific pitching market. Maybe Jeremy Hellickson ends up costing a legitimate prospect even though he's, well, Jeremy Hellickson. In that case? Just move right on. But if there's even just a 4.50-to-5.00 ERA guy out there who won't take much of a price? Probably better than forcing Rodriguez to keep pitching in the majors in the event that he's not right.
Craig Kimbrel, Brad Ziegler, Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara, Heath Hembree, Matt Barnes, Robbie Ross Jr.
Despite trades, Red Sox still boast a top farm system
The Sox have given up quite a few good prospects over the last year. And yet, somehow, they're still near the top.
Honestly, the final look of the bullpen isn't entirely clear even with perfect health thanks to the presence of Clay Buchholz and Joe Kelly, particularly as the latter impresses in the minors. Between the uncertainty of Uehara both in terms of health and performance, and frankly of Robbie Ross Jr. (though he catches homers in his hat so he's untouchable), it's not clear who gets that last spot or two when push comes to shove and the team pushes its chips in for the postseason.
That being said, given that even with their injuries, the argument can be made they're still not in need of help right now, this really doesn't have the look of a unit which demands reinforcements. Matt Barnes showed Wednesday night just how big he's been in supporting this battered pen, Heath Hembree looks like closer material, Brad Ziegler is unassumingly excellent, and when Kimbrel and Tazawa return, the Sox will have five guys they could reasonably put into a game that's late and close. And who knows what happens with Kelly?
If there's one thing the Sox could use, it's perhaps a LOOGY whose splits extend beyond just this season--it's hard to take Robbie Ross Jr.'s excellent performance against lefties in 2016 completely seriously--but at the end of the day it's better to have a bunch of strong overall options than narrow specialists. This is a deeper bullpen than the Sox have had in a long time.