Why the Red Sox still don’t have to get desperate at the trade deadline
|07.07.13 at 8:59 am ET|
Before the clock struck on midnight on the East Coast Saturday night, all was well.
At that moment, with the Red Sox taking a four-run lead into the ninth inning on the way to what appeared to be their sixth straight win, a solid case could be made that this team was in the most envious of positions – not really reliant on the non-waiver trade deadline to make or break its year.
Certainly the Red Sox haven’t seemed to be rushing into any bidding wars. They had no dealings with Miami when it came to getting in the hunt for Ricky Nolasco (whom was dealt to the Dodgers). Same goes with former Cub and current Oriole Scott Feldman. Sinkballing-reliever Matt Guerrier, who was also dealt to Los Angeles, didn’t get a sniff from the Sox.
And while Boston figures to kick the tires on Philadelphia infielder Michael Young, as of late, Sox decision-makers hadn’t struck up conversations with the Phillies regarding the veteran.
Even after Saturday night’s implosion that resulted in an 11th-inning loss to the Angels, that still might be the case. But what those few hours early Sunday morning did was offer a most uncomfortable reminder that it is never safe for a big league baseball team to assume anything at this time of year.
Red Sox lefty reliever Andrew Miller finished his night in a hospital, getting X-rays on his left foot after being struck by a J.B. Schuck comebacker.
Outfielder Shane Victorino once again succumbed to a balky left hamstring, forcing him from the game.
The reality of relying on Brandon Snyder also surfaced when the infielder threw away what would have been the game-ending out on a Howie Kendrick grounder with two outs in the ninth.
Alex Wilson, who had been pretty solid, exhibited a pretty major hiccup in what evolved into a high leverage situation, ultimately being charged with three runs in 2/3 innings.
It’s just one game; that’s understood. But it should also be a wake-up call.
The Red Sox will continue to need help. It’s just a question of how much of that assistance will need to come from outside the organization.
To the front office’s credit, the Red Sox have found themselves perhaps more self-reliant heading into late July than they’ve been in years. Assuming the outfield health doesn’t take too dramatic of a turn, and Victorino’s hamstring is managed (especially given the presence of Jackie Bradley Jr. in Triple-A), there are two needs for this team – bullpen help, and some sort of certainty on the left side of their infield. (Indeed, GM Ben Cherington identified stability at third base and in the bullpen as the team’s foremost areas of concern last week.)
Despite the bizarre nature of their overall existence – with every reliever but newly promoted Jose De La Torre owning reverse splits – the group has been pretty good. Koji Uehara has been solid in the closer’s role, with Junichi Tazawa continuing as a solid set-up man. Up until Josh Hamilton’s walk-off home run, Craig Breslow had been reliable, and even Andrew Bailey has offered some encouragement, as was evident in his 1 2/3-inning outing Saturday night.
But they will need help. That help, however, might be already collecting a paycheck from the Red Sox organization.
The promotion of lefty Drake Britton to Triple-A Pawtucket last week should be noted. While he continues to serve as a starter, the hurler’s above-average fastball and dominance of left-handed batters (.187 batting average against) would seem to translate into a useful bullpen role.
The same can be envisioned for fellow minor-league starters Rubby De La Rosa, Brandon Workman and Anthony Ranaudo. All are having tremendous success as starters this season, but they also have exhibited the two-pitch dominance that would seem to fit nicely into a relief role.
Remember, Justin Masterson, who was an integral player during the Sox’ 2008 playoff run, didn’t make his first relief appearance until July 23.
As for figuring out the left side of the infield, Young would offer a solid fail-safe. But Will Middlebrooks could very realistically resurface as a player in the pennant race, particularly if Stephen Drew’s hamstring lingers, or if Jose Iglesias stops hitting stops hitting .400.
As we sit here now, however, even with Snyder’s recent miscue, there wouldn’t seem to be a need for desperation.
But, as we were reminded in Anaheim, that can change in a hurry.
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