The Redsox may have just won the series against their arch rivals New York and may own the best record in Major League baseball, however big changes are required if they are to be competitive in the playoffs
|Mike Napoli wins the night|
Yes, the end of the Yankees series came with a happy ending. Yes, Boston owns the best record in all of baseball. And yes, a series win against Tampa this week would provide a little separation from the AL East pack. However, all of this comes with a massive caveat. The fact of the matter is, the Redsox will not be doing anything meaningful in October unless they make some serious changes before the trading deadline passes.
We’re not talking small changes here. Sure there are plenty of tweaks that can be, and should be, made, however the below is a list of changes that simply have to happen if the Redsox are to be competitive going into the 2013 MLB playoffs.
Three things in particular need to happen.
The bullpen needs the addition of at least two outstanding arms. The pen held up admirably over the weekend, however it represents something of a creaking old ship, which could sink at any moment given a slight change in conditions. Right now the only Sox bullpen piece you would truly trust in October baseball would have to be Koji Uehara. Nobody ever won a World Series with a bullpen that consisted of Craig Breslow, Junichi Tazawa, Matt Thornton, Drake Britton, Pedro Beato and Jose De La Torre. It is simply not possible. The two Andrew’s, Bailey and Miller, are enormous losses and the Sox have to replace them. Uehara is an effective and indeed exciting closer, but the Sox need a couple of power, swing-and-miss arms as a bridge to the high fiving closer, or they are not going to be winning anything of note in 2013.
We’re not talking ‘nice prospects’ coming up from the minors here. We’re talking impact, game winning arms. Jonathan Papelbon and K-Rod (Francisco Rodriguez) would appeal. Both are available also, with the Phillies and Brewers having effectively nothing to play for this season.
Papelbon is basically the same as when he departed Boston, with a few more miles on the tyres. He is still effective, and would obviously fit right in to the team and the town itself. K-Rod is intriguing. His velocity is down but he is still throwing 90-93 with a cartoon curve ball and the savvy of a veteran pitcher his age. He would be a welcome addition as a setup man or possibly even closer, although it is debatable if he is an upgrade on Koji or not.
Second, the Redsox have to trade for a front line starter. Again, similar to the bullpen issue, we’re not talking ‘nice’ 4th or 5th starter here, no young up and comers need apply. We’re talking second or third rotation piece preferably. Having said that, why not aim high? Chase an ace and see what you come up with. Let’s face facts, the Redsox rotation is a nasty, sloppy mess right now, held together by smoke and mirrors. The current ace? John Lackey, and deservedly so, he has been showing Sox fans exactly what he can do when healthy (and slim!). After that?
Brandon Workman is a nice, high upside, starter for the future but he is a 4th or 5th spot starter in the rotation at best. More cannot be expected of him at this early age. We are not talking a Ryan Dempster type either here. Dempster is doing his admirable best, but if Boston are going up against the finest arms in baseball in October, with Dempster starting, we’re in trouble. The Sox won last night because they scored 8 runs, not because of Dempster, who did, to his credit, stop the Yankees from cashing in on some early base runners. We need more come October however.
Jake Peavy would be interesting, is throwing 91/92 and knows his way around a 7 inning quality start. He would fit in beautifully behind Bucholz with Lester and himself fighting over the 2nd spot in the rotation. Cliff Lee might be available, and the Sox should at least kick the tyres on that one, to see if anything is going. Whilst we’re dreaming, even someone like Felix Hernandez has a price. Seattle could no doubt be blown away with the right package. The point is, the Redsox need top notch starting pitching, and they need it now.
Finally, and we hate to stick the fork in here, but the Redsox need a catcher.
Unless the Redsox bury Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the 9 hole and put stock in his admitted ability to handle the Sox diverse pitching staff, they are not going to get any further value from Saltalamacchia. He basically has two things going for him, every once in a blue moon he steps into a poorly located fastball and parks it in the bleachers, and as we said, he does appear to be good with the pitchers.
Apart from that, he is basically useless. Saltalamacchia cannot stop a running game, and his attempts to do so are increasingly embarrassing. His bat is completely ineffective particularly recently. In the last 30 days Saltalamacchia has hit zero home runs and has a paltry 9 RBIs in 66 at bats. His average of .240 in that spell sums him up perfectly. Not absolutely awful, but, close.
We do have to be somewhat careful here as it is important that a team’s pitchers trust and indeed ‘like’ their catcher, and the Redsox pitchers seems to hold Salty in high esteem. Perhaps the Sox could, as we said, bury Salty in the 9 hole and hope his influence on the pitchers is worth his black hole offensive stats.
The fact is though, an impact catcher who can fill up the 6 or 7 hole in the order with authority, would push the Sox closer to being a contender.
And, at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about, right? Winning this damn thing.
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