All this recent winning is going to give General Manager Ben Cherington a huge headache over the next ten days. If the Red Sox keep winning in the next couple days, how will he possibly be able to justify selling off assets if there’s any hope of making the postseason? And yet, will he really be able to justify mortgaging the team’s future on trying to improve a sub-.500 team if three weeks from now this team is still at the bottom of the American League East?
The Red Sox kept things rolling with a sweep of the Royals this weekend coming off of the All-Star break. Now winners of seven of the last eight, they are finally putting things together in all aspects of the game. In yesterday’s 6-0 win, there was balanced hitting, with Shane Victorino and Brock Holt leading the way. There was excellent defense, marked by Holt and Stephen Drew on the left side of the infield. And of course there was yet another fantastic performance from Jon Lester on the mound. This looked like a team that could contend.
Things were bound to turn around for the reigning champions, as so many players had been underperforming all at once. They had also lost more one-run games than anyone in the league, suggesting that they were only a few plays from winning more games. And with the pitching staff turning in quality start after quality start, the Sox were a few hits away from getting the train back on the backs.
There has been a ton of talk about the youth movement in recent weeks, with Christian Vazquez and Mookie Betts leading the charge. But Betts has now returned to Pawtucket, and it has been the veterans that have turned things around. Victorino has provided the spark in right field that this team has been missing in his return from the DL. He gives the team an extra bat in the lineup that hasn’t been there all year, and he’s a real outfielder unlike Holt or Betts. Daniel Nava and Jonny Gomes are also slowly returning to their 2013 ways in left field. And with Jackie Bradley Jr. starting to hit a little, the worst outfield in the game could be getting a little bit better.
But the biggest reason this team might be in position to make a second half run lies in the rotation. Between Lester, John Lackey and Clay Buchholz, there are three pitchers on the staff capable of being aces. With Buchholz putting together two solid starts in a row, they could get on a role. Rubby de la Rosa also has been nothing less than stellar at Fenway Park. Even Jake Peavy has pitched well. And in the bullpen, Andrew Miller is quietly putting together a career year. He would be the man to get the game to Koji Uehara come October should the team make a run.
It’s notable that the Red Sox swept a decent Kansas City team this weekend without David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia having much of an impact. The two stars of the Red Sox were a combined 2-25 in the series, and continue to struggle. They are usually the ones picking up their teammates, but it has been the other way around recently. You have to believe they are likely to get hot sometime soon, and should everyone else keep playing well, this could be a scary team to face in August.
There are a lot of reasons to like this team right now. But then you remember that it’s July 21 and they are 46-52. Just two weeks ago, almost everyone but the players were throwing in the towel. So what can Ben Cherington do to prepare for the Trading Deadline now?
I think he needs to wait at least a week. If the team wins 5 of the next 7, or 4 of the next 5, he simply can’t sell at the deadline. There’s no way he could explain trading away a postseason hero such as Jonny Gomes to a team that still believes it has a chance. But should they lose 3 of the next 5, he needs to do what’s best for the future. However, it’s worth remembering that Cherington could still trade players away in August.
On the other hand, I don’t think this team need to be buyers at the trading deadline. What do they really need to buy? A third-baseman? An eighth outfielder? Costs skyrocket at this time of the year, and it wouldn’t be worth trading away any of the prized youngsters for a mediocre filler piece in the lineup. I think all the talent the team needs is on the roster already – they just need to all play well together.
So I suggest Cherington holds his cards at least until the 28th. If things are still looking up, try to ride the wave, then re-evaluate in mid-August. We can always sell then. But if the Sox have trouble on this upcoming road trip, I wouldn’t be opposed to selling.
What do you think the Red Sox should do these next 10 days? Would you be upset if they became sellers? Please comment below.