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Told Ya…

…a month ago.  The Boston Red Sox should have sold at the trading deadline.  Even spelled out specific names that should go.

That 5-2 run in that first half of the 14 game stretch against the Tampa Bay Rays & New York Yankees that wrapped around the deadline?  Had a lot of people jumping back on board.  Not me.  But I admit, I was teetering.  And I wrote about that too.  Based on the talent factor of this team, perhaps a few bullpen moves at the deadline would springboard this team going forward?

Listen, the Sox are my team.  As much as they had underachieved from the beginning of the season until the trade deadline, I truly did not want them to sell off parts and kind of give up on the season.  I mean, I want this team competing for a World Series every single year.  They have the resources (and allegedly the front office and coaching talent) to put together a great team every year.  And they actually SHOULD have a great team this year, closer or no closer.

Watching them play listlessly from April through June led me to believe the best business decision would be to sell at the deadline.  In my head, I still felt that was the best move at the end of July.  But my heart had me holding onto hope after that 5-2 run (of course this was right after losing 2 of 3 to the wretched Baltimore Orioles, so how rational was even I at that point?).

Boy were all the optimists wrong.  And the semi-optimists like myself were also wrong.  This team simply quit after the deadline.  0-7 in the last seven against the Rays and Yanks.  Even had trouble hanging on in the first game last night against the pathetic Kansas City Royals.

Popular opinion seems to be that the team has kind of quit because the front office kind of quit by not acquiring help at the deadline.

True, President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski did zero on July 31st.  He only added Andrew Cashner beforehand.

But honestly, do you blame him??

Realistically, Dombrowski should have sold off the parts at the deadline.  Mitch Moreland, Steve Pearce, Rick Porcello, perhaps even Brock Holt are going to be free agents after the season and I would say are unlikely to be back.  Jackie Bradley Jr. stinks but will still get over 10 mil in arbitration next year.  No one thinks Mookie Betts wants to be here after 2020, so perhaps he could get a haul.  J.D. Martinez may opt-out after 2019 (though his numbers are down and injuries are up, so maybe not?).  The minor league system is bare.  The bullpen is putrid, would an arm or two really help?

As bad as the bullpen has been, the gazillion dollar rotation has been just short of a disaster.  Chris Sale has been a colossal disappointment.  David Price had pitched well for most of the season, but ever since he went after announcer and former Red Sox Dennis Eckersley kind of needlessly, he has gone in the tank.  Nathan Eovaldi has been hurt and now is in the bullpen.  Porcello has been atrocious.  Eduardo Rodriguez has been pretty good for a while, but he also started out bad.

Maybe the bullpen would be better if the starters could go more than 4-5 innings a game?  And we wouldn’t have had to see Colton Brewer, Josh A. Smith, Ryan Weber, Mike Shawaryn, et al, as much as we have?

It’s hard to repeat.  And this team did not have “IT” this year for whatever reason.  Blame Cora and his approach this spring.  Blame Dombrowski for not getting a closer.  Blame the players’ attitudes.  Blame the schedule…no, not that…nor the umps.  And don’t blame John Henry, believe it or not.  He spent plenty of money on this team.  I don’t blame him for not wanting to go over the luxury tax either.  In other years, I may have blamed him.  Not this year.

Also, look at the landscape.  The Yankees have 100 guys on the DL, yet they still keep trucking along.  Need to look no further than Sunday night when they rolled out their AAA lineup and still pummeled Price and the Sox.  The Houston Astros are a juggernaut.  The Minnesota Twins are having a great year and Tampa and Oakland are up there as well.  People are waiting for all three to go away.  But they aren’t.  Not to mention the Cleveland Indians have heated up and are squarely in the mix.

Based on all of the above, if you were Henry or Dombrowski, would you have emptied the cupboard for an arm or two or some other “help”?

Dombrowski’s press conference may have rankled some fans.  But the more I thought about it, the more I was on board with him.

He said stuff like “if we were better in the standings, we would have been more aggressive”.  “We like the guys we have”.  “This team should be better”.  Paraphrasing, but I think we all got the gist.

The Sox are on target to play in the one game wild card tilt if of course they even get there.  When your starters have been so bad, what if they get to that game and one of them gets shelled and then the team is done?  Was it worth making trades at the deadline?

Most would say “yes”.  I may even say “yes” in most years.

But not this year.  It’s just a different feel.

I do understand completely also how the team didn’t sell off parts at the deadline as well.  Dombrowski and Henry would have been SKEWERED by the fans if they had done so.  Plus, this team should be in the mix as currently constructed, closer or no closer.

