With a week to go until the trade deadline, the Red Sox find themselves in the all-too-familiar position of being sellers at the trade deadline. The Red Sox find themselves staring at a last place finish in the American League East for the third time in the last four years. For a team with a top-five payroll, that is utterly and totally unacceptable.
Here are some ideas on what need to be done to get this ship turned around. Keep in mind, this ship has been off course for so long that things will not be straightened out this year.
Let’s start by getting a new captain and crew. The Red Sox should do nothing until they replace general manager Ben Cherington. He should not be allowed to make one more trade, signing, or beer purchase at the stadium. Maybe he shouldn’t even be allowed into the park ever again. Take the keys away from him. He created this mess. Why trust him to turn things around? No way.
Step one: Fire Ben Cherington.
The next step should be to fire John Farrell. Farrell is an enabler. He makes excuses for the erratic behavior of his team. If he doesn’t want to blame his players, then the blame falls on him. His Toronto and Boston teams have placed either last or second-to-last four out of his five years as manager. Cherington came to Boston with the reputation of being a pitching guru. The Red Sox have the worst ERA in the American League. Wade Miley is yelling at him in the dugout, but Farrell respects his grit. Young pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez is obviously tipping his pitches, but Farrell doesn’t think so. Farrell’s on-field decisions, his pitching changes, his lineups have all been reasons for head-scratching.
Step two: Fire John Farrell.
Now the Red Sox need a new general manager and manager. Lucchino can fill in at general manager for the time-being. Some will argue he has always been the general manager. Torey Lovullo can fill in as interim manager for the remainder of the year. With the Red Sox eleven games out of first place, this season is lost. Anaheim ensured that. The Red Sox will have to hire a permanent GM and manager in November.
The Red Sox roster has plenty of empty holes to fill. Other holes have round pegs trying to fit into square holes. The aforementioned AL-worst pitching is what needs to be addressed first. The offense can be fixed by simple addition by subtraction.
The starting rotation the rest of the year should be: Eduardo Rodriguez, Brian Johnson, Wade Miley, Rick Porcello, and (fill in the blank). Filling in the blank will be the priority for the front office. This fill-in-the-blank pitcher should be a young, swing-and-miss type pitcher who has the potential to be a top of the rotation guy next year. This does not mean a Rick Porcello-type (thanks again, Ben… the Porcello family thanks you, too). The Red Sox need a 175-190 strikeout per year kind of guy– someone who strikes fear in hitters.
Who should the Red Sox be targeting? San Diego has made it known that James Shields and Andrew Cashner are available. Shields may be the better known commodity to Red Sox fans, but Cashner is the pitcher the Red Sox should covet. Cashner’s stock is as low as it may ever be. He carries himself about like an ace, but he is having an off year. Cashner had a 2.55 ERA last year, but has been the victim of shoddy defense this year en route to a 3.93 ERA. Cashner should be priority one. The 28-year-old will be the best feasible option out there.
Kansas City may have soured on flame-thrower Yordano Ventura. Ventura touches 100 mph consistently on the radar gun. He is also a bit of a hot head. He has been at the center of a couple of bean brawls this year. Ventura has struggled with a myriad of mysterious hand injuries this year. His ERA is 5.19. He was recently demoted to the minors only to be called up a couple of days later following a season-ending injury to Jason Vargas. Kansas City always seems to have an abundance of good young arms, so if they have indeed soured on the 24-year-old, the Red Sox could have another Pedro Martinez on their hands.
The Mets are in need of offense, but the cash-starved team doesn’t want to spend money to acquire it. They recently scoffed at acquiring Ben Zobrist and Justin Upton because they didn’t want to pay the very reasonable rate owed each player for the remainder of the season. Instead they chose to trade for journeymen Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson. The Mets have so much good young pitching that they went with a six-man rotation for a good part of the season. The 6-foot-6 Noah Syndergaard is the starting pitcher the Red Sox should be targeting. The Red Sox could package some veteran bats along with a boatload of money in order to make a deal appealing. The Mets may be unlikely to deal Syndrgaard, but they have put Zack Wheeler on the trading block. Wheeler is recovering from Tommy John surgery, but has ace potential.
Cleveland has also made it known that they may be willing to deal some of their young pitching. Carlos Carrasco and Corey Kluber would appear untouchable. Danny Salazar is a bit too erratic, although when he is on, his stuff is electric. The Red Sox should look elsewhere.
The one pitcher the Red Sox should be willing to deal Mookie Betts and/or Eduardo Rodriguez for would be St. Louis’ Carlos Martinez. Would the Cardinals be able to deal Martinez? Unlikely, but it wouldn’t hurt to ask. The Cardinals have had a history of outsmarting the Red Sox, however, so tread carefully.
Some bullpen arms the Red Sox should look at to add some depth would be Colorado’s Rex Brothers, Tampa’s Jake McGee, and Washington’s Aaron Barnett. All three have the potential to be a closer someday.
So how would the Red Sox go about dealing for these players? The Mets would want money. The Padres would want prospects (Henry Owens, Blake Swihart, Rusney Castillo, Brian Johnson, Rafael Devers— pick any three). There was also rumors the Padres offered Pablo Sandoval more than the Red Sox in the offseason, but Sandoval didn’t want to go there. He wouldn’t have a choice now. The Royals would want a veteran bat, possibly even a designated hitter (perfect landing spot for someone like Hanley Ramirez).
If Boston could add a young, solid number-two starter now at the trade deadline, and then add a bona-fide ace in the offseason, things wouldn’t look too bad going into next year. How does a rotation of Cueto/Zimmermann, Cashner/Ventura/Syndergaard, Eduardo Rodriguez, Clay Buchholz/Porcello, and Miley/Brian Johnson look? Joe Kelly belongs in the bullpen.
The offense will be easier to fix. That is if you consider it easy showing David Ortiz the door at the end of the year. The organization seems resigned to letting Ortiz dictate when he wants to take his Red Sox uniform off for good. Lucchino and company would love to see Ortiz hit his 500th career home run in a Red Sox uniform at Fenway. Remember the opportunities the Red Sox afforded Tim Wakefield (to the detriment of the team) to break the franchise record for wins? Ortiz lingering around after this year will have the same disastrous effects.
If Hanley is still in a Red Sox uniform next year, he needs to be the DH. Not two or three years down the road– next year. There is little doubt he would put up bigger numbers than Ortiz in 2016. Isn’t that what team evaluation is all about? Take emotion out of the equation, and letting Ortiz play out his final two months in a Red Sox uniform is the right thing to do. Get the rocking chair and plaque ceremonies ready.
Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino should not be here in another two weeks. Whether that means a trade or designating for assignment– pick your poison. Jackie Bradley Jr. should be given one last shot to prove himself in right field. Do or die, JBJ. Allen Craig is under contract for another two seasons so Boston should figure out if he fits into its future plans. He should play every day at first base for the remainder of the season. If he doesn’t cut it, the Red Sox will have to decide if they want to move Sandoval to first base next year and go after either a first baseman or third baseman in free agency. A quick look at the possible free agents at either position doesn’t inspire much hope. Baltimore’s Chris Davis is the best of the lot.
So there you have it. The outfield for the remainder of this year should be Ramirez, Betts, and JBJ. The starting point for next season should be Castillo in left, Betts, and JBJ.
The infield for the rest of the year should be Sandoval, Bogaerts, Pedroia, and Craig. As a side note, Pedroia should not be considered untouchable. There are far worse scenarios than moving Betts back to his natural position of second base and freeing up center field for JBJ and dealing for a big right field bat (see Jay Bruce).