Red Sox Trade Deadline Blueprint: Boston’s Top Needs As Aug. 2 Nears

Boston has a few voids to fill

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July 26, 2022

July hasn’t been very kind to the Red Sox, but that doesn’t mean Boston won’t be in buyer mode leading up to the Major League Baseball trade deadline.

Thanks to the addition of a third Wild Card team, the 2022 Red Sox’s postseason hopes still are very much alive. Boston enters Tuesday only three games back of the final American League Wild Card spot, and only a half-game and 1 1/2 contests separate the Seattle Mariners from the two teams above them in those standings.

But while a playoff berth is in the Red Sox’s grasp, it would behoove Chaim Bloom and company to make a move or two before Aug. 2 in order to strengthen the club’s chances of playing into October. With this in mind, here’s a breakdown of how Boston should approach its deadline strategy.

BIGGEST NEEDS

First baseman
There are no two ways about it: The platoon of Bobby Dalbec and Francy Cordero just isn’t cutting it for the Red Sox at first base.

You simply can’t bank on Dalbec putting together another late-season surge like he did last year. The 27-year-old ranks dead last in batting average among Red Sox regulars with a .203 mark to go along with only eight home runs. Similarly lousy offensive numbers have come from Cordero, who’s currently batting .218 with four homers and a .356 slugging percentage.

Boston was plagued by the same issue last season and the club addressed it in spades by acquiring Kyle Schwarber. The two-time All-Star provided a jolt and then some upon joining the Red Sox lineup and he was a major reason why Boston came within two wins of a 2021 World Series berth.

If the Red Sox want to make a similar splash at first base this year, Josh Bell might be their guy. Bell is tied for 10th in the big leagues in hits (107) and boasts a .302 batting average. The 29-year-old also is a switch hitter, an asset that always helps with the matchups war.

Prying Bell out of the nation’s capital probably wouldn’t be overly difficult, as he’s on an expiring contract and plays for the worst team in baseball. A more demanding pursuit would be for C.J. Cron, but the Colorado Rockies really aren’t in a position where they shouldn’t be taking calls on the 2022 All-Star.

The hope in Boston should be for Triston Casas to steadily man first base for a decade-plus. The Red Sox clearly aren’t in a rush to call Casas up, though, so they should look for external candidates to fill the void in the meantime.

Late-inning relief pitcher
After a solid stretch that lasted a couple months, the Red Sox bullpen now is teetering on unreliable. Boston enters Tuesday with the eighth-highest bullpen ERA in all of baseball, which should serve as a major red flag for a team that still has a chance to reach the playoffs.

Close, late-inning situations have been particularly dicey for the Red Sox. Manager Alex Cora largely has used the closer-by-committee approach in the ninth inning and it hasn’t been very successful, as evidenced by the club’s 20 blown saves (second-most in MLB).

Tanner Houck seemingly was given the opportunity to lock down the closer role, but the 26-year-old hasn’t shown nearly enough for the Red Sox to totally trust him with the responsibility. Houck has a tendency to allow runners on base and his unvaccinated status certainly does not help with reliability.

If Boston wants to make a truly dynamic addition to its bullpen, David Bednar fits the mold. The 27-year-old, who earned his first career All-Star nod this season, has 17 saves on the year and carries a 2.96 ERA. Other relief pitchers the Red Sox could take a look at are Michael Fulmer of the Detroit Tigers and Scott Barlow of the Kansas City Royals, two players who play for teams with no chances of reaching the postseason.

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Starting pitcher
The Red Sox’s starting pitching situation was surrounded by some glimmers of hope leading up to the All-Star break. Nathan Eovaldi was set to come off the injured list and Chris Sale looked very sharp in his 2022 debut.

Since then, however, just about everything has gone wrong for Boston in the starter department. Sale sustained a nasty finger injury in the Bronx and Eovaldi was shelled (nine earned runs over 2 2/3 innings) in his first start after the break. The Red Sox also still are waiting for Michael Wacha, Rich Hill and Josh Winckowski to return from the injured list.

There’s a clear coveted prize in the pitching market leading up to the deadline: Luis Castillo. The right-hander probably would immediately become the Red Sox’s ace if traded to Boston, but Bloom and company surely would face stiff competition in trying to land the 29-year-old. Teams with very high World Series aspirations like the rival New York Yankees might be more motivated to acquire Castillo.

Fortunately for the Red Sox, they appear to have other options, including two old friends. It’s absolutely worth checking in with the Athletics about Frankie Montas, who signed with Boston as an amateur free agent in 2009. Oakland has proven to be comfortable trading just about anyone and Montas has one more year of arbitration left.

Martín Pérez, meanwhile, never really flashed brilliance over the course of his two years in Boston, but the 2022 All-Star has looked like a different pitcher this season and he has some experience pitching in high-pressure situations. Pérez himself probably would be excited about a return to the Red Sox, too.

Lesser needs

Outfielder
Citing the return of an injured player as an acquisition of sorts is pretty lame, but the Red Sox kind of have that in Kiké Hernández. Hernández is as steady as they come in center field and he proved last October that he can tear the cover off the baseball when he’s rolling.

But Hernández’s extended stay on the injured list has left Boston’s outfield looking rather underwhelming. Alex Verdugo is fine in left field but he hasn’t had the type of offensive consistency you want from someone who typically hits from the five spot. Jarren Duran’s game-changing speed is undeniable but the rest of his skillset leaves much to be desired. Calling Jackie Bradley Jr. defensively surehanded would be a significant understatement, but he’s struggled mightily at the plate all season long.

Unfortunately for the Red Sox, the outfield market doesn’t appear to be overly robust. The best of the bunch probably is Andrew Benintendi, but it’s tough to envision Boston bringing back a player who it traded away 17 months ago. The Juan Soto rumors continue to build, but acquiring the 23-year-old superstar probably would require a trade package the likes of which baseball has never seen.

A more realistic trade target is someone like Dominic Smith, especially considering he can play first base as well. But a player of Smith’s ilk might make the Red Sox marginally better at best.

Thumbnail photo via Brad Mills/USA TODAY Sports Images
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