Boston Red Sox first half review…kind of?

I suppose we really don’t need to rehash the first half of the Major League Baseball season, as far as the Red Sox are concerned.  We all know the deal.  They are a better than expected 49-38, 2 games out of first place.  The offense has been largely good.  The pitching has been largely a disappointment, to be kind.  Young everyday players, like Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. are blossoming right in front of our eyes.  David Ortiz is having a monster farewell season at the age of 40.  David Price and Craig Kimbrel have not made the difference their profile would suggest.  Clay Buchholz and Eduardo Rodriguez have been abject disasters.  Steven Wright has been a revelation.  Fat Panda is, well…still fat.  And for his 19 mil the team got an 0 for the season.  Ok, in only six at bats before his injury…but the point remains the same.  Blah, blah, blah…

We know all that.  Let’s focus on what one man thinks they SHOULD do in the 2nd half of this year.  Before we get to that, my thinking is that Dave Dombrowski has gotten off to a pretty good start with the minor deals he has made thus far.  Well, I am not sure why he felt the need to get a 33-year-old utility man who has a .199 career average in Michael Martinez.  I mean, don’t we have a guy like that already in Brock Holt?  And what was Marco Hernandez doing wrong?  I guess the move was made because those two both bat from the left side and Martinez is a switch hitter.  And they still plan to play Holt a ton in left field it would seem.  Whatever.

But I like the move for Aaron Hill.  I don’t mind Travis Shaw.  But despite the hot start, I never considered him an everyday player…at third or at first.  A bunch of at-bats off the bench at both positions?  Sure.  And it appears that this will be the case going forward.  Hill isn’t going to hit 36 bombs like he did in 2009 with Toronto.  But he will be a useful addition.  At what appears to be a minimal cost…with 2 “prospects” going the other way.  Wendell Rijo is only 20, so maybe he will be something.  But he was hitting .186 in AA.  Doesn’t look good.  Aaron Wilkerson was pitching well in Pawtucket.  But he’s 27 years old himself and has never made the majors.  Doesn’t look like a big loss.

I also like the move for Brad Ziegler.  Not a prototypical closer, but he wasn’t supposed to come here as a closer anyway.  But hopefully he will close here with Kimbrel now out.  As much as I love Koji Uehara, this year he has been…shaky (done?).  Junichi Tazawa has apparently been battling a shoulder ailment (and is now on the DL)…but he’s never been considered a closer anyway.  Robbie Ross Jr. had some saves down the stretch last year…but on a bad team.  Plus John Farrell forgets he has him in his bullpen half the time.  So that won’t work.  The end result is that Ziegler may now be currently the best reliever in the bullpen.  Yikes!  But it’s a good move regardless.  It doesn’t appear that Ziegler’s cost was much, though maybe a bit more than Hill’s.  Jose Almonte, a 20-year-old pitcher that was in Single-A, and Luis Alejandro Basabe, a 19-year-old middle infielder that was in the same location.  Young, yes.  But I don’t ever recall seeing them on any “Top Prospect” lists.

After all that preamble, let’s get to the Blowhard’s suggestions.  Once again, in no particular order.

*Trade for a young #1 or #2 starter using the systems’ supposed plethora of prospects.  I know, I know, I know.  Who wouldn’t do this?  But the point is, the Sox CAN make this happen more than most other teams.  According to many people around the game, the Sox have several “can’t miss” prospects.  Yoan Moncada, Andrew Benintendi, Anderson Espinoza, Rafael Devers, maybe even that knucklehead Michael Kopech…yup, you’ve heard all the names.

The Sox should pick their top 2 or 3 guys and keep them.  And unload anyone and everyone else.  After all, for how long have we heard guys like Will Middlebrooks, Garin Cecchini, Casey Kelly, Bryce Brentz (before he shot himself accidentally in the leg in 2013 maybe), Henry Owens, Brian Johnson, Brian Rose, Wilton Veras and countless others were “can’t miss”?  Exactly.  Some of these guys won’t make it.  Most of them actually.  So while their names are hot, get rid of them.

