Roster: Room for improvement

Every June, Red Sox Nation starts dreaming of improbable trades to acquire big arms and big bats. There are always areas we could improve, but this roster has a lot of areas which are not easily changed, due to salary and other constraints. Here’s what I see:

As a fifth starter, Julian Tavarez has done a good job. He has kept us is a lot of games, and has pitched at least five innings in each of his last eight starts. If you take out those bad starts in April, his ERA is around 4.50. It’s those games where the starter has to leave after 2 1/3 innings that really kills a bullpen. So our rotation is definitely not broken.

But is there room for improvement? Jon Lester was taken off the DL and assigned to Pawtucket yesterday, and the Red Sox position on him is officially that they want him to “force” his way into the major league rotation. I have little doubt that he could come up here and be at least a modest upgrade from Tavarez right now, but that would require us to designate another player for assignment, or else send Javier Lopez back down, which Theo doesn’t want to do. We’ve already designated J.C. Romero and his $1.6 million salary, and next in line from a performance standpoint would be Joel Pineiro. Only thing is, he carries a $4 million price tag and would likely not be claimed off waivers.

People have been talking about trading Tavarez away while he has some value, but I don’t think you mess with this situation right now. You could look into trading Joel Pineiro as a starter, if you could find someone who wanted him. But you won’t get much back, that’s the problem. Having Kason Gabbard and Devern Hansack available to make spot starts makes this scenario slightly more comfortable, but what happens if Lester gets hurt? Or another member of the rotation? No, I think we keep Tavarez where he is until Lester shows he can pitch regularly at Pawtucket (no injury/health issues). This is the right move.

Some people have mentioned moving Tim Wakefield to the bullpen, to get Doug Mirabelli out of the lineup. Forget that. Should Lester get the nod, I think Wakefield becomes the de facto 5th starter, and he’d be a great one. Jason Varitek is not getting any younger, and it helps him a lot to get some days off because Wake is in that rotation.

The other area where people are looking to make improvements is the outfield. Coco Crisp‘s numbers have not recovered from his broken finger, and it’s beginning to look like he’ll never be quite right again. J.D. Drew has been a disappointment after signing a big contract this winter. Wily Mo Pena, though he represents right-handed power off the bench, is not an ideal pinch hitter because of his strikeout rate, and presents a scary proposition in the field, should one of our outfielders sustain a major injury.

Drew’s contract is not movable, so the tradeable guys are Crisp and Pena. Trading Crisp leaves us with a huge defensive liability in the outfield, so I’d rather trade Pena. Should Crisp continue to hit .230 for the rest of the year, he becomes almost an ideal 4th outfielder. With Jacoby Ellsbury knocking on the door at AAA, getting a rent-a-veteran in center would be ideal, but I don’t know who will be available, realistically. Andruw Jones? Atlanta wanted Crisp, Lester AND Craig Hansen last year, and they might ask for more this year. It doesn’t seem like much is obtainable other than a modest upgrade from Crisp.

The top of the order has been a big problem, and I think the main culprit for the Sox’s offensive woes of late. With Julio Lugo and Crisp having woeful OBPs, we need a solution. Some have suggested trading for Ichiro Suzuki. Sure, that’d be great, except for the arm and leg it would cost us in young talent. If you actually want to see Jon Lester pitch in a Red Sox uniform, we need to look for another solution.

The Sox are still 4th in runs scored in the majors, so I don’t think the offense is that broken. It’s just recently that we’ve had problems scoring runs. A shakeup might be all we need.

Here’s my proposal: J.D. Drew has struggled with batting average and power, but he’s still third on the team with 30 walks. Put him in the two slot, and hit Dustin Pedroia leadoff. No speed, but who cares? I’d rather us score more runs. Besides, it’s not like we would take Lugo and Crisp out of the lineup altogether. They’d hit 8th and 9th, allowing them to use their speed more efficiently, with guys like Pedroia and Drew at the plate. The emergence of Kevin Youkilis is what makes this possible. His development allows Tito to bat him 5th and Mike Lowell 6th.

I think we need to get some bullpen help. Pineiro is not good enough to hang in this pen. Mike Timlin is still a question mark. So this is where we need to trade Pena (and maybe one other player) for a veteran bridge guy. The Red Sox have been trying to get Scott Linebrink of the Padres for a long time, and San Diego needs power in their outfield. Brad Lidge is being renamed the Astros closer, so he’s not likely to be available anymore.

The front office will definitely make a move or two by the deadline, but I don’t foresee any blockbusters taking place. Look for either Pena or Crisp to be moved for a reliable reliever.


2 Responses to Roster: Room for improvement

  1. donchoi says:

    UPDATE: The lineup card has come out for tonight’s game against the Rockies. Dustin Pedroia is leading off (yes!), with Kevin Youkilis hitting second. Crisp is hitting seventh, Mirabelli 8th (since Wakefield is starting) and Lugo has been moved to 9th in the order.

  2. Pingback: 66-42: Sox rally again to down Orioles « Red Sox Talk

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