For a team that is 70–31 and four games clear of owning the best record in baseball, it’s odd that it still feels like there is significant help that could be used. The Red Sox sit near, or at the top of many offensive categories, yet with the injury to Christian Vazquez, the need for a backup catcher may become more prominent. Chris Sale is putting up another Cy Young caliber season, and the supporting cast of Rick Porcello and David Price for the most part, have been solid. However, the back end of the rotation is struggling to stay healthy. The return date is unknown for both Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright, and with Drew Pomeranz fresh off the disabled list with his 6.81 earned run average, the rotation definitely has some questions that need to be answered. Yet, the biggest point of needed upgrade, is undoubtably the bullpen. Again, for a team that is 70–31 and four games clear of the rest of the pack, it’s very odd there is not one reliable option to bridge the gap between the starting pitcher to Craig Kimbrel. With bullpen options flying off the board, the Red Sox need to act quick if they want to bolster their back-end to secure their chances of going deep into the playoffs.
Christian Vazquez is still at least a month from returning from a broken pinky finger, which means Sandy Leon has been carrying the load behind the plate for a couple of weeks now. Although his defense has been good, he is just 4 for his last 27 at the plate which has helped Blake Swihart finally see a consistent run of playing time. This has been very helpful for Blake, as he is 5 for 14 since the Vazquez injury and is producing much better at-bats when he steps into the batter’s box. He likely won’t keep up the .357 pace for the remainder of the season, but the fact that Swihart has showed some value over the last few weeks should be enough to prove to management that there is no need to bring in outside help behind the plate. For me, there is no point wasting any of the prospects that the Red Sox have, for a month of backup catching help when the two catching options they have are serviceable.
An area the Red Sox may have to look at upgrading, is the starting rotation. Chris Sale is a bonafide stud atop the rotation and Porcello has slid in nicely as his #2. As long as David Price is healthy the rest of the way, and can keep up his recent form, then he should be a good bet to start the third game of any playoff series. However, the ligament damage Eduardo Rodriguez suffered and the very poor start that Drew Pomeranz has endured, have exposed some weaknesses in the pitching depth for Boston. With Steven Wright also hurting, Brian Johnson and Hector Velazquez have both been able to fill in and have been average but moving forward, the Red Sox have to at least consider the options on the trade market. Mike Fiers of the Tigers has already been linked to the Red Sox and this would likely be their best low-cost option. Another team the Red Sox have been connected to lately, mostly about their bullpen, is Miami. They also produce an enticing rotation option in Dan Straily, who would be under team control for three more years and has been a consistent starter for the past three seasons. Yet, these options aren’t going to provide a big enough difference to warrant trading any prospects. With more expensive options like Michael Fulmer or Cole Hamels likely off the table, I don’t see the Red Sox pulling the trigger on any deals in the rotation. I’d rather bet on a healthy E-Rod and improved Pomeranz.
The main area that I believe needs an upgrade as soon as possible, without a doubt, is the bullpen. Craig Kimbrel has been Craig Kimbrel in the 9th inning, which is great. However, getting from that day’s starting pitcher to Kimbrel, has sometimes been an issue for the Red Sox. Obviously, with a team that is this good, we are nitpicking for issues. Yet, this does feel like an issue that needs to be resolved. Matt Barnes has probably been the most reliable relief option for Boston, and Joe Kelly had been having a real good year until the last month or so. Other than that, Brandon Workman has shown good stuff but in very limited action, and Heath Hembree has shown he’s okay but is not a clutch moment guy. So what does general manager Dave Dombrowski have to do? Without drastically hurting an already weak farm system, he needs to get one or two arms for a relatively cheap price, that can provide solid work in the 6th to 8th inning. With big names like Brad Hand and Jeurys Familia already moved, and another one like Zach Britton getting closer to also being off the board, it will be a less attractive addition that needs to be made. Darren O’Day in Baltimore is an option, and the Red Sox will see him first hand starting Monday. Boston has also been scouting Minnesota and Kansas City, with options like Fernando Rodney of the Twins and Kevin McCarthy of the Royals, both of whom would improve the bullpen. However, the move I believe the Red Sox will make and should make, is one with the Miami Marlins. Drew Steckenrider and Kyle Barraclough have both been bright spots for the lowly Marlins, and could drastically improve the options in a high pressure situation for Alex Cora. Both are under 30, and are also on inexpensive contracts, which makes a double dip for both sound like a very enticing option for Boston. It would require parting with some prospects, possibly even the farm system’s second best, Michael Chavis, but I think it is more than worth it and more than necessary if the Red Sox want to solidify this team for an October run.