OR, if they decide they will pay Xander and Mookie and not Jackie eventually, deal JBJ.  Assuming Benintendi will come up and take his place at some point soon enough.  OR, if the thought of engaging with Scott Boras down the road will leave them with so much distaste, trade Xander (heresy!!).  Assuming Moncada will come up and take his place eventually.

Now, I am not advocating trading Xander, no, not at all.  I actually would still consider trading JBJ, for the record.  Still not 100% sold on him long-term.  Even though I may be getting there.  Anyway, ideally, I’d go with trading a boatload of prospects.  But I think you get my overall point.  You have things people want.  You have a big hole…throughout the entire organization…with starting pitcher depth.  Go get a stud.  Now.

After all, wouldn’t every single person do Carl Pavano and Tony Armas Jr. for Pedro Martinez again?

EDITOR’S NOTE:  I wrote the previous 900 or so words earlier, then put it aside for several hours.  In the interim, the Sox apparently traded Espinoza for “All-Star” Drew Pomeranz.  I use the word “All-Star” loosely of course.  Listen, Pomeranz has had a nice half-year…on a poor team with no pressure…in a pitcher’s park.  Not to mention that he was an injury replacement for the All-Star game this year.  He has been with 3 teams in his 6 year major league career.  He was essentially traded for the immortal Yonder Alonso after last season.  He has never pitched more than 147 1/3 innings in a full year professionally and stands at 102 right now.

In other words, not exactly the trade I was looking for when I mentioned packaging prospects…especially top ones.

But you know what?  I’ll take it.  Not that I have a choice.  But Pomeranz is only 27.  Under team control for a couple more years.  Showed some promise in 2014 with Oakland (I know, another pressure cooker!) before he punched a chair after a bad start.  Stupid, I know…but who knows, maybe if Kopech makes it to Boston someday they can hang out.  More importantly, Espinoza is 18 YEARS OLD.  Who the hell knows what he will be?  Some people were all worked up the Sox gave up 17-year-old Engel Beltre back in the Eric Gagne trade.  Who?  Exactly.

Espinoza could be the next Pedro Martinez, sure.  But the odds are way better that he becomes the next Casey Kelly…or Brian Rose.  Plus…anything can happen before he gets to the majors.  Specifically injury…like a major arm kind.  He’s a loooooooooooong ways away folks.  I’d rather bet on some of the positional prospects than the pitching prospects, if I had to.  In any event, maybe it works out, maybe it doesn’t.  We shall see.

I’m still going after the #1 or #2 type guy as well though…moving on…

*Release Clay Buchholz.  Goes without saying.  And I’ve still said it a ton.  But Farrell is making noise about putting him back in the rotation eventually.  Maybe the acquisition of Pomeranz changes that thinking.  Either way, it’s well past time.  Coincidentally, they need to make space on the 40-man roster for Pomeranz.  Someone has to go.  Maybe it is finally him?  I’m looking at the 40-man and the obvious choice to me is to DFA Sean O’Sullivan.  But he is on the 15 day DL, so I don’t know if they CAN make that move.  Maybe Josh Rutledge is transferred to the 60 day DL.  Or same for Chris Young.  But there aren’t many options at this point.  DFA Clay?  Let’s get everyone on board!!

*Get one other 5th or 6th starter type.  This shouldn’t cost much.  If the Sox got a number #2 guy this month as I mentioned above, the rotation would look like this:  Price, #2, Porcello, Pomeranz, Wright.  Eduardo Rodriguez would theoretically be the #6 guy.  He’s been terrible, but no one should be giving him away or counting him out now.  Plenty of promise there.  And he has at least some positive major league history.  This other guy would actually be #7.  Better than Buchholz.  Or Joe Kelly.  Or Owens.  Good to have some more depth.