The offense has a ton of talent, even with Betts, J.D. and Andrew Benintendi slightly underachieving.  Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers and Christian Vazquez have blossomed.  Brock Holt is capable at 2nd.  Michael Chavis has emerged.  You can live with Bradley if all these guys are going.

The rotation should be one of the better ones around.  Contrary to popular belief, there are a few useful arms in that bullpen.

This team should have still been able to make some noise, even without any additions at the deadline.

Dombrowski was in a little bit of a tough spot.

I know I wasn’t in love with the available closer options.  Does anyone think that journeyman Shane Greene is really any better than, say, Brandon Workman?  I personally don’t think so.  But emptying the farm for Greene or Kirby Yates or Kenny Giles?  I am ok with not doing that.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, maybe they should have re-signed Craig Kimbrel last offseason.  Even though he was shaky in the postseason, he’s still elite in the regular season.  His contract demands were insane though.  Of course, they could have spent other peoples money (Pearce, Eovaldi, others) on Kimbrel.  But then again, NO ONE gave Kimbrel what he wanted.  Initially anyway.  So who knows?

One thing we do know, the Sox will get hot again against some weaker competition in the next few weeks.  With this team, you can almost set your watch to it.

Does that mean they will be back in the race?  Well, they are only 5.5 games out of the wild card, so I guess we can’t rule that out.  There are 47 games left after all.

And yes, I do expect them to tease us once again.

But I am not expecting much more than that.  A tease.

I think it’s actually time to get ready for the “Dustin Pedroia Farewell Tour” when rosters expand in September.  Sad to say…not that I will be looking forward to it.  But Sox fans will eat that up, guaranteed…and it’s sure to sell some tickets anyway…

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SELL!!

So, that London series was fun, eh?!

29 runs given up, 21 by that vaunted bullpen that we’ve already covered ad nauseam…sweet.  Well, the Boston Red Sox DID score 21 themselves.  Of course, after they got down big in both games.  Then couldn’t get a key hit to actually come all the way back in either.

Where does this leave the team?  I say it’s time to sell off parts.

84 games in and now 11 games behind the division leading New York Yankees.  Sure, they are only 2 games out of the second wild card (4 out of the top spot).  But does this feel like a team that can make some noise come playoff time?

No F’n way.  Not to me anyway.  And I think to most of us.

We are not even at the All-Star break quite yet, why am I so ready to throw in the towel?

It’s pretty easy to understand actually.  I mean, you have seen how listless they have appeared for most of the year, right?

The players (and the manager, and the front office, and the rest of the organization…) will undoubtedly blame the long 2018 season for the way they came out of the gate for this current season…and how they have kind of sleepwalked since then.  And maybe that is a factor…though it really should be a small one.

The Red Sox brought 21 of the 25 guys back who were on the World Series roster last season.  And one of the departed, Drew Pomeranz, doesn’t even count since he didn’t even pitch for several weeks down the stretch, including the playoffs.  Ian Kinsler, Joe Kelly and Craig Kimbrel were essentially the only departures.  Most of the guys on the current roster were here last year as well, although not active for the World Series, or the playoffs for that matter.  But here nonetheless.

Really, when you think about it, the only two players that have played more than a minor role on this years’ team that was not involved in any way last year at all are Michael Chavis and Colton Brewer.  I’ll give you Marcus Walden too if you like.  Since he pitched a few innings early in the year and then was never to be heard from again.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  that is not enough player turnover.  You need new blood every year, but especially after winning it all.  Keeps the fire burning and everyone is presumably still hungry.

Add this to the fact that Manager Alex Cora simply did not have the team ready to go right out of Spring Training, another colossal mistake.  “We did the same thing last year…” he liked to say in April.  Welp, every year is different, so they need to be treated differently.  Even I know that.

With this, the wretched bullpen that is like FOUR arms away from being useful, four arms that aren’t anywhere near the organization at this time and everything else, my recommendation is that they make some deals at the trade deadline.  Sending guys out that is.

The team has already made it clear that they do not want to go over the luxury tax limit.  So where are they going to acquire good bullpen arms, to start?  They have no real prospects to give up, ones that other teams want anyway.  So how do they fix things?

They don’t.

Since the farm system is so barren, maybe it’s time to see what some of these players can get you?  Granted, most of these guys won’t fetch much.  But you never know.

