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Three Weeks and…Change?

It’s been 22 days since the Blowhard wrote about what he would do at the Major League Baseball trading deadline if he ran the Boston Red Sox.  If you recall, I actually proposed selling off pieces and getting a head start on next season, despite the fact that the Red Sox were in first place at that time.  Just didn’t feel comfortable with the team…on and off the field.  Didn’t think they had enough to compete for a World Series title, especially when it came to teams in the National League like the Dodgers and Nationals…and presumably the Cubs.  I knew the team selling wouldn’t happen, but still offered up some ideas on what courses of action I would seriously consider.

What’s happened since then?  The Sox have only gone 14-4.  Yup, direct hit with the suggestions again.  Good thing no one reads this page…

Does the recent stretch of success change my overall feeling as we head into the final 41 games of the regular season? Well actually, not at all.

I’m going to spare you the review of every original bullet point from the July column.  But there are a few appropriate ones that still hold true in my eyes.

The Red Sox made one more move before the MLB trading deadline in July after the original post on 7/28.  That was adding set-up man/part-time closer Addison Reed from the Mets.  No, I am not counting the move that happened yesterday, losing Noe Ramirez on waivers to the Angels.  And you thought I cared about the 39th-40th man on the 40-man roster!  Well, yup, I do…just not today…

Reed didn’t endear himself to any of the fans when he first got here, but made it up to some people with his performance last night.  Definitely a solid addition.  But the fact remains that pretty much the rest of the bullpen sucks.  Ok, that is harsh.  But Matt Barnes and Joe Kelly don’t inspire confidence in key situations.  And besides Reed and Craig Kimbrel, those two are the next in line.  Brandon Workman?  Perhaps.  Heath Hembree, Robby Scott, Fernando Abad?  Useful 10-12th (13th?) pitchers on a major league staff.  But not people I’d like to see in the 7th inning of a close game against a contender, as Hembree and Scott were last night.  Still some holes out there.

Speaking of holes, the predicted Drew Pomeranz injury indeed popped up last night.  What happens if this lingers?  Eduardo Rodriguez is too inconsistent.  David Price, for better or for worse, will not be back this year.  Yup, take that to the bank.  I proposed seeing if some team would somehow trade for him in the last piece…then he went on the DL hours later.  Trade was never going to happen, I acknowledge.  But of course his injury flared up again anyway.  Have the surgery already…

Oh…Doug Fister sucks…ssssssoooo…other than Chris Sale, the starting rotation still has its holes as well.

The lineup has scored some more runs over the 18 game stretch…and also has had a couple of nice comebacks against the Yankees and Cardinals.  But overall, it is too inconsistent to rely on.  The same issues presented a few weeks ago persist.  Xander had a nice homer the other night, but has still frustrated all of Red Sox Nation.  Speaking of frustration…Hanley Ramirez everyone!  Rafael Devers has not cooled off, nor has Eduardo Nunez since they’ve both arrived.  I imagine that has to change.  And one of the teams hottest hitters in July was Dustin Pedroia.  Who knows what you will get out of him the rest of the year?  Mitch Moreland had a nice pinch hit last night.  But he is still…Mitch Moreland.  And on and on we can go…and I’m not even going to talk about the rampant putrid baserunning decisions.

Also, let’s look a little deeper into that 14-4 record.  8-0 against the White Sox, Rays and Cardinals.  Not exactly the iron of the league.  In fact, the White Sox should currently be playing in the International League with the roster they have now.  And the Red Sox didn’t exactly smoke them in their 4 game set.  That leaves a 6-4 mark against the Yankees, Indians and Royals (a team that should be better than their record).  So while 14-4 is impressive indeed, it is a smidge misleading.

I think we need to see how the next 16 game stretch goes.  2 more against the Yanks at home, then 11 of 14 on the road against the Indians, Blue Jays and Yanks again.  6 more division games at home after that.  Let’s take a look after the next 22 days then.  The AL East is mediocre this year, but that doesn’t make the games any easier when the calendar turns to September.  They should still be a tough road to hoe.