*Add another top-notch bullpen guy and a veteran “middle inning” guy.  As of right this second, with Taz and Kimbrel (Carson Smith too of course) on the DL, the bullpen consists of:  Buchholz, William Cuevas, Tommy Layne, Heath Hembree, Ross, Koji, Matt Barnes and Ziegler…Double Yikes!!  Matt Barnes may be your second best reliever now.  Ugh.

We’ve gone over Bucky.  Cuevas, (also Noe Ramirez, Pat Light, Roenis Elias)?  Not any kind of answer.  Layne has been ok, but is fungible.  No bigger Hembree guy than me.  But who knows with him?  He’s never been around long enough to know how he will hold up in a pennant race.  Ross is ok, but Koji may be done.  Barnes?  Not a fan myself.  Hopefully Ziegler can do something.  But…a lot of question marks as you can see.

Perhaps Joe Kelly is that “middle inning” guy?  Maybe.  Can’t be worse than some of the aforementioned dudes.  It appears he will get a chance.  I’m ok with it.

If they get the 2 bullpen guys, then the 7 they carry until either injured guys come back and/or September callups can be something like:  Kelly/vet, Ross, Barnes, Layne, Koji, Bullpen trade target, Ziegler…still questionable, but if the guy you get is awesome, then that will be a major boost.  Hate to leave Hembree out, but you can stash him in Pawtucket like Kelly for a few weeks if you have to.  The vet could be a 13th type of pitcher with experience and he could also be in AAA for now.  Maybe give Koji a “rest” on the DL.  Just mix and match arms until Taz and Kimbrel come back.  Then in September you have a lot of half decent arms out there.  Anchored by Kimbrel, Ziegler, Taz and trade guy.  With depth in Koji, Barnes, Ross, Kelly, other vet, Hembree, etc.  And no Noe’s or Light’s in sight either.

Bottom line?  Never hurts to have more than enough bullpen arms.  The Sox bullpen won’t become like the back-end of the Royals or Yankees…this year anyway.  But if they can just have more available options than what has sometimes paraded through the mound for them up to this point, it will help close the gap.

*Fire John Farrell.  Ok, that’s not going to happen.  He’s here for the season now I feel.  Like it or not.  And honestly, firing him at this point will probably not accomplish much.  Oh well.

What else?  Nothing actually.  Pitching, pitching, pitching.  That’s it.

The Sox can live with Sandy Leon/Ryan Hanigan/Christian Vazquez/Blake Swihart(?) behind the plate.  Especially if Leon continues to hit .455.  That’s possible, right?

They can also live with Holt/Brentz/Young/Swihart(?)/Shaw(?) in left field I believe.  Maybe Benintendi comes up in September and adds to that mix.  Pretty sure they wouldn’t want to add him to the 40-man roster before they have to.  But perhaps he forces the issue.

The biggest thing they have to do on offense I feel is to keep the Big Guy healthy.  Give him a day off a week if you have to.  They should be able to work their way around that with the bodies they have.  Big Papi’s sick numbers are bound to regress a little anyway.  So let’s keep him fresh for the stretch run.  I know, he’s only a DH and gets up 4-5 times a game.  How much can that affect him?  I would normally agree with that thinking.  And have argued that over the years.  But now he is 40…old for sports.  Let’s err on the side of caution in his final year.

There are a lot of teams in the mix all across baseball.  But, especially in the AL, I don’t believe one team stands head and shoulders above the rest.  The World Series is a realistic goal.  When World Series aspirations are realistic, you need to go for it.  Let’s leave no stone unturned in order to get there.

The road just got longer…

So the Boston Celtics did not get Kevin Durant.  I think everyone knew that was going to be the end result.  Although, I admit, there was a small period of time last weekend where I think we all got our hopes up.  But realistically it was never going to happen, I’m sorry.

