What the Boston Red Sox Should Do


The Red Sox put themselves in a hole early. They started the season 6-10, and even after they recovered by going 18-11 in their next 29 games they still found themselves down 8.5 games in the AL East on May 23. Since then they have rattled off a few winning streaks, but injuries have kept key players off the field. They headed into the All-Star Break in something of a funk, losing five of their last seven games. The Yankees sit five games ahead of them while the Rays are three up.

Buy or Sell?

One of the AL East powerhouses won’t make the playoffs, and all season it has looked like the Sox would be the odd team out. It started with the slump and continued with the injuries, and while they were as close as a half game out in early July, it looks like everything is catching up to them. The Red Sox might be buyers in name, but they shouldn’t get overeager. Players returning from injuries might be the only additions they need.

At catcher the Sox look particularly weak right now, with a combination of Kevin Cash and Gustavo Molina — not that kind of Molina — sharing the duties while Victor Martinez and Jason Varitek recover from injuries. That basically puts a pitcher in the No. 9 spot, which puts any American League team at a disadvantage. Reports suggest that the Sox could seek help here, with the names Chris Snyder and Chris Iannetta mentioned. To acquire one of these players, however, would be to ostracize Varitek. Martinez will certainly return to his catching duties upon return, since he has nowhere else to play. Would the Red Sox, with so many injuries, actually carry three catchers? It doesn’t strike me as a particularly smart move for a reputedly savvy front office.

If the Sox are going to add a piece it will likely be in the outfield or the bullpen. For most of the season the team has been without Jacoby Ellsbury, who continues to suffer rib and other torso injuries. There’s no timetable for his return, and judging from reports the Sox probably shouldn’t count on him too heavily. They have received excellent production from his fill-in, Daniel Nava, a late bloomer who raked at every level of the minors. He currently has a .371 wOBA through 89 PA, and while he could certainly remain in the .350 – .370 wOBA range, I don’t think the Sox are counting on it.

Adding to the trouble is Mike Cameron, who has suffered various injuries, including a sports hernia and kidney stones. He technically lost only 36 days to the DL, but has taken regular days off since his return, starting three days in a row just twice since May 25. Jeremy Hermida is also on the DL with fractured ribs, but he’s been ineffective even when healthy. The only fully healthy member of the opening day outfield is J.D. Drew. The Sox could look to add a piece here in order to fortify the unit, hedging against declining production from Nava and providing a more reliable option than Darnell McDonald to spell Cameron. David DeJesus is the oft-mentioned player here.

The rest of the offense seems just fine. Dustin Pedroia put on a laser show before fouling a ball off his foot, and it sounds like he’ll be back soon enough. David Ortiz has recovered after the press pronounced him dead in April. Kevin Youkilis, All-Star appearance or not, has been the rock of the team. Adrian Beltre has exceeded expectations in his first, and likely only, season with the Sox. Any other additions should come on the pitching staff.

Here, too, we see a team that requires patience. Both Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz are recovering from injuries and will help strengthen the rotation upon their returns. Jon Lester is pitching characteristically well, but beyond those guys there’s not much the Sox can really do. John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka haven’t performed to expectations at all, and it’s not like they’re candidates for a move to the bullpen. Not that Matsuzaka would be a good option there. It often takes him more than 100 pitches to get through five, and the last thing the Sox need is a reliever who puts too many men on base. But they could certainly use help in the pen.

The problem with adding to the pen is that so many contenders also need help that relievers often become expensive. The Sox have an advantage in that they can absorb salary, so someone like Kerry Wood might be available to them and not many others. They’ll find more competition when going for slightly cheaper guys, like the trio of impending free agent relievers from the Blue Jays (Kevin Gregg, Jason Frasor, Scott Downs). Any way they do it, the Sox sure could use some help with their bullpen.

On the Farm

With both of their bigger issues, outfield and bullpen, the Sox might have an in-house solution. For the outfield they could call on 22-year-old Ryan Kalish. Marc Hulet ranked Kalish ninth among Sox prospects, saying that he, “will certainly jump on the Kalish train in 2010 if he can maintain a solid batting average while also at least equaling his ’09 power numbers.” Starting the season in AA, Kalish hit .293/.404/.527 and since his move to AAA he’s hitting .333/.407/.457. The power numbers might not be as impressive in AAA, but this comes in just 91 PA. He could help in the outfield if the Sox fail to land an established player.

On the mound the Sox have been preparing Michael Bowden for a call-up to the bullpen. Hulet ranked him 10th among Sox prospects, despite a poor showing in the majors last season. His last three appearances, four innings, have come in relief, and chances are the Sox will call him up shortly. But beyond Bowden the Sox will likely have to look elsewhere for pitching help.

The rest of the farm is strong, if not major league ready, and the Sox could use some of those chips to make a move. They won’t trade a blue-chipper like Casey Kelly, but they could use one of their lower level players to acquire a player like DeJesus or Wood.


