Thursday, July 18, 2013

Sox Start Second "Half"--Same Song Second Chorus??

Tomorrow the first place Boston Red Sox resume their attempt to march into the playoffs after the All Star Break.  Despite this being the unofficial second "half" of the season, the Sox are actually about 60% into their schedule with only 65 games to go.  At the break the Red Sox are 58-39 putting them 2 1/2 games up on the Rays, 4 1/2 over Baltimore and 6 over the Yankees (and the Jays 11 1/2 out).  Here are a few random thoughts about the last 65 games.

1. Red Sox still have same questions as Opening Day despite the great first half.  All winter long we all kept saying the 2013 Sox would only contend if  Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz starred at the front of the rotation.  And as of today, despite both guys roaring out of the gate, the same question exists.  Due to Lester's bad last two months and Buchholz being out since June 8, both pitchers are still unknowns going forward.  At least one and ideally both need to get back in action and at least resemble the aces they were in early 2013.

Another remaining question: Who is the closer?  Last winter it was Hanrahan vs. Bailey.  Now after Hanrahan's season ending surgery and Bailey's scattered injuries and suckitude, is the closer Koji Uehara, Bailey( who seems to be rebounding as a set up guy), or an import at the deadline?

A few other questions not answered include what can Stephen Drew bring to the Sox offense?, is Mike Napoli the needed power threat behind Papi, and will Jacoby Ellsbury put up a big contract walk year?And of course we may have an answer (unfortunately) to the question will the sophomore jinx bite Will Middlebrooks.

There are other questions as well, but if you could tell me Jon and Clay will pitch like April and May, I would tell you to buy your playoff tickets today.

2. The Red Sox can take AL East control in the next week or two.  Look at this schedule coming up.   A seven game home stand, three with New York and four more with the Rays.  Then onto Baltimore for three.  That is ten straight games versus the three teams closest to Boston.  An 8-2 stretch would likely give the Sox some daylight.  In addition after the brief stop in Baltimore, the Sox have six more at home, three each with Seattle and Arizona.

3. The trade deadline beckons .  One of my favorite times of the year.  But this year's supply and demand could cause slow going in the trade market.  This being the second year of the second wild card for each league, teams are still having troubles deciding is they are sellers or buyers. These are the only teams that are more than ten games out in their division and are not considered some sort of contender ( this last clause eliminates teams such as the Angels and Jays as sellers, likely.)  Those teams are Twins, White Sox, Mariners, Astros, Mets, Marlins, Cubs, and Brewers.  That makes only eight teams to be feeding the other 22.  Now the Jays ( won't help Boston), Angels, Giants, Padres, and maybe Phillies??? will join the sellers market.

4. Red Sox Rumors.  Of course here in Red Sox Nation we look at the deadline through the eyes of the Sox.  Only a few names have been floated in the media as Red Sox targets ( Matt Thornton was one but the Sox have pulled that trigger all ready).  Mostly mentioned have been Matt Garza and Michael Young, so let's start there.  First by many accounts Texas is the leading Garza suitor.  They are one of a few systems better than Boston, and if the Rangers want him I think he will go there  and soon.  It is widely reported Theo wants to trade Garza right now.  And this illustrates the main reason I do not want Garza.  Theo is hoping to deal him while he is healthy.  At last year's deadline and again last winter Theo wanted to shop him and he was hurt both times.  Due to the reported high price tag and this injury worry, I would pass on Garza.  As far as Michael Young goes, if the Phillies want to send Young and his remaining salary this way for nothing but a bag of baseballs, I might consider it if I were Ben C.  But at this point in their careers, I think I would rather have Brock Holt on this team than Michael Young.

Other rumors have included the Red Sox scouting both the White Sox and Brewers for relief help.  Even after acquiring Thornton, the Red Sox would have interest in Jesse Crain ( who is on the DL currently, by reportedly just for a minor mid season rest stop).  From Milwaukee the trio of John Axford, Francisco Rodriguez, and lefty Mike Gonzalez could be targets.

There has been one other rumor mentioned a time or two, that I am really on board with.  But any deal involving this pitcher may have taken a big hit ( or big no hit) last week.  Tim Linecum, and the remainder of his $22M deal, was possibly available according to some.  For Boston I felt he could be Buchholz insurance or he could pitch out of the bullpen as he did for Frisco last post season.  But with the Giants not definitely out of the race, how in the world do you trade a guy who just pitched a no hitter. Of course considering he threw 148 pitches in the no-no, the Giants may want to get him out of town before his arm falls off.  Of course, the other names out there are both from Philadelphia.  Jonathan Paplebon and Cliff Lee.  There is no indication the Phils plan to blow it up and deal Lee's huge contract, although that is exactly the type of move this aging roster needs.  Lee is likely the only guy the Sox would move a kid pitcher of two for ( Webster, Barnes, plus??).  The Red Sox will not trade for Paplebon. They are more likely to deal for one of the Red Sox Maineiacs than Paps.  He is expensive and heading into the most unreliable years of his long deal, and more importantly he has blown about five saves in the last week or two.  The Sox will hand the closer's keys to Rubby De LaRosa before giving up anything for our old friend Jonathan Paplebon.

