In a first half full of illness, drama, slumps, and winning streaks, the Red Sox find themselves in first place in the AL East with a 50-39 record. Throughout the first 89 games, there has been times where it looks like this team could run away with the division, while also looking like a team that might not get the second wild card. The addition of Chris Sale has been huge, Craig Kimbrel has been the best closer in he American League, and the contributions from the outfield have been great. Xander Bogaerts is batting over .300 yet again, Mitch Moreland has had his moments, and Deven Marrero and Tzu-Wei Lin have played a solid third base. All and all, their record could easily be better, but first place is first place.
Now, with 72 games left, starting today against the Yankees, here’s what I expect to happen over these next few months:
There’s no need to trade for a starter this year. Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz have been at their best, while David Price has been solid since coming back from the DL. Rick Porcello has been a disappointment, and Eduardo Rodriguez, who should be starting sometime in the next five days, was having another good season before getting hurt in Baltimore. Finding spot starters has been tough, Brian Johnson has been the best up to this point, while guys like Hector Velazquez, Kyle Kendrick, and Doug Fister have struggled. Despite all that, the Red Sox do not need to acquire a starting pitcher. There’s no reason to surrender prospects for a rotation that does not need a ton of help.
Like I said, Craig Kimbrel has been great, but other than him, there really are not any guys in that bullpen who are all that trustworthy. Heath Hembree, Matt Barnes, and Joe Kelly are the core of that ‘pen. They’ve all had moments where they look great, but there have been questionable moments as well. Tyler Thornburg was supposed to be the set-up man, and Carson Smith was supposed to help as well. Neither of those guys have made an impact since they’ve been here because of injury, so I’d expect Dave Dombrowski to acquire another reliever. Brad Hand, Pat Neshek, David Robertson, and David Phelps are the names I would pay close attention to. Neshek has already been linked to the Red Sox, and those other three guys will most likely get traded before the deadline.
Today, Pablo Sandoval was designated for assignment. If he’s not claimed in the next seven days, he’ll probably get released, meaning the Red Sox will owe him more than $50 million dollars. Addition by subtraction is big though, and the Red Sox have a better record with Sandoval not starting then they do with him starting. In Sandoval’s place, Deven Marrero has stepped up. He doesn’t have the bat, but the glove is great. Tzu-Wei Lin has also been good in the time since he got called up. From what I’ve heard, the Red Sox still want to acquire a third baseman, so guys like Todd Frazier, Martin Prado, and maybe Mike Moustakas could make their way up to Boston by the trade deadline.
Other than third base, the Red Sox don’t have anything to worry about in the infield. Bogaerts and Pedroia have been doing their job, while Mitch Moreland has been doing enough in his first season here. Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez have done nothing spectacular, but I don’t get the vibe that the Red Sox want to change anything there.
Mookie Betts has not been playing like he did in 2016, but he’s still having a great year, starting in the All-Star Game for the second straight season. Jackie Bradley Jr. has been one of the best outfielders in the game since the middle of May, and Andrew Benintendi has been impressive in his first full season. Again, I don’t expect Dave Dombrowski to make any additions here.
I didn’t know where to put him since he has primarily been the DH, but Hanley Ramirez is having an underwhelming season. There have been flashes where it looks like he could go off, but for the most part, he hasn’t contributed a lot. He had a great second half of the season last year, so I wouldn’t be shocked if he did it again this season.
Off the field, there have been numerous times where it looked like John Farrell could have been fired, but he hasn’t, and he probably wont. He clearly is not the best in-game manager, and I’ve even heard about how the vibe in the clubhouse has been off this year, but whatever he is doing, it’s enough to keep his job.
David Price has been quite the story off the field, as two separate incidents have made som headlines. It’s not a good look getting in an argument with a hall of famer, and I’d say Price has the most to prove on this team.
So, there you have it. With the talent on this team, I think they should finish in first place. If they could only add one player via trade, I’d want that player to be a relief pitcher. Also, I don’t think Rafael Devers will get called up this season. Big series against the Yankees starts today, including a double-header on Sunday. Good chance to create some space in that division lead. Drew Pomernaz, Chris Sale, Rick Porcello, and David Price will all make starts this weekend.