How do I feel about Durant going to the Golden State Warriors?  Well, I think it sucks, to be blunt.  On the surface, he took “the easy way out.”  He went to the best team in the league (sorry, Cleveland) in pursuit of a championship ring.  That’s his prerogative, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Durant did something he himself didn’t like several years ago, when LeBron and Chris Bosh went to Miami and joined Dwyane Wade to form a “superteam” that ultimately went to 4 straight Finals, winning 2.  KD put a tweet out essentially knocking the move.  But he now joins Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green on a new superteam.  OK, it was only one tweet and times and minds do change.  So he probably didn’t need to take as much heat as he did for something he said like 5 years ago.  But still…

Not a lot of people thought Golden State would be the place.  Because they already did have the 3 studs.  How are they going to spread the ball around to FOUR guys?  With all that money invested in those 4, how would they even be able to fill the roster with any more talent whatsoever?  Why go to the team that just beat you?  Etc.

So he went to a true championship contender.  Most of the teams on his visitation list were exactly that.  Can’t fault a guy for that I suppose.  Money is nice, but I myself wouldn’t want to go to a team that was bound to go like 20-62 just because they offered the most money.  It is just disheartening that KD chose to go to a team that won the championship 2 years ago and also should have won it again this past year.  Barring injury, it’s almost kind of a lock that they at least make the Finals this year again, no?

Sure, I’m biased.  Of course I wanted him to come to Boston.  To help the C’s turn the corner into a legitimate championship contender.  Now, regardless of what the Celtics do the rest of the offseason, doesn’t it still feel like it’s Golden State and Cleveland and then everyone else is kind of pretty far away?  That it’s like no one else has a REAL chance?  Maybe this is the way the NBA is now.  Maybe this is the way the NBA always kind of has been.  But it still just doesn’t feel right.

Well, at least Durant did it quickly.  And he didn’t make a production out of it like LeBron did back then.  It’s disappointing for any Boston fans.  And any fans of teams other than Golden State, I suppose.  But if KD was pompous about it, then it would’ve made it worse.  So I have to give him that much, begrudgingly.

It is what it is and we just have to move on.  Again, most of us didn’t think he was coming here anyway, so we shouldn’t dwell on it.  But what is next?

The Celtics signed Al Horford to a max contract.  There’s a start.  But Big Al is like a 2nd or 3rd piece, not a lead dog.  And I’ve said it before:  If the Horford the C’s get is the version from last year’s playoffs?  Yuck.  Either way, even though I don’t love the contract, I don’t mind the move.  It’s another step in the right direction for the franchise.

There’s a lot more work to be done.  Even after renouncing the rights to Jared Sullinger.  Ha!  That was done kind of quietly, eh?  I never loved Sully.  But I never hated him either.  I did absolutely hate when he teed it up beyond the arc…every time actually.  I hated that he couldn’t get his fat arse in any kind of shape every year.  But he could rebound.  And this team still doesn’t have many guys that can do that.  I would’ve taken him back, at least for one more year.

But maybe Danny has something else up his sleeve.  He better.  Quickly scanning the remaining free agent list, I suppose it goes without saying that there aren’t too many gems left.  Sure, there are plenty of good pieces available.  But the Celts already have about a thousand of those.

I do have to say, I am glad Danny did not panic and sign some of these other free agents over the first few days.  Have you seen these contracts?  Horford’s 4 years for 113 mil is crazy, but Mike Conley getting 5/153?  Chandler Parsons 4/94?  Kent Bazemore 4/70?  Jon Leuer 4/42?  Timofey Mozgov 4/64?  E’Twaun Moore 4/34?  E’TWAUN MOORE?!  The list is actually endless, so I will stop there.  Silly money.  Pure stupidity in many cases.  I’m glad Ainge only partook in one of those.  Notice how I avoided the 4/70 Portland gave Evan Turner.  Ugh.  Wait, the Nets gave someone named Allen Crabbe an offer sheet for 4/75 and the Blazers matched.  Almost 20 mil a year…for Allen Crabbe.