5. Sox will not trade the kids.  And because of this I see the only upcoming Sox deal as another mid level kid for a reliever, a la Thornton for Jacobs.  Instead of trading the kids, I predict the Red Sox will fortify their pennant drive WITH the kids.  Brandon Workman, and Drake Britton who are currently up both can help the pen ( if Workman does not grab a starter's job).  So too could Rubby De La Rosa and / or Allen Webster.  With Shane Victorino continually hobbled, I still think Jackie Bradley, Jr. will contribute.  And with teams such as St. Louis and the Pirates having holes at shortstop, I would deal Stephen Drew on July 31 if he can prove he is healthy and insert Jose Iglesias at short. And at that time I would promote either Will Middlebrooks or Xander Bogaerts to play third ( with Brock Holt as the utility guy). I do not not really think the Sox would move Drew while in a race, but they should if they can add another prospect.

6. Xander Bogarts is just weeks away from playing for Boston.  There is no need to rush Bogaerts, but he is not overmatched at all in AAA, and his numbers are improving steadily. I really get the idea, the Sox want Middlebrooks to stay in AAA  for an extended period, this may help create the opening Xander needs.  Xander can be this year's Manny Machado.  Today, Keith Law of ESPN came out with his updated Top 50 prospects in MLB and Bogaerts was #3.  He is going to be special.  Who would you rather have helping out in August and September ( and October?) Michael Young or Xander Bogaerts?

7. The Red Sox had better figure out the secret to beating Baltimore. By the morning of July 26, the Sox will have only three games remaining with Tampa Bay and nine with the Yanks.  But beginning with that day's three games set in Birdtown, the Sox will have 12 more games with the O's.  Nine of those are from August 27 on, including the last three games of the year in Baltimore.  I am not under estimating the talent on the Orioles at all, but there is no way Boston should be able to at least split these 12 games.  I really, really do not want to see another Red Sox pennant drive end in Baltimore.

8. John Lackey.  All together now. " I was wrong about John Lackey".  Lackey, after Tommy John surgery and after obviously working very hard to lose a bunch of weight, is morphing back into the Angels' version of the ace John Lackey.  If just one of Buchholz and Lester can rebound, Lackey could be the other top line starter needed in October.  ( And Felix Doubront may becoming one of those types of pitchers as well) .

9. ENJOY the next 2 1/2 months.  We all hope the Sox can continue the brand of baseball that has them in first place.  But no matter what happens from here on out, just remember ONE stinkin' year ago.  The upcoming pennant race was unforeseen by nearly all.  Follow our established stars ( Pedey, Papi, and Ellsbury, ) the role players who have had so much to do with this turnaround ( Gomes, Napoli, Victorino, Uehara, etc.) and watch for the kids to emerge as mentioned above.  ENJOY

6 comments:

  1. It's been a long 4 days without a Red Sox baseball game and the All Star break festivities weren't really able to fill the void for this fan. I am real excited for the second "half" of the season to start. Being a Red Sox fan is fun again. We have a team that is fun to root for and easy to like, in other words the polar opposite of last year's team.

    I'll add a few of my own thoughts to the Deacon's:

    1. The Clay Buchholz soap opera just continues to get stranger. His comments at the All Star game got some members of the media angry and I'm sure the front office wasn't too happy about them either. Buchholz has to be testing the patience of everyone in the Red Sox organization. Getting him back on the mound and pitching well is important to their success this season, but Clay may have hurt his chances of staying in Boston long term. He is the pitching version of Jacoby Ellsbury. He's too fragile mentally and physically. We've often wondered where the opening in the rotation would come from for some of the prospects. It may be that Buchholz gets traded this offseason.

    I think the closer will be Uehera and an import. I think they will trade for a closer, but not a closer that is so good that he will supplant Uehera right away. I think they will get someone like Bobby Parnell or Steve Chisek who are closing on bad NL teams.

    I too would like to see Drew traded if he can make a strong push the next 3 weeks and then call up Bogaerts to play 3rd.

    2. I will be at Monday's game vs. the Rays so I hope that is one of the eight wins they pick up during this 10 game stretch against the AL east.