There is one trade deadline this year, on July 31st.  No more “waiver” deadline on August 31st.  Is this a good thing?  I don’t know.  At first blush, I say no.  Some decent deals can happen in August.  There are two full months to go after the deadline as it stands this year.  That is a long time.  Still a lot of clubs that think they have a chance.  That number dwindles in August and makes things ripe for more deals.  I don’t think I like it, but let’s see how it plays out this first year in existence.

So if the Sox are going to make moves, they have to happen sooner rather than later.  And, as stated above, how can one be confident in this team as currently constituted going forward?

Not to mention that stretch in late July/early August with the 14 games in 15 days against only the Yanks and Tampa Bay.  8 of them against the Yankees, what is that 2-6 maybe?

So this will never happen at all, I will guarantee it.  The Sox have spent too much money and there is too much talent on the roster for the organization to wave the white flag.  They all will think they can turn that proverbial switch when it matters too.  But let’s take a quick look below at specific things I would do, or at least consider doing, before July 31st, by positional group:

Catcher:  No need to do anything here.  Christian Vazquez and Sandy Leon are good enough.  But maybe they can get Blake Swihart back?  (I may never give this up!).  Although Blake has been even more atrocious in Arizona than he was in Boston.  That’s what happens when you play once every 10-15 days or so I guess.

Infield:  Mitch Moreland and Steven Pearce seemed like a GREAT idea to platoon at first base for the 2019 season when it started.  Unfortunately, it hasn’t exactly worked out that way.  Both of these contracts will expire at seasons end and it seems that Chavis has kind of locked in that first base role at this point anyway.  If healthy, both Moreland and Pearce can provide some value to a (real) contending team.  They won’t fetch a ton, but it should be considered.

Brock Holt and Eduardo Nunez also are up at the end of the season.  These guys won’t get you anything so I guess I probably wouldn’t bother.  I don’t think I don’t want either of these dudes back next year, so maybe they can explore it.  I’d actually take Holt back, but he may be up for a decent raise…and he can never stay healthy either.  And I don’t want to see him every day at second base next year anyway.

Outfield:  Here’s the big one.  To start, let’s ship Jackie Bradley Jr. out of town as soon as possible.  He hit .315 with 5 homers and 14 RBIs in June.  .992 OPS.  There is his hot month.  He is making 8.5 mil this year, with one more year of arbitration next year.  Probably get 10-12 mil or so.  For 5 bad months and one good one.  Let’s sell high now and hope some team is dumb enough to give them something good for him.

The elephant in the room?  Mookie Betts.  I am not in favor of moving him just to move him.  But if he is really not going to sign here long term, then the reality is the Sox need to shop him.  I have no idea if he wants to re-sign here.  But it sure as hell doesn’t feel like it.  And that is the popular opinion.  The Red Sox HAVE to know how he feels, way better then Joe Fan does.  If he is truly a flight risk, the Sox need to take action.  Don’t be rash, but it has to be a real option.  Although I will take a proven Major League player over prospects 100 times out of a 100, this may be an opportunity to do some replenishing on the farm.

J.D. Martinez has to be a consideration to move too.  I believe there is a pretty good chance he opts out after this year and tries to secure that one last guaranteed contract…for more than he is supposed to get the next three years.  Again, the team has to have a better idea of his feelings on opting in or out after the season.  If the sense is that he will opt out, trades would have to be explored here.

Pitching staff:  I don’t have the stomach to split out the bullpen and no one wants any of those guys anyway.  The one starter that should have some value is Rick Porcello.  Seeing he’s up after this year and the signing of Nathan Eovaldi basically ensured the Sox wouldn’t re-sign him, Porcello should be shopped.  Sure, he’s not the “Cy Young Rick Porcello” this season, but he can eat innings and contribute to a contender.  No doubt about it.

Once again, none of this will happen.  Then the Sox will squeak into the playoffs and lose in the first round.

But think about it, even if the Sox were able to unload most of the players with expiring contracts (or close to it) talked about above, they would still have a nice core of Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Andrew Benintendi, Chris Sale, David Price, Eovaldi, Eduardo Rodriguez (I guess), Vazquez, Chavis and I suppose a couple of bullpen arms that can work the 6th and 7th.  Maybe some decent major league players coming back in trades.  Perhaps a top (real) prospect or three.  And all of a sudden some money to spend, being not right up against the luxury tax anyway.

A World Series winning team?  Unlikely.  But making the best of a bad situation?  Perhaps…It COULD be an interesting few weeks for the Red Sox.  If they want it to be…

Spring Training Nonsense…

…so the Blowhard has recently written about three of the four major sports teams in the local area, perhaps it’s time to cover the remaining one…the Boston Red Sox?