The Sox 2010 payroll, $168 million, is the highest in club history, but that doesn’t mean they’ll skimp on the market if they can find a deal. They have some money coming off the books next year, but also owe many players raises. In total they have $100 million guaranteed to the 2011 payroll, though I’m not sure how that affects what they’ll do this year. Again, while payroll is high I doubt it would prevent them from making a move that could help the team.

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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.

24 Responses to “What the Boston Red Sox Should Do”

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  1. maestro876 says:

    Trade for Adrian Gonza–oh wait…

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  2. Judy says:

    I’m not sure Varitek is expected back so soon that carrying 3 catchers before September would be something they’d have to worry about. But, since neither Martinez nor Varitek is signed beyond this year, it might be worth slowing him down with a longer rehab if they could acquire a good catcher in the meantime, even if he could be.

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  3. MikeS says:

    Quick suggestion. When you say a team is committed to $100 Million next year (or any amount) it’s useful to know haw many players that covers. $100M to 6 or 7 players is a lot differnt than $100M to 15 or 20 guys.

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  4. Marc says:

    “*reputedly* savvy front office”?

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    • Mat Gonzales says:

      Agreed. Joe, “reputedly”? Really? Epstein is considered one of the best GMs amongst his peers and the positive moves he has made have certainly outweighed the negative. You would be hard-pressed to find many people who would NOT describe that front office as savvy.

      Brian Cashman would likely be the first person to point out how sharp their baseball operations people are.

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  5. Joe R says:

    Doesn’t Iannetta still have minor league options available? The Sox can easily trade for him now, then option him to Pawtucket if so, not to mention having him in the system is leverage in any Victor Martinez contract talks.

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  6. JCA says:

    Perhaps the more interesting question would be, if the Red Sox trail both the Rays and Yankees by 5+ games two weeks from today, do they move any of their expiring contracts? He’s had a terrific year, but will opt out, so should the Sox be open to trading Adrian Beltre?

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    • If they had anyone, anyone at all, to step in and play third base, that could be an option. Since they really don’t (Lowell is hurt with no timetable for his return and Youkilis is a first baseman now, or at least for this season), I can’t see them trading Beltre. Also, if they were to move him, they’d need to get something significant back because I believe he’s a Type A free agent, meaning if (read: when) he leaves Boston will get two first round picks in next year’s draft, which is supposed to be stocked with talent.

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      • JCA says:

        I only think a trade of a prime player with an expiring contract could happen if the Red Sox were to view themselves as far enough out that a try to make a run at the two other best teams in baseball would be a long shot. I only think a Belte could be on the table if they were 5+ games out of the playoffs near the 7/31 deadline. I think there is a number of games back / weeks left where the Red Sox front office would be sellers rather than buyers, but I could see others argue that they will never be sellers.

        As for backfilling for 3d in that case, I think they’d be comfortable with Youk there if Lowell could not play, and they’d find a way to play Shealy, Lowell, Martinez at first.

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    • Judy says:

      Absolutely, they should trade Beltre if they’re far enough out to give up. But I don’t think they’re going to believe they’re far enough back to completely give up almost no matter how far back they are, so, if they’re going to trade Beltre or Martinez or Ortiz or anyone else who’s going to be a free agent after the season, they’ll probably have to clear waivers after the deadline.

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  7. Geffen says:

    How about trading the beloved BIG PAPI and acquiring Prince Fielder or Adam Dunn in a blockbuster deal?
    Sure, it sounds wacky at first, but hear me out. Ortiz will never have a higher value than what it currently is. He has been red hot or ice cold during the last two seasons and turns 36 this year.
    Trade now or sign him to retire in Boston.
    Dunn is reportedly unhappy in DC and would be a solid power bat in the middle of the order (DH) although his defense is pathetic.
    Fielder has another year on his contract but the Brewers are looking for pitching and the Sox have plenty of prospects in the system.
    Am I thinking too far outside of the box here?

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    • No way DC or Milwaukee would want Ortiz. Both are NL cities with no DH and Papi can’t play the field with any regularity. Not going to happen.

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      • Joe R says:

        They signed Adam Dunn for 2 years (who, to be fair, has evidently turned into an okay first baseman, which of course explodes his overall value).

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    • Steve says:

      The irony is that the Yankees could use Ortiz. The problem with trading Ortiz is that there are only 13 possible trade partners. 12 if you take out the Yankees.

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  8. Mikey says:

    this sentence:

    The only fully healthy member of the opening day outfield is J.D. Drew.

    Should really, really scare any RedSox fan.

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    • Joe R says:

      The sheer fact that we’ve been so decimated by injury, but are just 3 GB, makes me feel good about our chances. I think when healthy that this is the class of the AL East.

      The only issue is, the Yankees and Rays are also so good, that we might not have 2-3 weeks to get everyone healthy.

