Boston Red Sox: 2nd-Half Changes the Team Must Make to Compete in AL East

John McGonigalCorrespondent IIJuly 16, 2012

Boston Red Sox: 2nd-Half Changes the Team Must Make to Compete in AL East

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    Coming off of one of the worst end-of-the-season collapses in baseball history, the Red Sox wanted to change things this year for the better. 

    However, not much has changed in terms of success on the field. 

    With a record of 45-44, the Boston Red Sox are currently sharing last place with the Toronto Blue Jays, sitting 9.5 games out of first place. 

    If the Sox want to get back into AL East contention, they'll have to shake things up a bit by adding a piece or two and managing their roster better. 

    Let's take a look at how Boston can put itself in the hunt toward the end of the season. 

Don't Mess with the Bullpen

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    With Boston's best bullpen arm of 2012 in Scott Atchison going on the 15-day DL, it could make sense to bring in another arm.

    People have talked about getting Rafael Betancourt, which could be beneficial if it doesn't hurt other endeavors financially.

    But, with the Red Sox getting Andrew Bailey back from injury, they probably don't need to go out and overspend on a premium reliever. 

    As a result of Bailey's injury, Alfredo Aceves got his chance to hold down the closer spot.

    Although he can be erratic, he's performed well, compiling 20 saves and 43 strikeouts in 45.2 innings of work.

    Bottom line, this group is what's holding down the hill, and its reliability has allowed the Sox to remain in and win many games.

Get Ryan Lavarnway Involved

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    With the New York Mets reportedly interested in Kelly Shoppach's services (per Peter Gammons), heralded prospect Ryan Lavarnway may finally get his chance to make an impact at the MLB level.

    Through 268 at-bats in 2012 (Pawtucket, Triple-A), Lavarnway carries a .306 average, seven home runs and 38 RBI.

    This year hasn't been his only good year, as he's proven his time is now to see valuable looks in the Red Sox lineup.

    Jarrod Saltalamacchia has performed well this season, and many thought he should have been considered for the All-Star team, but manager Bobby Valentine can work in Lavarnway whether at the backstop or DH.

    After years of grooming (drafted in 2008), the Baylor product is ready to step up and help push the Sox into contention for a playoff spot. 

Acquire Felix Hernandez

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    The Red Sox could probably get by and significantly improve with the addition of a Matt Garza or Wandy Rodriguez in the rotation via trade.

    However, Ben Cherington and Co. should be looking to bring in Felix Hernandez at all costs.

    King Felix has been one of baseball’s premier pitchers for the past few years, and considering how bad Seattle has been lately, Hernandez has been on the speculative trading block for a while now.

    In 132.2 innings pitched this season, the 26-year-old has a 2.92 ERA and two shutouts—much better than the current Boston rotation can boast.

    While his record is only 7-5, that’s partly because he’s pitching for a team that is 24th in runs, 29th in batting average and 30th in slugging percentage, making run support pretty scarce.

    Not only would the addition of Hernandez provide a reliable, premium arm in the rotation, but it would also take the pressure off the other pitchers in the rotation.

    Sure a trade of this magnitude would probably cost the "Sawx" some of their farm system, but if they want to guarantee competitiveness for an AL East title, it’s a move they need to get done. 

Ease Jacoby Ellsbury Back into It

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    After being injured trying to break up a double play on April 13, Jacoby Ellsbury had been out for a while.

    However, with the three games he's been back, Ellsbury has provided a quick and effective spark to the Red Sox lineup.

    But, Bobby Valentine should be cautious about overusing his perennial star too hastily.

    The Red Sox have a plethora of outfielders (even if some of them are underachieving) in Ryan Kalish, Daniel Nava and others, so it’s not like they can’t let Ellsbury take a day off if need be.

    In the long run, the Red Sox want to ensure the health and effectiveness of Ellsbury’s play, and if that means letting him rest a little bit, then they should take the hit in the lineup and do it. 

    At the end of the season, if the Red Sox find themselves in the playoff hunt, they want Ellsbury to be healthy with nothing holding him back, which is why they need to take it easy with him now.