I know, it’s early in Spring Training and the team is puttering along (not meant to be a bad thing…just that Spring Training is too long…and…who cares what their record is in the spring anyway?!).  But we may as well get a look at all of the players in camp to see what they have.  What do we mean by “all”?  Welp, every player on the 40 man roster, every player on the non-roster invite list and…every player that has appeared in a Spring Training game as of the day this piece is written.  Yup, I did just say that last sentence.  Once again, you’ve been warned.

Of course, the 25 man roster is pretty much already all set.  Just a minor tweak here and there, specifically in the bullpen I would say.  But it can’t hurt to take a look at everyone that is in FLA anyway…because, well, I have nothing better to do at the present time.

Let’s get to it, in usual Blowhard fashion, we break down the roster by position (numbers in parenthesis next to the players on the “prospects” line are what each player is ranked by Redsox.com):

Starting Rotation:

Locks:  Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Nathan Eovaldi, Eduardo Rodriguez

DL:  None…yet

Realistic additional competitors for the Opening Day roster:  None

Actual prospects on their way to the minors:  Darwinzon Hernandez (#4), Mike Shawaryn (#13) Denyi Reyes (#19), Kutter Crawford (#20), Jhonathan Diaz (#30)

Additional flotsam also ticketed for the minors:  Chandler Shepherd, Dedgar Jimenez, Kyle Hart

Comments:  Doesn’t get any simpler than this.  There has been some scuttlebutt about Eovaldi ending up in the bullpen, specifically as the closer.  But the Sox didn’t throw him 68 mil over 4 years to do that, I can make you that promise.

Sale and manager Alex Cora can rave about Darwinzon all they want.  But he’s quite some time away from the majors.  Besides, being #4 on the Red Sox’ prospect list isn’t anything to be fired up about.  What, do they have one prospect on Major League Baseball’s Top 100 prospect list?  Just one of a hundred on most lists out there.  Unimpressive…an understatement, I know.  But I suppose we can hold out some hope, at least for him.  The numbers on the rest of the “prospects” tell you that we probably don’t ever need to talk about them again.  But we will see…

Dedgar may not actually be flotsam…yet…since he is only 22.  But he isn’t even among the Sox’ top 30.  So I suppose that should automatically give us some pause.  Shepherd and Hart are 26, so their time has likely passed.

With the contracts of Sale and Porcello expiring after this season, the Sox better figure something out throughout the year and into the next offseason.  I’m hoping that they won’t be replaced in 2020 by anyone in the section immediately below.  I’m sure they won’t…but there’s not exactly anything promising coming up from the minors anytime soon either.

Then again, news has come out that Sale and the team are mutually interested in a new contract.  We will see what comes of that.  It will be interesting to see the particulars if that gets done.  Sale has been “underpaid” for years, by baseball standards.  He has not exactly been durable, often wearing down in the second halves of seasons.  Dominant when healthy, can we expect that going forward?  Not sure.

Would I give him a new contract?  Hell yes!  But would aim for a shorter term.  If they could get him at 3-4 years, even if the money is somewhat silly, I’d do it.  Once again, not much in the farm system.  And a dominant Sale for even 150 innings could be worth it.

Did you also hear though?  E-Rod is in the “best shape of his life” and looks electric!  He’s ready to take the next step!  Sigh…those “feel-good” Spring Training stories…gotta love them…

Swingmen:

Locks: Brian Johnson

DL:  None

Suspended:  Steven Wright

Realistic additional competitors for the Opening Day roster:  Hector Velasquez, Marcus Walden

Actual prospects on their way to the minors:  None

Additional flotsam also ticketed for the minors:  Erasmo Ramirez, Josh A. Smith, Domingo Tapia, Daniel McGrath, Josh Taylor

Comments:  I am making this an official category for when Sale and/or Eovaldi and/or E-Rod spend their obligatory time on the DL.  Maybe Price too, if he needs another “mental break”.  Hey, he seemed to finally break through in the playoffs last year.  But I’m not guaranteeing the page has officially been turned on him heading into this season.  Just call me skeptical, that’s all.

In any event, none of the aforementioned five starters are likely to get anywhere close to 200 innings, with the possible exception of Porcello.  So there will be starts available for this group of guys that aren’t really good enough to start but won’t have key roles in the bullpen either.

