Why the Boston Red Sox front office should be prepared to shake things up at the 2020 MLB Trade Deadline.
By July 2019 the Boston Red Sox knew that their starting rotation was vastly underperforming and they had to make a move to acquire some back of the rotation depth. Nathan Eovaldi was on the IL for most of the first half, and the likes of Hector Velazquez and Brian Johnson making spot starts on “Bullpen Days” wasn’t really panning out.
On July 13, the Red Sox stood at 12 games above .500 at 50-42. Not too shabby. Although they were nine games behind the division-leading Yankees, they were only three games behind Tampa for a Wild Card spot.
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Cleveland and Oakland were also in the Wild Card mix. If the Sox wanted to raise their game, they needed at least one effective arm added to the roster.
So the Sox sent low-level minor leaguers Elio Prado and Noelberth Romero to the Orioles for right-handed starter Andrew Cashner. No one was very excited about the trade at the time, but it looked like a low-risk, high reward pick up for Dave Dombrowski.
Cashner was more than serviceable with the O’s, compiling a 3.83 ERA and a 9-3 record with a horrible team in arguably the toughest division in baseball. On paper, Cashner was a better pitcher than three of the Sox’ five starters.
Turns out, Cashner couldn’t handle Boston. From July 13 to August 5, Cashner made six starts, put up a 6.31 ERA, a .297 batting average against, and gave up 41 hits in 35 innings pitched.
To add insult to injury (or more accurately, injury to insult), David Price’s season took a complete nosedive after Cashner joined the club. Price was 7-2 with a 3.24 ERA pre-Cashner, and 0-3 with 7.88 ERA in six starts post-Cashner. He was shut down in early September due to a cyst on his wrist.
Should the Red Sox have made more impactful moves before the trade deadline last year? Absolutely. The question is COULD they have made a more impactful move?
Prado and Romero weren’t going to net you Madison Bumgarner last July, but would Bumgarner-like player have been a better acquisition than Cashner? Almost certainly.
I’m no mathematician, but MadBum had a 3.75 ERA after July 13 last season. That’s better than 6.31, correct? The Sox would’ve had to have cobbled together a better package for a better player, but I think you get my point…they needed a game-changer to lift them out of the malaise.
As of today, the Sox will open the 2020 season with most of their key players intact. After swirling trade rumors, Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Andrew Benintendi will be back patrolling the outfield.
We have been assured that Sale, Price, and Eovaldi, the top three pitchers in the rotation are healthy and ready to go. Brandon Workman had a strong second half in 2019 and is poised to be named the Sox’ closer after the team blew an astounding 31 saves last season.
Michael Chavis and Bobby Dalbec will have a chance to compete for low-cost permanent placement on the right side of the infield with the likely departures of Brock Holt, Mitch Moreland, and Steve Pearce.
The Sox still have the roster to compete for a title in 2020, and hopefully, they do not resort to playing uninspired, inconsistent baseball like they did last summer. In either scenario, however, the Sox need to make sure the 2020 trade deadline counts.
In the unlikely case that the Sox lead the division by ten games on July 31, yeah…maybe they can afford to stand pat. But realistically, after the addition of Gerrit Cole by the Bronx Bombers, the Sox will likely be battling for a wild card spot.
Boston already bought low signing Minnesota’s Martin Perez to replace Porcello. But he’s a (way) back end of the rotation guy. Hopefully, he’ll give you some innings so that you can let your offense do the talking.
With this potentially being Mookie Betts’ last year of team control, the Sox may need to splurge on talent to get into the postseason. Whether that means a top of the rotation guy, an effective bullpen arm, or a permanent solution at the right side of the infield, the Sox have to prove to their fans that they are willing to go the extra mile to fight for a championship.
Earlier this week, John Henry changed his tune about team spending, saying that the media had fueled speculation that there would be massive payroll cuts. It’s hard to take Henry seriously when the Sox haven’t even been mentioned in any potential major free agent signings this winter. If Henry means what he says, he’ll open the checkbook mid-season.
Conversely, if the Sox find themselves mired in mediocrity next summer, Bloom should be prepared to blow it up. I’ve always asserted that moving Mookie Betts this winter won’t get you as much of a return as moving him at the trade deadline.
Teams who are desperate to win a World Series and acquire an impactful player (looking at you Dodgers) will be more apt to shell out young talent in July than in December or January before the season plays out.
The Sox tried to move David Price’s bloated contract this offseason, but who wants to pay $30M per year to a pitcher who just had wrist surgery? If Price can come back, prove he’s healthy and effective, he’ll garner a higher return.
Taking Henry on his word, if a salary dump isn’t the Sox’ top priority in 2020, then it makes more sense to move these players mid-season. Hopefully, the latter scenario won’t play out.
It was assumed that former Tampa Bay Rays front office prodigy Chaim Bloom was brought in to weave his small market magic and help a big market team stay competitive while simultaneously shedding some payroll. So far, we can check the box of shedding payroll.
It will be interesting to see if the “stay competitive” part is in the Sox’ 2020 plans. If it is, I hope in July John Henry hands Bloom a bankroll and says, “Go get us a stud starter” or, “find us a fireman for the ninth,” or “We literally don’t have a first or second baseman…go get some.” If it’s not, then Bloom needs to fleece other teams’ systems for promising young talent to assuage the blow of likely losing Betts and Bradley to free agency.