I know it doesn’t sound like it, but I am actually happy we can still talk baseball heading into September.  I’m just here to throw the caution flag up.  I’m not sure this team has any business competing for a championship.  You might say, “well the 2013 team really shouldn’t have either”.  You would be 100% correct.  But the 2013 team had many players that overachieved.  The 2017 team has many players underachieving.  The players in 2013 seemed tighter with no clubhouse drama (that I recall anyway).  And while there hasn’t been much chatter about the clubhouse in recent weeks (coincidentally, after Price went on the DL?), I wouldn’t say that things are all rosy there all of a sudden.  I suppose we can say all the players are united against the media, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a great clubhouse.

John Farrell has managed both clubs.  It’s a minor miracle either team was ever in the mix with him in charge…

What to do…

…as far as what moves the Boston Red Sox should make coming up to the Major League Baseball non-waiver trading deadline on Monday.

What, you thought Eduardo Nunez was enough?

I didn’t.  Actually, I don’t even really want Nunez here.  It’s not like he’s going to make a huge difference, for one.  I don’t care how hot the Sox brass tells me he has been in recent weeks.  There’s a bigger reason I don’t particularly want him here…and we will get to that.  Since the Sox didn’t give up really anything for him (Gregory Santos?  Shaun Anderson?), I suppose it can’t hurt to have him around though.  I mean, with Brock Holt, Josh Rutledge, Tzu-Wei Lin and Deven Marrero still hanging around on the team or close down the road in Pawtucket, it can’t ever hurt to have more utility infielders than you can handle, right?  Oh wait, Nunez and Holt are All-Stars…nevermind…

Anyway, my view of what the Red Sox should do prior to the trading deadline will be much different from what actually happens.  Why?  Because I’d actually consider selling.  And with the Sox in first place, there is no way the organization will do that.  They will be buyers.

But this team is more than another 1B/DH bat and a reliever or two away from winning a championship.  In my opinion anyway.  Sure, the American League is mediocre.  Apparently it is Houston and everyone else at this point.  So the Sox brass will surely say, “we get in the playoffs and anything can happen”.  And they are probably right.

However, they won’t be the only team trying to improve themselves before Monday.  In fact, the Yankees, Twins, Royals, Mariners and Rays have themselves made deals already.  None of them would probably considered blockbusters, but those players should help all those clubs.  In addition, I don’t believe the Indians have hit their stride as of yet.  Maybe the Royals too, though their pitching is suspect, to be kind.

Then you have the National League.  Which looks like the Dodgers and Nationals.  Oh, and the Cubs.  The Cubbies have been heating up and I expect them to continue to.

So you’ve got the competition being one reason I don’t believe the Sox are winning anything.  Then you have the team itself.  Which, other than a select few, is underachieving.  Or are they?  We think Xander Bogaerts is underachieving.  But maybe he is what he is…a decent shortstop with little power, but will hit around .300 every year.  Seems to me the way he is trending.  Mookie Betts has some numbers, but it feels like he should be more.  Jackie Bradley Jr. is definitely what he is and no more…great defensive outfielder with some power.  But not really feared when he has the bat in his hands.  Andrew Benintendi has had a fairly good year…but he ain’t there yet.  You could do worse for catchers but they aren’t world beaters.  Etc.

Bottom line is that this lineup isn’t scaring anyone.  Hard to believe basically just subtracting David Ortiz from the equation caused this much of a drop off, but…

Now, the pitching.  Chris Sale has been otherworldly.  But he has faded down the stretch in his career.  And does anyone really expect him to keep up this pace?  David Price?  Ugh…more on him in a moment.  Rick Porcello apologists like to point to the fact that the Sox offense hasn’t scored while he was on the mound in like 10 of his starts.  But they conveniently forget his mid 4 ERA.  And the fact he won a lot of games in 2016 because he got like 16 runs a game to support him…therefore always pitching with a huge lead and…no pressure.  And…how many bombs has he given up this year?  Eduardo Rodriguez…can he be trusted?  Drew Pomeranz has been better than expected.  But does anyone expect him to have continued good health the rest of the way?