Anyway…so…Danny needs to deal to get his guy.  Still has plenty of assets.  I imagine there will be some deals on the table still.  Maybe the same rumored deals around the draft with Philly are still a possibility.  We will have to wait a little longer.  And I’m still ok with Ainge being patient, based on the new set of circumstances.  What else can we do anyway?

But they can’t possibly go to camp with the current group, can they?

2016 MLB National League All-Stars

In honor of the Major League Baseball All-Star game selections being announced today, I present my National League All-Star picks.  21 position players, 13 pitchers, with each team represented (I don’t necessarily love this rule…but…it is the rule).  (S) for starter.  Comments below each position.

C:  Wilson Ramos, Was (S), Buster Posey, SF, Jonathan Lucroy, Mil

Surprisingly a lot of options here, compared to the AL.  Wellington Castillo and J.T. Realmuto actually earned some consideration in addition to the three I selected.  Yup, I am serious.  Anyway, I was tempted to once again go with Posey as the starter.  But I couldn’t ignore Ramos’ superior numbers.

1B:  Anthony Rizzo, CHC (S), Paul Goldschmidt, AZ, Wil Myers, SD

You can probably pretty much pencil in Rizzo and Goldy every year for the forseeable future, barring injury or change in leagues.  Myers is the Padres rep, but if you’ve been paying attention, he’s had a pretty good year regardless.  Last year somehow I took 6 first basemen.  Three here seems about right.  Brandon Belt is 12th in the NL in OPS, so maybe he has a case.  Freddie Freeman isn’t awful, but also isn’t lighting the world on fire.  His atrocious team does not help.  I decided on someone else for the Braves rep however.

2B:  Daniel Murphy, Was (S), Ben Zobrist, CHC

Murphy has carried over his performance in last year’s playoffs for the Mets right into this year.  Pretty much a no-brainer here.  Zobrist cost the Cubbies more than you would think this past offseason.  But it’s worked out great so far.  Not a lot of other candidates.  Couldn’t do DJ LeMahieu here at all.  Because, as you know, I penalize players a smidge for playing in Colorado.  Dee Gordon is serving a PED suspension.  Jean Segura?  Nope.

3B:  Kris Bryant, CHC (S), Matt Carpenter, StL, Nolan Arenado, Col, Jake Lamb, AZ

Did you know Carpenter leads the NL in OPS at 1.008?  And that Lamb is 2nd at .974?  Neither did I.  I was aware that Carpenter was having a pretty good year, but shocked at seeing where Lamb stands.  Bryant is 6th at .948, but he’s still my starter.  One of those guys you can pencil in for multiple All-Star selections before he is done.  Another monster year for Arenado, but you know…Colorado.  Puts him on the team regularly, but not as a starter.

SS:  Corey Seager, LAD (S), Aledmys Diaz, StL

Thin here again this year.  Trevor Story has been a nice…ahem…story, but I’m not putting him at this level yet.  106 K’s so far this year.  To put that in perspective, Chris Carter has 103.  Yikes!  Brandon Crawford deserved a look as well, but no room at the Inn for him this year.  Especially when his OPS is lower than a guy like Jonathan Villar.  Anyway, Seager is one of those potential stars and at 22 years old, he may be that already.  Diaz came out of nowhere earlier this year and kept Jhonny Peralta’s job when Peralta came back from his injury.  And he hasn’t missed a beat.

OF:  Yoenis Cespedes, NYM (S), Marcell Ozuna, Mia (S), Bryce Harper, Was (S), Carlos Gonzalez, Col, Gregory Polanco, Pit, Adam Duvall, Cin, Odubel Herrera, Phi

Seven outfielders, but since no DH’s are selected in the NL, 2 or 3 of these guys could rotate in there.  Another takeaway?  No Giancarlo Stanton or Andrew McCutchen.  I do like to try to include real “superstars” in these games, even if they are not performing to their usual standards in a specific year.  The All-Star Game is really an exhibition, even though it decides home field advantage in the World Series, as foolish as this decision continues to be.  Fans want to see these types of players though and that’s why the superstars get voted in regularly, regardless of current performance.  Unfortunately, those guys have been less than good this year.  On top of that, they may be the 3rd best option at OF on their own teams this season (Ozuna & Christian Yelich in Mia; Polanco and Starling Marte in Pit).  I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of them though.  Ryan Braun’s numbers are pretty good and he is 11th in OPS.  But since he is a “convicted” liar and cheater, he doesn’t make my team.  Ok, I am sure there are other scumbags on this team too.  But that’s what I’m going with.

