It was hard to place expectations on the Boston Red Sox before the 2021 Major League Baseball season.
On one hand, they were coming off a last-place finish in 2020. On the other, they brought back manager Alex Cora and improved a roster that already featured some good, top-level talent.
Now, more than 60 games into the new campaign, the Red Sox look like American League contenders, which caused ESPN’s Bradford Doolittle to include Boston in the “Going for it” category in his latest “Stock Watch” column published Monday.
Doolittle also identified a couple of “key needs” for each playoff-contending team, including the Red Sox, whom he believes could benefit from adding more starting pitching and a first baseman ahead of the July 30 MLB trade deadline.
Here’s what Doolittle wrote:
If Bobby Dalbec were to get hot, that would solve the first-base issue. But if he continues to struggle, the Red Sox have a clear sore spot in a lineup that otherwise has been pretty good. First base isn’t a super-strong position in the trade landscape, but perhaps Miami’s Jesus Aguilar could work if the Marlins look to deal. The bigger need is the rotation, which has been better than expected but also could be in for some regression. You can hope for a major boost in the form of Chris Sale’s return, but Boston probably needs to approach that as icing on the cake. Unless the Nationals go on a run, Max Scherzer will loom over everything else in the trade market. But beyond that, there could be some decent values like Detroit’s Matthew Boyd, Colorado’s Jon Gray and Baltimore’s John Means.
The Red Sox’s rotation has struggled of late after a hot start to the season played an instrumental role in Boston’s early success. It could be just a minor bump in the road for the unit, which should benefit from the return of Chris Sale later this summer, but landing another impact starter would go a long way toward thrusting the Red Sox into the World Series conversation.
So, we’ll see what Chaim Bloom has up his sleeve ahead of his second trade deadline as Boston’s chief baseball officer. The Red Sox have performed better than most probably expected to this point, and as such, it’s possible they’ll be buyers as the standings take shape over the next month-plus.