Injury to key reliever might help point Red Sox in right trade deadline direction

Boston Red Sox v Miami Marlins
Boston Red Sox v Miami Marlins / Megan Briggs/GettyImages

The Boston Red Sox placed veteran reliever Chris Martin on the 15-day injured list on July 4 with the always dreaded elbow inflammation.

Martin's injury is usually a sign of something much more sinister and long-term. The Red Sox haven't provided any additional information about Martin's status, but he's only appeared in-game twice since June 23.

Martin has been a key part of Boston's bullpen this year after his impeccable season in 2023. He's pitched to a 3.42 ERA over 26.1 innings this season, and the 38-year-old seems as agile as ever.

If the veteran has a long-term elbow injury, it could derail the Sox's trade deadline plans. Martin is a good trade candidate — he's an experienced pitcher who's been to the postseason before and he's on an expiring contract, which makes him an ideal rental target. A serious elbow injury, or even the news of his inflammation, would make him unsellable.

Chief baseball officer Craig Breslow and the rest of Boston's front office have been characteristically non-committal to a trade deadline strategy. But Breslow recently reported that the Red Sox will pick a lane — either buy or sell, but not a combination of both.

The news that they probably can't trade Martin should push the Red Sox in the right direction — they should commit to buying.

At the beginning of June, Boston did not look like a playoff team. It dropped two out of four games to the league-worst White Sox and had a difficult schedule ahead. But the Sox aced every test, including two series wins against the Yankees and one against the National League-best Phillies.

If the Red Sox can't trade Chris Martin, they should buy before the trade deadline

The Red Sox may no longer be able to trade Martin due to his recent injuries, and it may not make sense for them to trade Kenley Jansen, either. Boston's closer has been the bullpen's most reliable piece during their hot June and July. He's logged a 0.57 ERA in his last 15 appearances, and he's certainly proved he can stick around if the Sox push for a playoff spot.

The decision to buy or sell isn't up to Breslow, though, and John Henry has been typically unhelpful and inflexible. He recently spoke about Fenway Sports Group's venture into the PGA Tour and declined to comment on the Red Sox's recent play.

"The reason being, how many people speak almost every day about the Red Sox? You don't need me," Henry said.

It sounds like Henry is far from "in" on this team. But now that one of the Red Sox's likeliest trade pieces is injured, a change of plans is in order. Boston has been in and out of a wild card spot and the players deserve investment from the front office as credit for their work.

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