Red Sox still need to add more pitching before trade deadline

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 1: Chris Sale #41 of the Boston Red Sox exits the bullpen before the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Cleveland Indians at Fenway Park on August 1, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 1: Chris Sale #41 of the Boston Red Sox exits the bullpen before the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Cleveland Indians at Fenway Park on August 1, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

With the 2019 MLB trade deadline creeping up on us, the Red Sox have a little over a week to make necessary adjustments to their roster.

The 2019 MLB trade deadline falls on July 31, giving the Boston Red Sox just over two weeks to make a few more changes. It’s been clear for m-o-n-t-h-s that the major area of weakness for the Sox is in the pitching.

The bullpen was an area of concern during last season. Remove Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly from the bullpen and automatically you’re left with a few big holes. Both decisions I’m still fairly bitter over (time has not yet healed the frustrated wounds for this fan).

The Red Sox have taken a few risks this season. Starting with the belief that Matt Barnes or Ryan Brasier would be able to fill the shoes of one of the best closers in the league, Kimbrel. In 2018, Brasier put up a 1.60 ERA in 34 games and Barnes displayed a 3.65 ERA in 62 games.

Considering the financial burden that plagues the team, I can understand Dave Dombrowski’s hope that one of two could step up and fill the role. Unfortunately, things haven’t panned out exactly the way that he had hoped. The recent trade for Andrew Cashner shows a sense of urgency that the team NEEDS to respond and respond quickly if they have hopes of making the playoffs. What other underlying issues remain?

Just as quickly as we got Steven Wright back, we’ve now lost him to the IL. Wright suffered a right foot contusion. As we all remember, Wright suffered from knee issues last season which limited his abilities. He missed 80 games this season due to a suspension for violating MLB’s PED policy. Wright is an aging pitcher playing less and less each year. His ability to effectively contribute on a regular basis produces a question mark for the Red Sox.

Dombrowski has already announced the decision to transition Nathan Eovaldi into the closer role. A choice that I wouldn’t say I can fully understand. The bullpen has already put in a considerable amount of work this season. As Dombrowski said,

"“I know a couple of our (relievers) worked a lot before the break. We weren’t getting a lot of innings from our starters. We think the rest, perhaps, will help some of them.”"

Putting Eovaldi in the pen means a heavy reliance on him. Is that the best for a guy who has a recent injury track record? It’s also not a position that he’s used to. It’s going to take time to grow and adjust to it. Given Barnes and Brasier’s struggles, that worries me as well.

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The big consideration for the Red Sox is staying in line with the payroll and avoiding the tax. After the trade for Cashner, the Red Sox are reportedly at an estimated $245 million. In order to stay under the threshold for the third tier of penalties and avoid a 75% tax on every dollar spent over the limit, the Red Sox need to stay under $246 million.

Boston’s farm system is on the weaker end of the spectrum, so it’s unlikely that they can target big-name guys. The Red Sox have designated Eduardo Nunez for assignment, so they have a week to move on a trade involving him. He’s owed $2.07 million of a $5 million contract for this season and his numbers have dropped making him a challenge to trade.

What other options do the Red Sox have? J.D. Martinez has a contract opt-out opportunity at the end of the season. If he decides to opt-out, he would be passing up on a guaranteed $62.5 million. Martinez can’t fill the role of an everyday player because of right foot injuries.

Martinez has been consistent in putting up numbers for the Red Sox. He’s owed $23.7 million for 2019. By the time he hits the open market (should he opt-out) he’ll be 32-years-old age. The Red Sox could shock us all by trading their top slugging DH to acquire an arm.

A few realistic options include Alex Colome, Tony Watson, or Sam Dyson. I’m a bit of a dreamer myself. In a perfect world, the Red Sox would try to acquire Madison Bumgarner, Ken Giles, Zack Wheeler, Matt Boyd, or Trevor Bauer.

Could injuries make Giles and Wheeler potential options? Giles has been listed as day-to-day due to elbow nerve inflammation. Since he’s day-to-day his value hasn’t dropped much if any. But Wheeler is on IL due to shoulder fatigue.

Wheeler won’t be able to return before July 23, which gives him a maximum of two starts before the trade deadline. Wheeler is 29, has a 4.69 ERA and 1.28 WHIP, and is in the last year of his contract so if the Red Sox were to target him, he’s a player that they’re unlikely to have past this season.

Next. Red Sox trade for Andrew Cashner means they are all-in. dark

For now, it’s all just speculation. We have just over two weeks to wait and see what happens. While Dombrowski is claiming that they won’t be making any big changes to the team, I wouldn’t (yet) rule anything out. The Red Sox are failing to perform up to expectations. Something must be done if they hope to save this season. Should we expect a big, blockbuster trade?