The Red Sox enter the second half of the season with a record of 43-43, good for last in the AL East. Although they're only 2.5 games out of the second wild card spot, they'd have to finish ahead of four teams that currently have better records, and two that are also 43-43.
The odds are that the Sox won't make the playoffs. And even if they do, their pitching this year has been below average. It's hard to see them making much of a run deep into October.
If it doesn't work out for the Sox this year, there will almost certainly be a shake-up. For a team that ranks in the top five in payroll, mediocrity is not acceptable. The following slides show a number of ways the Sox can improve and rebuild for the 2013 season and beyond.
After being drafted sixth overall in the 2006 MLB Draft by the Detroit Tigers, Andrew Miller was fast tracked to the majors after only three games in the minors.
But he was hit to a tune of a 6.10 ERA in his eight games that year. In the next four seasons, he was shuffled between the majors and minors without finding much success. After recording an ERA of 5.69 with the Tigers and 5.89 with the Marlins, he was picked up by the Red Sox in 2011.
In Miller’s first season with Boston he showed a lot of the promise that led him to be drafted so highly out of North Carolina. Although he finished with a 5.54 ERA, he had a number of quality starts that led to Red Sox to bring him back for 2012.
This year he’s pitched to a 2.75 ERA out of the bullpen, striking out more than a batter per inning. At the age of 27, he seems to have finally put everything together.
That’s why he should be in the rotation next year.
The Red Sox have let him grow as a pitcher, and as a result his confidence has finally come back. After an offseason of training, it’s time for him to have another crack at the rotation. If he can fulfill the potential that once led him to be included in a trade for Miguel Cabrera, he could be a front end of the rotation starter.
The Red Sox's starting outfield next year should be Carl Crawford in left, Jacoby Ellsbury in center, and Cody Ross in right. With apologies to Ryan Kalish, Ryan Sweeney and Daniel Nava, there’s just no room for them for factor into the Sox’s lineup next year.
All three of them have value, however. The Red Sox should explore trade options for all three and eventually settle on some pitching help.
Kalish has the potential to be a .280 batting average, 20 homer guy, and both Ryan Sweeney and Daniel Nava have the ability to get on base. They can certainly help other teams, and rather than sitting on the Red Sox bench, they should be traded for some pitching to help out Boston's pedestrian staff.
David Ortiz has been the best Red Sox player by far this season. He ranks in the top three in the AL in runs scored, SLG, and OPS, and top 10 in batting average, HRs, RBI and walks. He’s been one of the best offensive players in the majors this season and has carried the Sox offense.
As I detailed here, advanced stats point to Ortiz keeping it up. Big Papi has made it clear that he’s done with signing one year contracts and being strung along each season.
It’s time for the Red Sox to make a multi-year commitment to Ortiz, so they can keep one of the top hitters in the game.
It’s not that Josh Beckett has been terrible. But he hasn’t pitched like an ace this year—which is how he’s paid. In his seven years with the Red Sox, he’s only had three years with an ERA below four.
Though in his time with the Marlins, in every season in which he pitched over 110 innings, he had an ERA below four.
As A.J. Burnett has shown this year, switching from the AL to NL, and from a large market to a small market, can yield great results for pitcher. Burnett, who had a 4.79 ERA in three years with the Yankees, is 10-2 this year with a 3.68 ERA with the Pirates. It’s certainly possible that Beckett can return to being ace-like if he gets traded to the National League.
If the Red Sox are able to get some bullpen help, and/or minor league prospects that can help them in the future, they should pull the trigger on a deal. Also, shaving some money off of their payroll will aide them. All for a pitcher who has an ERA+ of only 97 this year.
John Lackey’s contract is right up there with Carl Crawford’s as two of the worst moves in the fiscally irresponsible era of the 2007-2010 Red Sox. Now all of the sudden, the team is set on saving costs and may not even be able to sign Jacoby Ellsbury after the 2013 season.
Lackey represents all that is wrong with this ball club, with the contracts as well as the "chicken and beer" pitching staff.
He needs to go.
Because no matter how he pitches, he will not live up to the money that he’s owed for the next few years.
It doesn’t really matter as much what the Sox get for him, just that he stays far away for the team. Though as we just discussed with Beckett, there’s certainly potential for him to have success at the NL level.
Out of everyone in the Red Sox organization, there's only one person that isn’t enjoying the year Jarod Saltamacchia is having, and that’s Ryan Lavarnway.
The 24-year-old out of Yale has nothing left to prove that he can hit in the majors, and only has the current Sox catcher blocking his path. He put up a .295/.390/.612 line in 264 at-bats in Triple-A last season, and although he only hit .231 in 43 at bats in the majors, he hit with power. He’s continued to bat well in Triple-A again this year, at a .308/.398/.460 clip.
And although Salty has hit 17 home runs this year, he only has a .289 OBP, not much lower than his career average of .304.
General manager Ben Cherington will have to decide who he wants to keep as his catcher of the future. There’s no logic in keeping Lavarnway around in Triple-A again next year; something needs to be done. In return for either player, the Sox should look to acquire major league ready pitching.