We are somehow quickly approaching the halfway point of the season, with game number 70 taking place Friday night in Kansas City. With that in mind, it’s time for front offices to start really looking forward and starting to decide what they need to put themselves over the top. They also need to start deciding what they’d be willing to give up to make that happen. For the Red Sox, it’s a fascinating question. They don’t need complete answers right now, but the thought process certainly has to begin.
With that in mind, we are looking at the trade deadline for this week’s roundtable. Earlier this month we looked at how aggressive the team should be, and this week we’re digging in a little deeper and looking at areas of need. Specifically, I asked the staff what position they would be prioritizing for the Red Sox as we start getting into trade season.
I am still not convinced that buying is the right move. I am even less convinced given poor performance against both the Astros and Blue Jays. I won’t know if I am okay buying until we get to July. It is just too early for me to commit to a direction.
That said, if they do buy, I want them to acquire a top-end starter (and salivating over the idea of Max Scherzer, although the cost could be prohibitive) and probably another outfielder, as I am not convinced Jarren Duran is the answer for 2021. First base is another need, as it seemingly always is. No specific names come to mind but there will be plenty of options there.
Ask me again after the All-Star break and I will have a better idea of what I want our team to do. For now, let’s just get through the toughest stretch of the season without anyone important getting hurt.
For me, it’s starting pitching, which seems to be under a greater microscope given the recent struggles. But even when things were going well I still felt they needed to upgrade the rotation. Jake and I talked a little about this on the most recent Red Seat Podcast and thought of a couple of targets the Sox could check in on not named Max Scherzer, although he would be ideal. The recent struggles of the starters highlight the problem though, and we knew coming into this year the pitching was inconsistent. It kind of felt like we got away something how well the pitching was going for these first couple months. It’s unfortunate they’re all struggling at the same time, and probably makes it seem a bit direr a situation than it really is, but they need pitching help and I think that needs to be the main focus.
I’d like to see the Red Sox pursue an outfield bat to bolster the bottom half of the lineup. Starting pitching could definitely be a priority, but with Chris Sale’s return looming, I’m fine with staying put in that area. Additionally, I’m not fully convinced that this year’s team will contend, so I think any major move should be with the mindset of improving next year’s team as well.
Currently, Alex Verdugo is the only outfielder on the big-league roster who is in the Sox’s long-term plans. Yes, Jarren Duran is waiting in the wings, but I’m not going to assume he’ll be a mainstay until I see him produce in the bigs. Keep in mind how much Franchy Cordero struggled at the major league level this year, and he has a 213 wRC+ in AAA right now. It’s always tough to translate minor-league production to the majors.
My favorite outfield bats for the Sox to pursue are Joey Gallo and Ketel Marte - two absolute studs who are under team control beyond this year. The problem with pursuing them, or any solid player with team control, is that they come with a huge price tag. It may not be wise to blow up the farm so soon after it has started rebuilding. Other interesting, potentially cheaper options are guys like Adam Frazier and Anthony Santander. Someone like Frazier, and especially Marte, would make an already dangerous lineup that much more dangerous, as well as give the Sox more flexibility in the field (both can play 2B/OF). However, whichever way the Sox go, I’m excited to see what Chaim Bloom has in store for us at the deadline.
The first position that came to mind is pitching, especially starting pitching. Our starters, like Martín Pérez, Garrett Richards, and Nick Pivetta (somewhat) have started to under-perform what they were doing in the beginning of the season. Also, with injuries to Connor Seabold, Tanner Houck (who is now making his way back), and Bryan Mata, the reinforcements we were expecting to rely on are not available.
The answer here seems pretty obvious: Starting pitcher. The Red Sox’s rotation has been good enough for the most part, but the seams are starting to show, especially with recent performances from guys like Garrett Richards and Martín Pérez. In the last month, Red Sox starters are 19th in MLB in fWAR and they’re 21st in June. There aren’t many good options behind the current starters and if this Red Sox team is really going to contend, they need to upgrade the rotation overall. As I mentioned in a previous roundtable, I’m still not ready for the Red Sox to empty the farm for an ace (especially with Chris Sale’s return looming), but they could certainly stand to bring in another above-average starter or two.
I know a few weeks ago for this same question I wanted to make a case for another bat. Maybe a utility guy, someone to help out in the lineup. Well, Christian Arroyo has mostly resolved those worries. Between his breakout and the ever-closer arrival of Jarren Duran, that might not be the first move to make, although I’d still keep my ears open. The difficulty facing the team now is pitching as the starters, who began magically, have been beaten and battered for a few weeks.
Pitching is probably going to be more expensive, and the staff already here could have runs in both directions over the next few months. E-Rod hopefully gets into a groove and Chris Sale chips in a few innings to close out the season. Maybe check in on someone like Kenta Maeda or J.A. Happ if the Twins consider their injuries too much to overcome this year and could get a return even for struggling guys? I’ll echo the same message as last time: don’t be afraid to be aggressive in making a move but don’t pay an aggressive price. Even with his recent struggles a Nick Pivetta-style deal for a guy a team has given up on is the ideal move for Chaim Bloom and crew. Low cost for 2021, chance of upside if you can make some tweaks, and keeping the farm intact to help a team that is less volatile in the future either through promotions or trades.
The Red Sox greatest position of need as we approach the deadline is without a doubt starting pitcher. In the month of June the Red Sox starting pitching has really shifted from being a strength of the team to a potential Achilles heel. During June, the only member of the Red Sox rotation with an ERA under 5.00 is Nathan Eovaldi. The other members of the rotation check in at 8.36, 5.75, 5.74, and 9.00.
While I don’t believe that the Red Sox starters will continue to be this bad, I do believe that this correction was a long time coming. If the Red Sox are serious about winning this division then they need to do more than just bide their time until Chris Sale comes back, they need to go out and get a star pitcher like Max Scherzer or a young pitcher with upside like a Germán Márquez.
Chaim Bloom now has the assets and the farm to go make such a move without compromising his vision for the future. I’m not advocating that they put guys like Jarren Duran or Triston Casas on the table, but anything else has to be considered in the right deal. This offense is great and the bullpen seems to be good enough, time to try and deliver on the goal of winning the division and making the playoffs
The clear answers here are first base and starting pitching. The last two weeks have exposed the Sox’s lack of quality starting pitching. They were lucky to make it as deep into the year as they did, but if they’re serious about making a run for it they need to filter out the back end of that rotation with better starters. Swapping out Dalbec, whether it’s for Tristan Casas or for a trade chip, is a pressing matter, too. There are issues around the outfield and second base, but with Kiké still getting leadoff AB’s, he’s probably not going anywhere.
It seems like starting pitching is probably the number one answer, and it makes sense, but I’m not sure that’s my pick. Between the market after Scherzer not really enticing me all that much and the looming presence of both Chris Sale and Tanner Houck, I think the Red Sox can make it by without a big addition there. That’s not to say I’d complain if they made a move, but I don’t know that it’s pressing.
To me, it comes down to first base and the bullpen. The offense has been great even with Bobby Dalbec struggling, but a run scored is as good as a run saved, and taking the offense from very good to elite could be just as effective for making the team a real contender as adding a mid-rotation starter. Someone like Joey Gallo feels ideal to me because he could slide into the outfield or DH next season if needed, and he adds a huge amount of punch to the lineup. I also think adding another big-time arm for the bullpen is an underrated need for the team right now, which also goes to help lengthen the pitching staff and take some pressure off the rotation.