If that debacle at Yankee Stadium reminded Red Sox fans of anything, it’s that this team still has some holes to fill in order to win in the playoffs. Their offense, which is one of the most potent in baseball, may ultimately win them some games. Heck, it might even win them a series. But to go deep into October against the likes of Houston and New York the Red Sox need some more pieces.
The Red Sox glaring issue
First and foremost, they need help in the bullpen. Go ahead and hit me with whatever stats you want about Joe Kelly and Matt Barnes, but ask yourself this: do you feel like either of those guys is a lock to hold down the fort until Craig Kimbrel can close out a game? Doesn’t it feel like any one of those guys can do just as good (or as bad) as any other on any given night? Who is the go-to guy in the playoffs?
The Red Sox have reportedly begun shopping for relievers. And they also are on the lookout for more bats at the bottom of their lineup, if the trade for Steve Pearce indicates anything. But unfortunately, guys like Steve Pearce might be the best they can do. Mid-level guys, platoon pieces, decent depth options. Whether it’s in the bullpen or in the lineup, I expect these levels of moves to be the only kind the Red Sox will make at the trade deadline. Nothing that can really put them over the hump to really bring it to the top teams in the league in the playoffs.
Why? Unlike other teams in the American League who have needs, Boston may not be able to help themselves fill those gaps because they have nothing of value to trade.
A Dearth of Tradable Talent
Imagine that there’s a particular bullpen arm the Sox could use. A legit 8th inning guy perhaps. What do the Red Sox give up in a deal? Well, people may look to the bench first. Jackie Bradley Jr. and Blake Swihart can barely keep their batting averages above .200. And as much as I love him, Brock Holt can’t be the centerpiece of your offer. Unless some team is in love with JBJ’s defense and is willing to overpay, or thinks Swihart has some untapped potential, nothing on the bench can get you real help. As for the starting lineup? From Devers, to Bogaerts, to Benintendi, there’s just nobody of value that Boston would dare part with as of now (for a reliever or bottom-of-the-order bat, at least).
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So then you’d normally look to the prospects to find trade-able assets, right? But the Red Sox have no real chips there either. What was once a top-tier farm system a few years ago has been gutted by blockbuster trades made by Dave Dombrowski for players like Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel (I don’t hate the trades, but it’s the truth). The Red Sox have only two prospects ranked in the Top-100 in all of baseball- infielder Michael Chavis, who is serving an 80-game PED suspension in the minor leagues, and pitcher Jay Groome, who is missing this entire season following Tommy John surgery. The rest of their prospects are long-term projects or reaches to make the big-league squad in the near future.
A Problem with no solution
I hate to say it, but the Sox might be stuck. Like I said, for the caliber of relief pitcher the Sox need in the late innings, they better hope some GM out there LOVES himself some JBJ, or sees a lot in Chavis or Groome. And if it’s the latter, would that mean Boston would give up one of the last top-tier prospects they have once again? All this, to me, adds up to one thing- the Red Sox will land an average reliever or two, and maybe another platoon bat. I worry it won’t be enough in the end.
Yes, the Red Sox have one of the top offenses in baseball. And yes, they will likely make the playoffs. But Houston, New York, and Seattle are all going to get better come the trade deadline, and I fear the same won’t be said for Boston. Here’s to hoping that the guys they have can figure it out and get it done, because help in the form of a trade just doesn’t seem to be coming any time soon.