If you can only address one position, what is it?
As we sit here on Friday, we are just a week away from the trade deadline. There have been some moves completed already, most notably with the Rays acquiring veteran slugger Nelson Cruz from the Twins, but most of the activity has yet to really pick up. With the Red Sox in a tight race for the division with those same Rays, it seems clear that they need to do something to upgrade their chances and keep pace. The question is: Where? Of course, a team in real life can address multiple needs between now and the deadline, but that’s too easy. For this week’s roundtable, I asked the staff which spot they would upgrade if they could only do one.
As many of us know by now, there is an impending slew of 40-man roster transactions coming in the month(s) following the trade deadline. Chris Sale will be returning from the injured list after extensive rehabilitation following Tommy John Surgery in 2020. Ryan Brasier is another name to watch as he is slowly but surely hopeful to return to the hill at some point this season. Boston is in a position to win after making a drastic turnaround following the ill-fated 2020 season. Following comments from Red Sox CBO Chaim Bloom earlier this week, it has become increasingly clear that Boston will. in fact, be buyers at this year’s deadline.
The rotation, bullpen and first base have seen its fair shares of ups and downs this season, that we know, but the best course of action at the deadline is to add another option at first base. Bobby Dalbec has been underwhelming this season after bursting onto the scene in his first full “season” with the Red Sox, but has failed to replicate his success as the 2021 campaign came underway. It is of utter importance to have as much offensive production out the lineup as possible going into the dog day’s of August and early September and a veteran presence that could hold his own and protect Dalbec from facing lefties on a regular basis would not only do the lineup justice, but also give Dalbec a mentor in the process, should the front office decide to keep him on the roster after struggling to this point in the season. Regardless, a first baseman who could be had for a prospect with no clear path to big-league playing time would suffice at this year’s deadline.
Starting pitching has to be the main target for thee Sox at the deadline. The bottom of the rotation has struggled over the past few weeks, and it might be time to be on the lookout for replacements for Martín Pérez and Garrett Richards. Adding a solid veteran like Kyle Gibson or Kyle Hendricks would be huge for a staff that also has Chris Sale waiting in the wings. Rolling out a starting five of Sale, Eovaldi, E-Rod, Gibson, and Pivetta is certainly something I can get on board with.
I would prioritize adding to the bullpen. At this point, Brandon Workman and Yacksel Ríos are being used in blowout games and we all know why. I’d love to get some more dependable relievers for this playoff push.
Targeting one position is trickier this year than most given the uncertainty surrounding Chris Sale and Franchy Cordero. It’s possible these are big upgrades in the rotation and at first base, but also possibly not. So I’ll go in the other direction and do the classic bullpen arm. Mart Barnes, Adam Ottavino, Garrett Whitlock, and even Josh Taylor have been great. But the playoffs are a different animal these days and of the Sox are positioning themselves for an October run the games are going to be 4-5 innings per starter and the rest up to the ‘pen. A fresh arm or two of some level could add to the depth of the bullpen or to the back end itself – either way the top arms should be under a little less pressure.
I feel like first base is going to be a popular answer here, but the offense is really good even with that hole so I’m sticking with the tried and true starting pitching. Getting Chris Sale back is wonderful, and Tanner Houck being at the big league level is also wonderful, but it seems like he’ll be used in a bunch of ways. And given Eduardo Rodriguez’s struggles in the first half (although a lot better recently), and the inconsistency of everyone else, I still feel like an addition there to sure up the depth and hopefully upgrade on Martín Pérez and Garrett Richards is just what they need to solidify their place at the top of the league.
So the best way to answer this question is to see where you can make the biggest upgrade relative to what they’re putting at now and the answer is easily first base. It doesn’t look like Dalbec can read major-league pitching at all, and getting anyone else in there, whether a righty or lefty, would dramatically improve the situation. It’s why I don’t get why some people are so down on Anthony Rizzo’s. Rizzo’s been fine this year. Fine is a massive upgrade over the sub-terrain trash they’ve been running out so far. It shouldn’t cost much, it’d be cool, and it’d be a huge upgrade.
One position? Sheesh. I thought we talked about that on the pod. That was days ago. Who can remember? I mean, I can remember. I remember what I said. I said… what did I say? I said… first base! Yes, first base! And you (Matt), you said relief pitcher. You (Matt) absolute fool! You monster! With Tanner Houck sliding into the rotation and Chris Sale nearing a return, don’t you realize they have enough arms! Yes, yes, I remember when I have said, repeatedly, that there’s no such thing as “enough arms.” Fine. But I didn’t write the question, and the question said which “one” position.
So I must choose 1B, not leastwise because there’s a 1 in there. It’s also the answer. Bring me Joey Gallo or Carlos Santana alongside a reliever and take Bobby Dalbec for your troubles. Okay I think this is long enough, I’m trying to fill out the article because we’re down two writers. It was going to be three because I forgot, but then Matt reminded me. The end.
Like Bryan said, I did go with relievers on the podcast, though that was at least in part to pick something other than his. That said, I think there’s a solid case. As Keaton mentioned above, the offense is good with or without Dalbec. With Jarren Duran in the picture, maybe Christian Arroyo gets more time there without getting hurt, or Franchy Cordero works out, or maybe Dalbec, Marwin Gonzalez or Danny Santana gets hot. There are options, is my point. The bullpen is getting a bit overworked, and there’s reason for concern about drop off from just about everyone in that group. You need relief pitching you can rely on in the bullpen, so go get that help now.
But obviously the real answer is go get a reliever and a first baseman. At the same time.