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  9. harry mamis says:

    It could be possible that they trade Ellsbury. He has made himself “persona non-grata”with his comments about the medical staff, and his rehabing in Arizona, not with the club. They have Kalish waiting in the wings. The question is what Ellsbury would bring at this moment in return

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    • Ellsbury wouldn’t bring much. There is no way they trade him now. A trade now would be selling at the absolute low point of his value and the Red Sox front office is neither that desperate nor that dumb.

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  10. Jake R says:

    Trading for Iannetta would be more about the future than this season. Colorado already burned an option on him this year, so when both Martinez and Varitek are healthy, he could be stashed in Pawtuckett until September rolls around, which wouldn’t be that long anyway. He would then be the catcher of the future and would enter 2011 as the starter (probably with Varitek back as a backup unless he wants to retire). If Iannetta comes at a reasonable price (and that would still be quite steep) it makes perfect sense for the Red Sox to go after him hard.

    As for Kalish, I wouldn’t expect to see him this year. He might be the best outfield prospect, and I would love to see him, but he is not on the 40 man roster yet and is unlikely to be added unless necessary. Although he has passed Reddick as a prospect this year, he is still behind him on the depth chart and that is unlikely to change until next year.

    I don’t expect the Red Sox to do much at the trading deadline this year. They might try to acquire a reliever, but they are more likely to go the farm system for bullpen help. They might acquire DeJesus, but he is likely to be prohibitively expensive. I can see the potential for a creative deal involving Ellsbury for DeJesus plus prospects. Barring that, or an intent to trade Ellsbury in the offseason, I just don’t see the organization making such an agressive move for a marginal upgrade over their healthy roster. The only position I can really see a major move happening at is catcher, where the move would be as much about the future as this season. They still need a catcher for next year and I don’t think Victor Martinez is that player, so a midseason trade that helps bolster their roster this year and sets them at catcher for next season makes a lot of sense. Doumit and Iannetta should be the top 2 targets as both would lock up the position with a quality player beyond 2010.

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  11. pft says:

    If anyone remembers last year, the Red Sox were in much worse shape at this time, although they had 3 more wins.

    Varitek was playing hurt and not producing with Kottaras at backup.

    Nick Green was the SS due to injures/performance issues with Lugo and Lowrie.

    Lowell was on the DL, and Youkilis playing 3b with Bailey/Bates/Kotsay at 1B.

    Smoltz and Penny were in the starting rotation. Daisuke was on the DL most of the year. Lester and Beckett had terrible Aprils, Buchholz was in the minors, Wakefield was the All Star and went on the DL soon after the break..

    Papi had hit his 2nd HR in June.

    Youk and a number of bench players had spent time on the DL.

    This team is in very good shape with players coming off the DL in the next 1-3 weeks, and a pretty easy schedule in the meantime (until end of August).

    The bullpen has been bitten by HR. They have given up more HR than any MLB team. Need to put the ball in the humidor or something. If they can cut down on the HR, the bullpen should be fine.

    I would not be surprised to see a blockbuster move with Ellsbury, Daisuke and a prospect involved. I would also not be surprised to see nothing done. If not for 21.5 million in dead salaries to Lugo and Lowell, they would be in a good position to make some moves. They still can, but who knows.

    I don’t think the Rays are that good. That’s a terrible lineup, and the back end of the rotation has some issues. Yankees have age and bullpen issues. There are a ton of games with the Yankees and Rays in September. The race is a long way from being over.

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    • Jonathan says:

      The difference between last year and this year is the QUALITY of the players who’ve missed significant time.

      Lugo, Lowell and Matsuzaka were the only two I recall missing significant time last season. Yeah, guys like Youk took some time, but overall, Lowell was the only piece of high value to go down.

      Comparing that to Beckett and Ellsbury missing significant time and things shake out much worse, especially when Pedroia and Martinez are both missing about a month and the Sox are in MUCH worse shape injury wise than last season. Plus, the Rays weren’t playing nearly as well in ’09. The biggest obstacle to the Sox’ playoff chances last year were the Rangers, and they fell off the table around the All Star Break.

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      • Jake R says:

        You are looking at this backwards. The better the quality of players who have missed significant time, assuming they will be coming back, the better the position of the team relative to their place in the standings.

        Because the Red Sox have lost so much high level production to the DL and because so much of it should be coming back before too much longer (Ellsbury, Beckett, Buchholz, and Martinez are all seemingly getting close) the team is significantly better than they have appeared so far this year and thus shouldn’t be giving up.

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    • Rich says:

      “I don’t think the Rays are that good. That’s a terrible lineup, and the back end of the rotation has some issues. ”

      This. The Rays have been playing sub-500 baseball for about 2 months now.. They’re still in it because they started that period with a huge lead.

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  12. hylen says:

    You should look up the meaning of “ostracize.”

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