6-15-2010: What moves could be made?

As we are now fully into the month of June, we know that the two-month “evaluation period” is over, and the Red Sox are looking for ways to improve their team. After a horrid start by Boston and a torrid one by both New York and Tampa Bay, it would be easy to discount the Sox, but the truth is that Boston has the best record of all three teams since May 1 and has climbed to within 4 games of the division leaders.

Team W L Pct RS RA Diff
Boston 26 16 0.619 250 186 64
New York 25 16 0.610 237 173 64
Tampa 23 17 0.575 189 160 29

And that’s been done with Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron missing a huge chunk of that time. So it’s not like anything is irreparably broken, but there’s always room for improvement, right?

Evaluating areas of need

Offensively, we’re doing great. Boston has scored 353 runs, or 5.43 per game, which is second in the AL. We’re second in OBP at .352 and first in slugging at .464, despite all the home runs by Toronto (I’d say that’s due to a lot of Fenway doubles). Getting Ellsbury, Cameron and a healthy Dustin Pedroia can only help those numbers, so I think you can rule out a blockbuster for a big bat. Even our bench has performed superbly, with the subs hitting .297/.381/.473 as a group this year. Left field has been a bit of a sore spot on offense; our motley crew of Pawtucket players have managed to hit just .226/.288/.396 this year. But as I said, if Ells can get healthy again, we should be all set. If he can’t, then we may have to see if there’s a rental available at the deadline.

For a team that was supposed to be built on run prevention, we haven’t done a great job of that so far. We’ve allowed 305 runs already, or 4.69 runs per game (9th in the AL), and our staff ERA of 4.69 is decidedly below average. Part of this disappointing performance can be tied to the early defensive woes we had in the outfield and the left side of the infield. Centerfield has been a problem for us, with the trio of Darnell McDonald, Cameron and Jonathan Van Every posting -8.8 runs by UZR so far in 2010. Things have been getting better of late, however, and the team now owns a .706 defensive efficiency rating (6th in baseball) and +15.3 UZR for the year (+9 defensive runs saved by John Dewan’s Plus/Minus system). The other sore spot was catcher, but the running game seems to have been addressed now; or at least has been limited (I still worry about our catchers in a playoff series, however). Again, the defense is coming around, and the return of Ellsbury should really help things.

The rotation has really come around, thanks to the great performances of Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. The starters’ ERA has slowly been declining (4.86 in April, 4.32 in May, 3.43 in June), with better numbers from John Lackey and a couple of good starts by Daisuke Matsuzaka and Tim Wakefield (mixed in with some doozies). If Josh Beckett and Dice-K return healthy, watch out- this could easily turn into the best rotation in baseball.

The bullpen is another story, and the numbers are moving the wrong way (4.16 ERA in April, 4.21 ERA in May, 5.93 ERA in June). Of course, this month is marred by that eight run blowup, so it’s not quite pandemonium yet, but it’s getting there. After disappointing starts by the normally reliable Hideki Okajima (4.87 ERA) and Ramon Ramirez (5.26 ERA), Terry Francona has been left with Daniel Bard and a decidedly more unstable Jonathan Papelbon as the only reliable options. Manny Delcarmen has really come on of late, and he has been critical to our recent run. The back of the bullpen has seen one arm after another come and go, but that is not what makes or breaks a team. We have plenty of depth with Scott Atchison, Boof Bonser, Dustin Richardson and others down at Pawtucket. I’d like to see Robert Manuel get a shot up here, but he’s currently not on the 40-man roster, so it’s not likely for some time.

Movable pieces

The Red Sox have some players who could be traded, and at least one who needs to be moved: Mike Lowell. With the re-emergence of David Ortiz, Lowell’s role on the team has diminished greatly. As sad as it is for us to let him go, he deserves the chance to play somewhere else. The Twins, Angels and Rangers (and perhaps the White Sox) all need help at the infield corners and have reportedly shown some level of interest.

With both Beckett and Matsuzaka currently on the DL, it’s likely that Wakefield and Bonser will fill in for now; but once they return, we will have to bid sayonara to one of these two arms. Even though it might be slightly more beneficial in the long run to keep Bonser, my guess is that he will be the one to go.

So what I’d like to see is something similar to what we did a few years ago when we traded for Eric Gagne (for a better pitcher, of course). Once we get one or both starters back from the DL, trade Bonser for a reasonable prospect. Once that’s done, I’d move Lowell to a team where he can play, and I’d love to bring in a strong bullpen arm to complement what we have now at the back of the pen to safeguard against injury to any of our best relievers.

If there’s one available, of course. From the teams who are out of contention, the Orioles have Jim Johnson, the Mariners have Ryan Rowland-Smith, the Astros have Matt Lindstrom, the Pirates have Joel Hanrahan, and the Diamondbacks have Chad Qualls. The Dodgers have also soured on George Sherrill, but that’s a risk. Not an inspiring list, to be sure. To trade for something more would require giving up minor league talent, so I’m not sure we wouldn’t be better off just promoting someone from Pawtucket.

Another smaller deal to bring in an athletic outfielder who could play a little center field would also be nice, as insurance against Adrian Beltre’s continuing assault on our outfield depth. Oakland is currently overflowing with outfielders; perhaps they’d give up Gabe Gross. Would the return of Coco Crisp be out of the question (he’d have to get healthy first)? Atlanta might be able to give up Melky Cabrera. Reggie Willits of the Angels would fit the description, as would Mitch Maier of the Royals.

And, of course, I’d be remiss if I failed to mention a deal for our “catcher of the future”. There are a lot of high-quality catching prospects hitting the big leagues right now or on the cusp, but I fail to see any catchers who live up to this designation. A.J. Pierzynski has veteran savvy but not much else, Bengie Molina doesn’t have much time left and his bat is now suspect, Chris Snyder’s back could give out at any moment and Lou Marson is whiffing even when he tries to hit the sheets at night. Of these, I think Marson is the most desirable, but I’ll be pleased if we manage to find anyone worth acquiring.

Big names on the block

Every year there are some well-known players who are made available, but for the most part, they are at positions we do not need to upgrade. There have been rumors surrounding starters Roy Oswalt and Cliff Lee, as well as first baseman Paul Konerko and Prince Fielder. I don’t expect anything to happen on these fronts. Adrian Gonzalez is not going to be traded while the Padres are playing winning ball, so that narrows the field quite a bit. I’m satisfied to wait for the offseason on these guys.


2 Responses to 6-15-2010: What moves could be made?

  1. Pingback: Links 6-16-2010: Scutaro’s condition, Doubront debut, looking ahead, Lowell makes sense for Twins « Red Sox Talk

  2. redsoxtalk says:

    Assistant GM Ben Cherington notes three areas of need as we approach the trade deadline:
    -defensive shortstop
    -OF help


    It makes sense that the Sox need shortstop depth in case Scutaro’s nerve condition takes him out of play. The other two I’ve hit upon, though I lean towards acquiring a CF-type OF.

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