    3. The 2nd wild card has certainly made the non waiver trade deadline more obsolete. There are more and more waiver trades each year and I think you will see that trend continue this year. I think the key players the Sox pick up for the stretch will get picked up in August not July. MLB should look into moving the non waiver deadline to August 15th to help spark that old deadline excitement.

    4. The Deacon wrapped up the trade rumors pretty well so I won't repeat them, but one other name that I've heard a little that I would be interested in as an alternative to Cliff Lee is Yovani Gallardo. The Brewers are one of those teams that will likely be sellers and Gallardo makes a pretty high salary for a team like Milwaukee so you may be able to get him for lesser prospects.

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  2. 5. The Sox will not be trading the kids. I agree, but they will be trading from a surplus of minor leaguers who will be eligible for the Rule V draft this offseason. Like Brandon Jacobs was. They can do this in two ways. They can trade more players like Brandon Jacobs or they can trade some players who are currently on the 40 man roster to clear space like Alex Hassan, Dan Butler or Drake Britton. Because of this surplus the Red Sox will be making more trades both in July and August.

    6. Bogaerts is suddenly the prospect du jour after a strong performance in the futures game last Sunday. We've known how good he is for a long time, but now people across MLB are really taking notice. He may very well be this year's Manny Machado, but I could also see him staying in AAA until September and then starting 2014 with the Boston Red Sox...stay tuned.

    7. Baltimore...Yuck

    8. Rather than just hoping that Buchholz and Lester regain ace form/health maybe we should just all embrace Lackey and Doubront as our new top 2 starters. While I think that Lester is capable of a strong finish. Right now Doubront is a better pitcher than him. Lackey is pitching like an ace right now, but after missing a full season last year he may run out of gas before the end of the season. Let's hope not. If the playoffs started today I think that Lackey would be your game 1 starter and Doubront would be your game 2 with Lester pitching game 3.

    9. I couldn't agree more. Let's ENJOY this next 2 1/2 months. This year has been like a spiritual cleansing for Red Sox fans. The Red Sox are in the pennant race, they are players at the trade deadline and they have a bucket full of young players who are ready to step in and give this team a boost down the stretch. In my mind they are playing with house money right now. Even if they see a slight decline down the stretch and the Rays and Orioles get hot and over take them in the division it will still be a successful season. This team is set up to compete in the AL east for the next 5 years with the young players that they have and the core that was already in place.

    BUCKLE UP and ENJOY THE RIDE!

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  3. One quick comment on Barry's contention that Doubront and lackey are now our two best starters. Felix is starting game one after ther break and Lackey is hurling tomorrow.This may be a clue that John farrell agrees with the contention these guys are our best right now. I would concur as well.

    And now for the first big news of the second half. Let us not worry anymore about the scattered injuries and suckitude of Andrew Bailey. Minutes ago, Pete Abraham tweeeted Bailey is on the DL with right shoulder ( labrum and capsule) damage. Almost certainly out for the year. Now do the Sox shop harder for a bullpen arm.

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  4. Wow if Bailey is out for the year then they have to fortify their bullpen. They have two options.

    1. Stock your bullpen with the young power arms from your own system. De La Rosa, Britton, Workman and Ranaudo may be asked to go to the pen to fill needs a la Justin Masterson.

    2. Hit the trade market hard for pitching. Not only should they go after some "solid" bullpen guys they also may go after a starter who can give them more innings to take pressure off of the bullpen guys.

    3. (Aren't you lucky you get an extra bullet point!) The most likely answer is a combination of both. The Sox will continue to go after guys like Thornton who won't require you to give up your best prospects in return. On a side note the Sox also signed Jose Contreras and Brandon Lyon and have sent them to Pawtucket. They will also rely on some of their own prospects to fill the void. You have to think that if they see De La Rosa as a future closer now is the time to get him ready for a relief role.

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  5. Hey, look who's dropping in with a comment! Barry and I were in the 'ol ballpark last night. The atmosphere was as electric as ever, but Matt Moore provided quite a buzzkill. It is always great to go back to the Fens and re-discover a love for that place.

    As far as the Sox' second half, I would like to see them go after Jake Peavy. The guy has a reputation for being a gamer who would be a great asset in a pennant race. I think the Sox have enough arms in their system to fill up their bullpen, but if they could get Jesse Crain and Peavy in a deal, that would be ideal.

    I also love the idea of Bogaerts coming up like Machado did last year for the O's and help push the Sox into the playoffs.

    Second half baseball! It looks like this AL East race (a three-horse race at the moment, but we can't cross off the Yanks yet with help coming back off the DL and trades in the works) is going to be one for the ages.

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    Replies
    1. Welcome Back!

      It looks like the Yankees are going to pick up Alfonso Soriano, so they're not giving up...yet.

      I like the idea of Peavy and Crain as well.

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