By the way, the rest of the starters behind them?  Some combination of Brian Johnson, Doug Fister, Kyle Kendrick or Hector Velasquez.  Yikes!  Wait, no Henry Owens?  Nope.  He walked 60 guys in 69 innings in Pawtucket before getting DEMOTED to Portland (AA).  He’s walked 23 in 20.2 innings down there.  With a 5.23 ERA.  In 5 starts.  Yup, about 4 innings a start.  A former can’t miss prospect…that clearly missed.  Par for the course it seems with the Sox organization.  Sure guys have come up and played well.  But they have seemingly had so many “can’t miss” guys over they years that they refuse to trade and then they just suck in the end.  Subject for a different day.

Lastly, the bullpen.  Craig Kimbrel has been as awesome in his role as Sale has been in his.  But that’s about it as far as bullpen arms that inspire confidence.  I’m not even going through the rest of the jamokes that have rotated out there all year.  The bullpen has been surprisingly good this season, I will admit, even with Joe Kelly and Matt Barnes being your other late inning guys.  And sometimes Heath Hembree.  But…c’mon.  I don’t want those guys anywhere near the mound late in games when the pressure mounts as the playoff race heats up.  Maybe Carson Smith is coming back…wait, I doubt that.  Tyler Thorn…nevermind.

So combine all of the above with what I wrote yesterday…about clubhouse turmoil and an inept manager…and I’m selling at the deadline.  It’s really hard for me to root for this team now.  They are pretty much unlikable from top to bottom.  A big part of me doesn’t even care what happens the rest of this year.  I’m almost onto the Patriots already and they just opened camp.  Depressing, but true.

In any event, once again, they will not sell and probably none of what is proposed here will happen in real life.  But just for sh%ts and giggles, this is what has been going through my mind this week on the moves I would like to make.  If not at the deadline, then maybe the offseason.  In no particular order:

*Trade David Price.  Yes because he is an arseclown, whiner and all of that.  But also because his elbow may well explode at some point.  We all know he may need Tommy John surgery at some point.  If he blows out his elbow here in September and isn’t around the club all of 2018 and then opts out of his contract and gets out of Dodge, that may be a win-win situation as well.  But perhaps they can cut all that off and get something for him now.

Impossible you say?  Maybe not.  If teams treat him like he has one year and change left on his contract and is sure to opt out when he can, maybe someone will jump.  Maybe a team with World Series aspirations and deep pockets will do it anyway.  Perhaps the Dodgers will bail the Sox out again?  Clayton Kershaw is out for several weeks now.  Hmmmmmm…the Nationals with Stephen Strasburg out, supposedly only for one start, but…the Cubs, with their rotation struggling a bit (and knowing Jake Arrieta is probably coming off the books after this year).

Price wants to be moved, that much is clear.  Would the Sox consider it?  Would anyone bite?  I do not think it will happen.  But it IS certainly possible to move that contract.  More than people think.  That’s what I believe anyway.

*Keep Rafael Devers in the majors and give him the majority of starts at 3B.  With Nunez here I doubt he plays much and I believe he will be shipped back to Pawtucket soon enough.  Too bad.  What have they got to lose by playing him?  Well, if he produces like Yoan Moncada did last year, maybe it’s a mistake.  But you know who was absolutely putrid in 95 plate appearances in 2016 down the stretch?  Aaron Judge.  .179 average, .608 OPS and 42 of his 69 outs were K’s.  I’m not saying Devers will be Judge next year if he gets major league experience this year.  But it may be in the teams’ best interest long-term if Devers takes his lumps in the majors the rest of 2017.

