With less than week before the MLB trade deadline, many Red Sox fans are wondering what chances the Red Sox have at making a run toward the playoffs. Currently, the Sox sit 4.5 games behind the Rays for the AL Wild Card and are 7 behind the Yankees for the AL East crown. Clearly, the Sox need to make some additions if they are to compete for a playoff spot.
The Red Sox have been mentioned in trade talks involving Jayson Werth, Scott Downs and trading Mike Lowell to the Tigers. What do the Red Sox need? I think they need another bat and some relief pitching to make a run at the postseason. They do not need to trade for starting pitching with Clay Buchholz and Josh Beckett back from injuries. Beckett was effective on Friday in his first game since May 18. He pitched 5 2/3 innings, giving up 1 earned run and striking out 5. If the Red Sox can get vintage Beckett for the last 2+ months per season that will be a huge boost. Buchholz has been excellent all season, and while he wasn’t sharp in his return his presence in the rotation is also huge boost. A side effect of both Beckett and Buchholz returning is Tim Wakefield moving to the bullpen. His addition to the pen, strengthens what has been a weakness for the Sox. The Sox are currently exploring options, with Downs being at the top of the list. ESPN is reporting that the Blue Jays are valuing Downs much higher than a reliever would normally be valued. They believe he will be a Type A free agent after the season, meaning they would receive a first or second round pick as compensation if a team signed him after the season. Ultimately, the Blue Jays will settle for something because keeping Downs does them no good going forward. The question is whether the Sox will be willing to pay the price to get him. Other alternatives include Jason Frasor, Kevin Gregg (both of the Blue Jays) and Kyle Farnsworth of the Royals. If the Sox can get a reliever before the trade deadline, the bullpen should no longer be a weakness.
On the hitting side, the Sox are slowly starting to get healthy. Jeremy Hermida recently returned from injury and Victo Martinez is due back Monday. Getting Martinez back will be huge for the Sox both behind the plate and at the plate. With Jason Varitek injured (he is still several weeks away from beginning a rehab assignment) the Sox have been relying on players that are at best backups and at worst career minor leaguers. Jacoby Ellsbury, out with broken ribs, also appears to be on his way back to the Sox. He will begin his rehab assignment at the Gulf Coast Red Sox on Monday and should hopefully be back with the big club in a few weeks. More good news for the Sox comes in the form of Dustin Pedroia playing catch without the boot. As of right now, the former AL MVP is slated to return for a pivotal series against the Yankees from August 6-9. Even with the impending return of many of their bats, the Red Sox offense has been stagnant the last several weeks. They are 8-11 in July, and are hitting .243 with a .315 on-base percentage and a .735 OPS over that same time period. This after hitting .276 with a .815 OPS before the All-Star Break.
If the Red Sox want to navigate their way through a tough schedule, they have 10 more games against the Yankees (August 6-9 and September 24-26 in the Bronx, and October 1-3 at Fenway) and 6 more against the Rays (August 27-29 in Tampa and September 6-8 in Boston), they need to pick up a bat to help bolster their flagging offense. Between covering for injuries (J.D. Drew is bound to get hurt at some point, isn’t he?), filling in for slumping players, and possibly displacing a current starter (J.D., I’m talking to you) there are enough at-bats to accommodate a top-level bat. Adam Dunn, currently with the Nationals, is available and while not the best fit for the Sox would add a lot to the offense. He could play in the outfield and fill in at both first base and DH. His 23 home runs and .934 OPS would look mighty good batting behind Kevin Youkilis in the lineup. The Phillies are shopping Jayson Werth and he would be a great fit with the Sox. He would replace Drew in the starting line up (his numbers are better across the board and he has a monster arm in RF) adding more consistent pop to the line up. The righty would take advantage of the Green Monster and finally appears to be breaking out of a month-long slump. Another possibility would be Ty Wigginton of the Orioles. He can play several position in the infield (he has started games at 1B, 2B and 3B this season and has played SS and the outfield in the past), has good power (16 HR this season) and wouldn’t necessarily be looking for a starting job. Of the three players I’ve mentioned, he would likely be the cheapest addition for the Sox.
If the Sox can make some additions and their current players all return healthy, they are close enough to make a run at the Wild Card and maybe even the division. While 7 games are a lot to make up before the end of the season, the Sox should look no further than my other team, the Phillies for inspiration. The Phillies were able to overcome a 7 game deficit with 17 games to play in 2007. Remember, anything is possible. Believe!