Contrary to what some people seem to believe, the 2016 Boston Red Sox aren’t actually a dumpster fire.
The holes in the Red Sox’s roster are obvious, but the team is 14 games above .500 at 55-41, has the first American League wild card spot and sits just 1 1/2 games behind the Baltimore Orioles for first place in the American League East. The formula isn’t perfect, but it’s working, which is why Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski might not be primed to make any huge moves.
Boston’s offense is the best in Major League Baseball and, so far, has kept up its production after the All-Star break. The Red Sox got infielder Aaron Hill and utility man Michael Martinez via trades to put some major league veterans on their bench, and outfielders Chris Young (hamstring) and Blake Swihart (ankle) are progressing in their recovery from injuries. Basically, the Red Sox already are fielding a World Series-caliber offense and should have all of their pieces in place come playoff time.
Their pitching, on the other hand, is not a sure bet to last through October.
After acquiring starter Drew Pomeranz from the San Diego Padres, Boston’s rotation looks more complete. The lefty got roughed up in his first start for the Red Sox but otherwise had been consistently good all season, earning a spot on the National League All-Star team. The five-man rotation as it stands now — David Price, Rick Porcello, Steven Wright, Pomeranz and Eduardo Rodriguez — has fared very well in July, putting up a cumulative 3.84 ERA that drops to 3.47 if you don’t include Pomeranz’s lone outing. Adding another back-end starter wouldn’t hurt, but it’s not really something the Red Sox need to give up the whole farm for.
The guys backing up the starters, however, need some help.
Injuries have plagued Boston’s bullpen to the point that there’s enormous pressure on starters to go deep into games, just so the team doesn’t have to use too many relievers. Closer Craig Kimbrel (knee) and set-up man Koji Uehara (pectoral) both are on the disabled list and Junichi Tazawa still is limited after returning from the DL last week. By all accounts, Kimbrel is close to rejoining the bullpen. But with Uehara, Red Sox manager John Farrell said Saturday the team is “hopeful” the reliever will be back before the playoffs, which ironically doesn’t inspire much hope that he will be.
Brad Ziegler, whom the Red Sox acquired earlier this month, has been great filling in as closer and in the late innings, but there’s only one of him. Another back-end reliever would take the pressure off Boston’s specialists and give Uehara and Tazawa a lighter workload once Kimbrel is back. The Red Sox don’t necessarily need a top arm like the New York Yankees’ Andrew Miller — Ziegler was acquired fairly cheap and has been reliable — but they’ll at least want someone to consistently lock down innings.
Beefing up the bullpen in many ways is more important than the rotation because even the best starters are going to bomb sometimes. The offense usually can come back from the shortcomings of the rotation, but if the guys in the ‘pen can’t keep opponents scoreless in the late innings, then teams are going to capitalize. Especially in the playoffs.
Thumbnail photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images