*Release Mitch Moreland and Chris Young.  Recall Sam Travis and…gulp…Rusney Castillo.  Maybe you can trade Moreland and/or Young to a contender for some fungo bats and used baseballs.  And if Moreland has truly sucked the last month or so because his toe is broken, then maybe just put him on the DL.  But I have no use for these two really.  Young’s contract is up after this year, and he isn’t really good.  Add to the fact that this veteran was apparently one of Price’s biggest backers in the Eck thing…see ya.  Let’s see if Travis can hit in the bigs.  Let’s also see if Rusney can be salvaged.  He seems to have been playing well in AAA and supposedly can play all the OF positions still.  Why the hell not?

*Release Allen Craig, Jhonny Peralta and Pablo Sandoval.  Oops…already done.  So there are a few positives.

*Release Doug Fister.  Kind of obvious.  But I’m covering everything.

*Give Brian Johnson Price’s rotation spot through the rest of the year.  This guy throws junk and I’m not convinced he will ever make it.  But he has shown some flashes.  Not sure what he has left to prove in the minors.  He’s 26 years old.  Let’s see what he can do.  And if he’s truly part of the future.

*Fire John Farrell.  Another obvious one.  Nothing more needs to be said here.

*Trade Hanley Ramirez.  Good luck.  A guy that really doesn’t care.  Or that cares once in a blue moon.  Maybe they can sell his contract to Japan or something.  Or to Manny’s Korean team.

*Trade Xander Bogaerts.  WHAT?!  Ok, it’s not that simple.  And it’s something that should be investigated in the offseason and not over the next few days.

I have no real particular issue with X.  Disappointed with his progress, or lack thereof.  Maybe the reason for his poor performance lately is the ball he took off the hand.  But how do we explain before that?  His numbers are down across the board this year…since the All-Star Game in 2016, to be exact.

He will be 25 on October 1st.  Still plenty of time to tap into that talent he supposedly has.  But what do we have so far?  A .300ish hitter with doubles power who plays a decent, if unspectacular shortstop?  If that is what he ultimately is, will he be worth all the money that Scott Boras will want in his first big contract?  Nope.

I’d rather give a boatload of money to Betts.  Perhaps Andrew Benintendi earns some money down the road too.  And Devers…if he pans out of course.  Bradley Jr.?  Sure, but he should come cheaper.  If not?  Work on moving him and put either Betts or Benintendi in center.  That conversation can come later however.

One huge thing to consider is that the Sox need some power.  How will they get it?  Seems like a trade is the only way.  Have to give up something to get something.  If teams are still enamored by Bogaerts’ potential, doesn’t that make him a prime candidate to go?  Especially considering all of the above.

Taking a look at the current 40-man roster, who is untouchable?  Sale, Betts, Devers (for now), probably Benintendi and Kimbrel.  Who else?  Bogaerts is probably next on the list.  Someone like him may be able to be packaged with a little more to get that proven power bat…whoever that may be.  Everyone always points to Giancarlo Stanton, since Miami is always selling players off and he has a huge deal.  But there may be someone else available for the right price that we don’t know about.

I’m not trying to run X out-of-town.  But, you have to admit, something like that may make sense.

That’s about it on the suggestions.  What, nothing about Dustin Pedroia?  After yesterday’s piece?  Yeah, trouble is, I love him on the field.  Not to mention he will be 34 in August.  And is a 10/5 guy.  Not sure he will waive his rights to not be traded.  Or if the Sox can get any value for him anyway.  Looks like he is here to stay.  Maybe he will eventually grow up though…

 

Time To Fire Farrell?

Of course!  But I’ve been saying that for a couple of years now.

