Is this Boston Red Sox team a legitimate contender in 2019?
After seeing the breakdown of the Boston Red Sox pitching staff in London, it begs the question, are the Red Sox a real contender this season?
When the Boston Red Sox made their trek overseas to London, I was excited to see what they could do after going 10-3 in their last 13 games prior. Then the pitching staff got lost sightseeing, that is the sight of seeing ball after ball land either over the fence or in the outfield for another base hit.
Before this 10-3 run, I wrote a piece breaking down how I thought the Red Sox may fair in the upcoming games leading into London and how it would affect their status at the deadline. They easily exceeded my own expectations. However, using the series versus the New York Yankees as a launching point for the rest of the season, the Red Sox fell flat.
They made multiple comebacks, yes, but their pitching staff ensured that their offensive effort did not matter. There is no reason a team should average 10.5 runs scored a game in a series and get swept.
The bullpen gave up 20 runs in 13.1 innings pitched, for an ERA of over 13.00.
In response, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has reportedly been “surveying” the bullpen market, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network.
Tom Caron of NESN also reported that the Red Sox will be using RHP Nathan Eovaldi as their closer when he is activated from the Injured List.
That all being said, are they contenders?
If the Red Sox can adequately address their bullpen concerns then yes, they are contenders. However, principal owner John Henry said this over the weekend to WEEI’s Rob Bradford:
"“It’s not a luxury tax issue, it’s a question of how much money do we want to lose,” Henry stated. “We’re already over budget and we were substantially over our budget last year and this year. We’re not going to be looking to add a lot of payroll. And it’s hard to imagine fielding a better team. If we play up to our capabilities we’ll be fine. That’s the question: Will we? We’re halfway through and we haven’t."
The Red Sox will not be adding significant payroll at this year’s deadline. If they are to make a move for a reliever of a high salary, one would assume that they would send out a similar salary. The Red Sox have the highest payroll in the MLB for the second year in a row and they have a lot of their salary tied up in five players: David Price, J.D. Martinez, Rick Porcello, Mookie Betts, and Chris Sale.
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However, if they are to move one of those players for a bullpen piece, they would not be contenders anyway. They are all vital to the organization at this point. With the decision that Eovaldi will be their closer, it makes moving Porcello much harder as he eats up a good chunk of innings. At least when he does not get shelled for six earned over a third of an inning, that is.
Who could they move then? Well, Jackie Bradley Jr. is a name that may have picked up some value over the past month or so. He has lit the world on fire, as he normally does for a month per season. Over his last 30 games, Bradley is hitting .347 with six home runs and a 1.084 OPS while driving in 17 runs.
Not only has his production grossly ticked up, but he is also a free agent following next season. He is making $8.55 million this year and his salary can be easily matched with many very solid young relievers in the game. Many can be acquired for less than Bradley makes as well.
For example, Felipe Vazquez, Shane Greene, and Ken Giles can all be acquired for less than what Bradley costs this season. Giles could also be acquired with 2B Eric Sogard, who has been on a tear lately at a position of need for Boston, as I mentioned here.
Boston has the potential to put together a bullpen worth using, but it would also likely take away from their Major League roster. With that being considered, it seems as though they might struggle to contend going forward. If Dombrowski is willing to make the big move and acquire an arm or two, two would be better, than they can do it. If he is not, then they might as well start shipping out stars like Martinez and Betts now.