Moving on, Harper isn’t having the best year.  But he’s the reigning MVP and putting up fairly decent numbers.  See the explanation above on why he starts on my team.  Gonzalez can be basically lumped in with Arenado…on the team every year, but playing in Colorado makes me never put him as a starter.  Cespedes and Ozuna seem like obvious starters to me.  Polanco is 5th among NL OFs in OPS.  Duvall and Herrera are their teams reps.  Since Jay Bruce and Joey Votto have slightly higher OPS’s than Duvall, you could argue either of them as the rep.  But I’m not.  Especially since Votto had a horrendous start.  The only other true candidate from the Phillies was Jeanmar Gomez.  No thanks.

P:  Clayton Kershaw, LAD (S), Max Scherzer, Was, Jake Arrieta, CHC, Johnny Cueto, SF, Madison Bumgarner, SF, Jon Lester, CHC, Jose Fernandez, Mia, Noah Syndergaard, NYM, Stephen Strasburg, Was, Julio Teheran, Atl, Kenley Jansen, LAD, Mark Melancon, Pit, Jeurys Familia, NYM

Probably like 5 or 6 of the above named starters have a legitimate claim to start the All-Star Game, but I’m going with Kershaw.  ERA is under 2.00 and of course he is his usual dominant self so far this year.  But he is hurt in real life, so if I had to choose a backup starter it would have to be Arrieta.  Since he is the reigning Cy Young award winner, maybe I should have picked him anyway.  Cueto is 12-1, Strasburg is 10-0, etc.  Lot of studs on this staff.  Well, Teheran is 3-7, but since his ERA is 2.72 and the Braves are really an AAAA-level team, he is here as their rep.

There was some talent left off here too.  Cases could be made for Jacob deGrom, Carlos Martinez, Kenta Maeda, the old John Lackey and the really old Bartolo Colon…if you can believe that.  Toyed with Drew Pomeranz as the Padres rep.  But felt like Myers was the better choice considering all the pitching options available in the NL.

The way I feel about closers, with all the options for starters, it is somewhat surprising that I didn’t go with 13 starters and no relievers.  But I felt the 3 closers selected were worthy.  Jansen and Melancon have ERA’s around 1.30 and Jansen, in particular, has been dominant.  Familia is 29-29 in save opportunities.  Speaking of dominant, it’s a little bit of a shame that Fernando Rodney got traded from San Diego to Miami…going from closer to setup man.  Yes, this just happened recently, but it did impact my thinking.  Rodney gave up ONE run in three months for the Padres, going 17 for 17 in saves opps in the process.  Sure, he only pitched a shade under 29 innings, but impressive nonetheless.  He may have been my Padres rep if he remained in SD.  But no way he is Miami’s.  Probably should have found a spot for him anyway.  Maybe we can pretend he will be Kershaw’s injury replacement…now there’s a win-win, right?!

The only other closers I gave consideration to were A.J. Ramos and Hector Rondon.  But Ramos didn’t quite do it for me.  And since Theo Epstein apparently is trying to pry one of the Yankees’ three bullpen studs to presumably unseat Rondon, I dismissed him as an option.  The only middle man I considered was Sadaharu Oh…ummmmm, I mean, Seung Hwan Oh of the Cards.  He appears to now be their closer, with Trevor Rosenthal being awful.  But the competition was too tough for him to have a realistic shot.

That about covers it…so let’s see how mine compares to the real selections…

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