Funny thing is, the Boston Red Sox mediocre start this season may have little to do with John Farrell’s managing prowess.  Or lack thereof…

Sure, there is always some blame that the manager will have to absorb when a team underachieves.  Farrell still sucks as an in-game manager.  That hasn’t changed.  Lack of leadership on more than a few occasions hasn’t helped him either.  All that nonsense with Dustin Pedroia and Manny Machado and all the other characters involved with firing baseballs all over the place.  Hanley Ramirez making up injuries so he doesn’t have to play first base.  And no one pushing him.  Those are two notable cases of a leadership void.

Farrell also doesn’t help himself with his explanations of subluxations and arm angles and all that crap.

But that doesn’t make him primarily responsible for this mess the Red Sox have created.  This actually pains me to say.

You may say, “mess”?  They are only 4 games out, no one will run away with the division and there are 125 games left in the season!  I will say, take a look at this roster, and Pawtucket’s roster and, better yet, the injury report.  And you may have a clearer picture of where this team stands.

Where do we start?  Third base is one place.  6 players have manned the position in 37 games.  Pablo Sandoval and Marco Hernandez primarily, though Josh Rutledge is catching up.  Brock Holt, Deven Marrero and…Steve Selsky have played there as well.  Looks like 13 errors, with Marco’s 6 and Fat Panda’s 4 leading the way.  Atrocious.  It’s gotten to the point where Marrero is earning more time because of his glove, his .243 career minor league average (.198 last year and .169 this year, by the way) be damned.

Is help on the way?  Not from Pawtucket, it would appear.  Looks like there are 5 or 6 minor league veterans playing 3B down there…without a ton of success.  I doubt we will see 20 year-old Rafael Devers in the majors this year.  Though he does currently have a .984 OPS in AA.  He’s supposedly the “next big thing”, so I doubt they will rush him.  Hopefully they won’t trade him either, what with the prospect cupboard stripped down a little bit from trades during the Dave Dombrowski regime.

I think we are stuck with the above motley crew for the time being.  Wait, didn’t Allen Craig used to play 3rd early in his career?  Maybe the Sox can salvage some of that contract?  Ok, nevermind.  He’s hitting .197 in Pawtucket with a .550 OPS.  Seems content to just collect his fat paycheck these days…

First base may be the next issue on the offensive side.  Mitch Moreland is a nice player and can fill a role.  That role should not require him to be the only player on the team to play in every single game this year however.  Especially when he looks pretty lost against lefties.

But part of this problem is that Hanley Ramirez has no interest in playing first, as noted above.  And no one is forcing the issue because they are afraid they will “lose” him.  What a joke.  Raise your hand if you saw this coming (Blowhard’s hand fully extended to the sky), at least in part because of the fact there is no David Ortiz in the clubhouse anymore to help keep him in line.  Make him play first, suspend him if he refuses.  And if he makes up injuries and you can’t tell if he is faking…well, you know his history, so you know he is faking.  I know, easier said than done.  There will be grievances and the player quitting and all that.  But management needs to figure something out and they should be smart enough to do so.

Raise your hand if you also saw Jackie Bradley Jr. reverting into, well…Jackie Bradley Jr.  (Blowhard again, arm straight up).  A mid .200’s hitter at best with a great glove.  But not an All-Star as he was last year.  I would have moved him last offseason for maximum value.  Then played Andrew Benintendi in center, Mookie Betts remaining in right.  Then perhaps a platoon of Chris Young and anyone else in left.  That ship has sailed.  On a positive note, there is plenty of time for Jackie to heat up and salvage his slow start.  But I’m afraid last year was an aberration, my friends.

Elsewhere on the diamond, I suppose I can live with the bodies there…unless Xander Bogaerts keeps up his alarming lack of production.  I don’t care if he is hitting .340.  No homers and 11 RBI in his 33 games is flat-out unacceptable.  And stop blaming Ortiz leaving for being the reason the lineup has underperformed.  There’s enough talent there to not use that crutch.

