Red Sox: Charlie Blackmon is a dark horse solution

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SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 23: Charlie Blackmon
SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 23: Charlie Blackmon /
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The Boston Red Sox are at odds with J.D. Martinez and still need an offensive upgrade to their lineup. Could a trade deadline deal be the answer?

It’s no secret the Boston Red Sox need an upgrade to their lineup. Any fan of baseball knows that last year’s team still lacks a bat to help get this team to the next level. The Red Sox thought they had a solution to that problem with a potential signing of J.D. Martinez; the most expensive bat on the market too expensive for most teams’ budgets.

The ship hasn’t sailed, but the tides may be turning in a different direction.

With the recent report by Ken Rosenthal of Martinez growing frustrated with the Red Sox and preferring to sign elsewhere, Boston is left contemplating life without Martinez. After all, the old saying “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” heavily applies to the Red Sox in this case — even if that means waiting for next year’s free agency as a backup plan.

However, the Red Sox may not need to wait that long. One name that is flying under the radar is a possible acquisition of Charlie Blackmon. Blackmon, 31, is entering free agency after the year, and with the plethora of young talent the Colorado Rockies must re-sign in upcoming off seasons, it’s highly unlikely they’ll retain the veteran center fielder’s services.

If the Rockies find themselves outside of the playoff picture after the All-Star break, they could be inclined to move Blackmon at the trade deadline to at least get something for him. Blackmon is coming off the best season of his career, producing a .331/.399/.601 slash line (lead the National League) and added 37 HR (3rd in the N.L.) and 104 RBI.

Blackmon isn’t Giancarlo Stanton nor Martinez, but he’s another reliable bat with some pop. Not only does he give the Red Sox an exceptional bat for the lineup, he also offers grit, toughness, character and elite defense.

While he isn’t Jackie Bradley Jr. on defense, the drop-off isn’t far off like it would be if the Red Sox trot Martinez out there. Blackmon produced a .988 fielding percentage last year, earning a 2.17 ranger actor rating. Martinez had a .990 fielding percentage with a .177 range factor. Even the Green Monster can’t hide that noticeable gap between the two players.

Additionally, re-signing Blackmon at the end of this season could reward the Red Sox long term. Blackmon will be 32 looking for a shorter and less expensive deal than Martinez’s, since he’s older than Martinez. Plus, Blackmon is represented by ACES agency, not Scott Boras, leading us to believe negotiations may be a bit smoother and cooperative for Blackmon than they’ve been for Martinez.

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Although the acquisition of Blackmon looks great on paper, it will take some strategizing to make it work. Acquiring Blackmon likely ends JBJ’s career with the Red Sox — barring some whacky move of Mookie Betts to second base while jockeying around Dustin Pedroia — leaving the Red Sox in need of a trade partner for JBJ.

Colorado could very well be that destination, but giving up JBJ for an older Blackmon who is only under contract until the end of the year makes little sense. Unless the Rockies have an astronomical price for Blackmon, the Red Sox can likely get away with prospects without denting the farm. The price of course could increase if Blackmon chooses to sign an extension with Boston before the season ends — he won’t.

If the Red Sox acquire him and trade away JBJ, who plays center field? Sure Blackmon can be pegged there, but one could argue Betts is the superior defender. Is Blackmon more vulnerable as a defender in a corner outfield spot? How does he handle the Green Monster? Would his body hold up? These are questions that can’t assume easy answers.

Additionally, if the Red Sox commit to Blackmon, would they still have the money to go after Manny Machado or Bryce Harper? Blackmon helps solve a power problem, but he doesn’t single-handedly solve it. Last year was the first season of his career he produced over 30 HR. Most would argue he’s a great piece for the Red Sox, but they still lack that game-changing bat that their fellow arch rivals have three of in Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Stanton.

Signing Harper or Machado plus Blackmon would give the Red Sox the offensive face lift they need, but that also opens up nightmarish questions about their pitching. Do they re-sign Drew Pomeranz/David Price? Who do they replace them with? Do they really let Craig Kimbrel, one of the best closers in the majors, leave for free agency? Do they tie all this money up without securing Betts and Chris Sale long term?

There is no simple answer to Boston’s offensive conundrum. Any move they make has a domino effect on the roster for years to come. However, the World Series window is now, not tomorrow.

Taking a gamble on Blackmon this season offers more reliability on offense and a much-needed boost to the lineup. Even if the Red Sox don’t win the World Series this year, at least they’d only be one piece away next year. The same can’t be said with the current roster. Martinez doesn’t pass the eye test of consistency, either.

Time is ticking for Red Sox management to fix this mess before Sale, Price and others age, while Boston watches its World Series window slam shut.

If that means acquiring Blackmon and trading JBJ, fine.

If that means acquiring Blackmon just to claim you’re now just a piece away, that’s fine too.

Next: Red Sox runs will arrive as the batting average spikes

At this point, Red Sox fans just want to see some sort of change from this team. Quite frankly, no one in Boston can take another first-round embarrassment of inferiority.

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