By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub
Rebuilding the Red Sox is really about rebuilding the pitching staff, down through the minor leagues, an area that is desolate. From Boston to the Gulf Coast, if you are looking for pitching, all you will find is tumbleweeds.
So here’s the question:
Is there any way the Red Sox can address this swiftly enough to both ensure the long term and significantly improve the short, particularly facing an offseason devoid of much useful free-agent pitching?
And the answer is yes.
But it won’t be easy.
Red Sox general manager Chaim Bloom has a few days left before the Aug. 31 trading deadline, but that doesn’t mean he has to make any and all deals now. Certainly, the Red Sox can make offseason trades as effectively (or more so) as they can deadline deals – with one obvious exception: the team would lose any value of departing free agents, like Jackie Bradley Jr., whom they must deal in the next 72 hours or not at all.
With all of that said, here is a rough plan for how the Red Sox can build for the long term and satisfy the short.
First, trade any free agents to be. This list includes Bradley, Mitch Moreland, Kevin Pillar and Martin Perez, among others. Bloom has already made one such deal (involving Brandon Workman) with the Philadelphia Phillies, acquiring lottery tickets in Nick Pivetta and Connor Seabold. Can they pitch? Who knows. But it was worth a shot.
Here’s the point: most of those guys aren’t coming back here and don’t figure into the Red Sox’ future. If the Sox do want them back, they can always re-sign them later. The Sox seemingly have a replacement for Bradley in minor leaguer Jarren Duran, one of their few prospects who feels close to the big leagues. So get whatever pitching you can now and hope that some of it sticks next spring.
Second, explore other deals for proven major league pitching, even if it’s a starter with only middle-of-the-rotation stuff. Let’s be real: the Red Sox aren’t trading for a new ace because they don’t have the collateral. But the Sox should seriously consider trading away some offense – from Andrew Benintendi to J.D. Martinez – if they can get something close to a solid major league starter in return.
In the case of Benintendi, he and Alex Verdugo seem redundant. (And frankly, Verdugo feels like a better player.) In the case of Martinez, he can opt out after the season. If the Red Sox eat some of Martinez’ remaining salary – and Bloom has indicated they are willing to include cash in deals, as the Sox did with Philly – they might be able to get some decent pitching back. Losing Martinez would obviously create a void in the lineup, but their chances of filling that on the free-agent market are better than filling their pitching needs.
Finally, fortify the lineup by signing offense on the free-agent market. Maybe that means taking a one-year flier on someone like Nelson Cruz, who is still hitting at age 40. Or maybe it means taking a run at Justin Turner on a shorter deal and moving Rafael Devers to first base or DH. Whatever the case, you get the idea: trade existing offense for pitching, then sign offense in free agency, even if you have to overpay, something the Sox always have been willing to do on shorter contracts.
Could someone like Cruz be a bust? Sure. But it gives the Sox a viable big league bat to go along with Xander Bogaerts and Devers (among others) while waiting for someone like Triston Casas to reach the big leagues.
Is this all far-fetched? Maybe. But the Red Sox have a lot to consider here. Bogaerts can opt out at the end of 2022 and, at the moment, they are a train wreck. They need to be better next year and they can’t just wait for Chris Sale. The Sox need to assemble a competitive team this offseason – as they did between 2012 and 2013 – though no one should expect a World Series.
Doing that is going to require some disassembly and some unsettling change.
But if you take an honest look, they really don’t have much of a choice.