The big problem is the pitching staff.  Starting with the alarming lack of starting pitching depth on a “big-market” team.  Now, this is in no way saying I advocated for Clay Buchholz to remain here as part of what would have been 7 veteran big league starters.  I said “veteran”, not necessarily meaning “good”.  Good riddance Clay.

The other six?  Chris Sale, Rick Porcello, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez, Drew Pomeranz & Steven Wright.  Sale is rock solid, but has had a tendency to fade down the stretch in recent years for whatever reason.  Before his injury, I think we all could have counted on Price taking almost every turn…and hopefully be better than last year.  And even though Porcello was unlikely to be in the Cy Young mix again, I think we expected him to still be a suitable #3 guy anyway.

But the last three?  E-Rod is presumably still developing.  Having a pretty good year too, though he usually has thrown about 215 pitches every start to even get through the 5th.  It seems that way anyway.  Pomeranz and Wright were huge question marks.  Pomeranz just hasn’t proven durability in his career and Wright is a knuckleballer, so who knows which version will show up?

Lot’s of question marks.  Even with good health.  Then Price goes down.  Apparently Wright was never healthy from the start and pitched through his injury…and poorly.  Pomeranz expects to make his next start, but whatever he was babying in the spring is back.  Ugh.  And your next in line is Kyle Kendrick, Henry Owens and Brian Johnson.  Double ugh.

There aren’t better veteran options kicking around even now?  Dougie Fister, where are you?!

And…why did we ever consider Owens and Johnson “can’t miss” prospects?  They throw about as hard as Wright.  But I digress…

If you think the rotation is suspect, then don’t even look at the bullpen.  Disaster area.  Craig Kimbrel has been lights out.  Robby Scott has done his job…one lefty batter at a time.

The rest?  I can’t even talk about them.  Makes me sick to my stomach.  Makes me pine for some Noe Ramirez.  That should tell you about all you need to know.

This bullpen includes (theoretically) 2 guys who haven’t thrown a pitch in 2017:  Tyler Thornburg and Carson Smith.  Smith threw very few pitches last year for the team.  But they are supposed to be at the back-end of the bullpen.

This leads me to the upcoming conclusion.  Although the Blowhard has not been a fan of Farrell for quite some time now, the finger points more to the construction of the team this year more than the manager’s performance.  Right at Dave Dombrowski.

You can’t control injuries (or illness).  But there is enough talent on this team to win.  There have been enough red flags on some of the guys acquired by DD that were worth noting.  He seemed to not only ignore them, he seemed to also overpay to get them.

Most of the trades involved prospects.  I would usually move prospects for proven guys any day of the week.  But did he need to move 4 of them for a closer in Kimbrel last year?  Send the top pitching prospect straight up for Pomeranz?  Send 3 prospects AND Travis Shaw for a middle reliever?  I’m no huge Shaw cheerleader.  But the Sox sure could use him now…at first or third.

For the record, I’ll give up the prospects for Sale.  But that’s different from the deals above.

Now, what does Dombrowski have to trade?  Couple of top prospects are left if he wanted, for sure.  But when MLB.com lists a 27-year-old lefty specialist (Scott) as your 29th best prospect across all minor league levels, that’s not a good sign.  That’s like a small market team.  Again, I’d trade prospects for proven guys every day.  Just seems as if, other than Sale, these prospects are being used for the wrong guys…and too many of the prospects are being dealt in each of those deals.

There is definitely plenty of time this season to right the ship.  But I’m not sure how long Price lasts when he comes back.  I don’t believe Thornburg throws a pitch for the team this year.  Who knows about Smith?  Sandoval will come back at some point, but to me, he is a lost cause.  3B will be an issue all year, offensively and defensively.  Just saw that Hector Velasquez is starting Thursday night.  Who?  Exactly.

This season is on Dombrowski thus far and not Farrell.  So to answer the question posed, Farrell probably does not deserve to lose his job based on the results this season…but as they say, you can’t fire 25 players…

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