Actually, Wright may be the only one that can be considered for either.  But can you ever really trust a knuckleballer?  I would as the #5 starter on this kind of team, I will admit.  General Manager Dave Dombrowski has thrown his name into the mix at closer.  Although Wright pitched well both starting and relieving last year when healthy, I don’t think anyone wants closing games to be part of his repertoire.  Then again, I wrote this paragraph before his suspension came down.  So the point is now moot…until July anyway.

Johnson sticks because he is out of options.  And even at 28 years old now, the Sox may want to try to salvage his former status as a “top prospect”.  Most of the year he will pitch mopup though.  He’s useless out of the bullpen and has proven that time and time again.  If he’s on my roster, he is starting games.  There is no room for him for that on this team, but he will be the official #6 guy in 2019 I would predict.

Velasquez and Walden have options, I think anyway, so they will be on the outside looking in.  I’m sure we will see them at some point.  Walden is actually having himself another fantastic spring thus far, for whatever that is worth.  I’m sure we will see Erasmo at some point as well.  But he’s on a minor league deal.  So they can start him in the minors.

If we see Smith, Tapia, McGrath or Taylor at any point, that will likely spell trouble.  It’s doubtful they actually see starts if they are up, but they have been both starters and relievers in the minors, so that is why they are listed here.

Bullpen:

Locks: Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Heath Hembree, Tyler Thornburg, Brandon Workman

DL:  Carson Smith, Zach Putnam

Realistic additional competitors for the Opening Day roster:  Bobby Poyner (#22), Colten Brewer (#23)

Actual prospects on their way to the minors:  Travis Lakins (#17), Matthew Gorst

Additional flotsam also ticketed for the minors:  Brian Ellington, Trevor Kelley, Adam Lau, Jenrry Mejia, Mark Montgomery, Dan Runzler, Daniel Schlereth, Hunter Smith, Jordan Weems, Ryan Weber

Comments:  Sssssooooooo…Craig Kimbrel is no longer here.  And for the regular season, that could be kind of important.  Machine Gun Joe Kelly is no longer here either.  But despite how well he pitched in the postseason last year, I could care less.  Because the fact of the matter is he still stinks.  Even late season 2017 wunderkind Austin Maddox is no longer here.  I think he’s out the whole 2019 season, but I can’t really find him anywhere.

So this is what we are left with.  Yikes!!  Kimbrel was not good in the postseason last year and can be shaky at times in the regular season.  But he is by far a better option than any of the jamokes on this list.  He is still out there.  I would consider bringing him back.  But that ship has sailed apparently.

Dombrowski has been touting Barnes, Brasier, Thornburg and Wright as potential closing options.  Really?

Barnes is barely an 8th inning guy.  Brasier had like 30 great innings last year, and most of his earlier appearances were low leverage, though he did pitch well enough in the postseason, I will allow.  Thornburg has missed the better part of the last two years with injury.  We’ve already talked about Wright…and he’s no longer an option now anyway.

Not ideal.  And completely uninspiring.

The way the “locks” have been summed up thus far, looks like 11 spots.  Wright was my eleventh initially.  But his suspension allows Workman to get one of the last spots.  Why?  Out of options, velocity supposedly up, blah, blah, blah.  Now who is #12?  Who knows?  Poyner or Velasquez I suppose would be the front runners…or Walden if he keeps doing what he’s doing.  He is becoming Mr. March, I guess?  A DL stint or two could affect things of course.

I can’t believe Carson Smith is back after he got hurt (again) last season by throwing his glove against a wall or something and then blamed Cora for pitching him and/or warming him up too much.  I guess that shows you how much demand there was for him.  That being said, if he ever gets healthy, he could possibly be an asset.  Same goes for Putnam.  But we won’t see them until the summer I would bet, at the earliest.

Lakins got some buzz for a possible call up late last year, but as a #17 prospect, I am not sure we can be too excited.  The fact that Poyner and Brewer are listed in the Top 30 is scary enough.  Gorst isn’t even listed as an “official” prospect, but I put him here because he jumped up three levels last season and pitched fairly well…including 20.1 scoreless innings in his middle stint in AA in Portland.

The last group?  Mejia is interesting enough.  But he hasn’t pitched essentially since 2015 with his own suspensions.  Worth keeping an eye on for now, but that’s about it.  Weems is interesting only because he spent the first 5 plus years of his minor league career as a catcher.  Now is 26 years old, but has only pitched for 3 years.  Many of the rest of the names listed here have some major league experience.  But I don’t think any of us should be excited to see them in a Sox uniform this summer.  They can help the Pawtucket Red Sox all they want though.

Next:  The bats

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