It’s no secret to us as fans or to those in the industry what the Red Sox are looking for just over 48 hours away from the trade deadline. They’ve already filled the hole at the back of their rotation with the Andrew Cashner trade, but they still have another that needs to be addressed. There was some chance of them standing pat or even selling, but that talk has gone out the window after their 5-2 week against the Rays and Yankees. It’s full steam ahead now and they are locked into an intense, highly competitive wildcard race.
The Red Sox, of course, are going to be targeting help for their bullpen. They are probably feeling better about that group than any other time this year with Nathan Eovaldi now part of the crew and Darwinzon Hernadnez showing his upside. They are still clearly at least one arm away from a playoff-caliber relief corps, however. We are still waiting for relatively concrete names who are being pursued by the Red Sox, though Buster Olney keeps speculating about Edwin Díaz.
What we do know, however, is that there are a handful of legitimate late-inning relievers available on this year’s trade market, as is the case most every year. Now, the idea of trading for one of these players is certainly scary for some Red Sox fans. It’s hard to forget about the failed trades for Tyler Thornburg and Carson Smith. It’s also hard to look at the farm system potentially getting even weaker. That doesn’t even mention that the Red Sox are almost certainly fighting exclusively for a wildcard spot this year, which means that they are playing for a chance for a one-game playoff. That’s scary!
And yet, despite all of that, the reliever market in this particular summer perfectly fits the Red Sox needs. The top names on the market this year — I’m not including the Giants guys because it looks like they are going to hold on for another run — are: Díaz, Kirby Yates, Ken Giles, Felipe Vázquez, Raisel Iglesias and Shane Greene. You can rank them in whatever order you want, and there are obvious pros and cons for each. There is, however, one commonality between them: They are under team control beyond this year.
That part of this is exactly what the Red Sox should be looking for, and it goes back to the wildcard point from above. Boston is playing good baseball right now and should clearly be trying to win as many games as possible. I am not someone who does not think a Wildcard Game appearance is not worth shooting for. Playing in that game gives them a chance for a championship. Not making it that far does not. It’s a pretty simple calculation to me!
That said, a season in which you have very little chance of winning the division — Fangraphs gives Boston a five percent chance — obviously presents a much smaller chance at a championship. Fangraphs gives the Sox a 5.6 percent chance at winning the World Series right now. That’s not insignificant — only five teams in baseball have higher odds — but it’s also a long shot. The odds are probably better for a run in 2020 than it is for this year.
With these relievers, though, the Red Sox have a chance to build for both. Their window is certainly still wide open for next year, with pretty much the entire core set to come back. J.D. Martinez is the only one who could potentially be out the door, and even that is far from certain. They are going to need relief help in 2020 just like they need it now. Perhaps guys like Darwinzon Hernandez and Tanner Houck take steps forward before the start of next year, but they’ll still need help in the late innings.
The arms available right now are better than the ones who will be out there this winter, and they also give the added benefit of potentially helping a run this year as well. As we’ve talked about so often over the last calendar year, the Red Sox are currently in the middle of a clear win-now window. Parting with good prospects for relievers can certainly backfire, but this particular crop fits the Red Sox needs perfectly over the next couple of seasons. It’s an opportunity they can’t let pass.