5 Reasons the Red Sox Shouldn't Blow Up Its Core at the Trade Deadline
The Boston Red Sox have weathered the storm that was the first half of the season and should keep the core together at the trade deadline.
Despite battling numerous injuries to key players the Red Sox have plugged in replacements and maintained one of the better offenses in the American League.
The starting rotation has kept the team from going on any major runs, but there is too much talent on the team to think that this will continue.
With the bulk of the starters back in the lineup the Red Sox are set for a strong second half.
Here are five reasons why the Red Sox should blow up their core at the trade deadline.
Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury Have Returned
Both Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford have finally returned to the starting lineup and are set to provide a significant boost to both the Red Sox offense and their outfield defense.
The Red Sox were forced to bring in enforcements such as Marlon Byrd and Scott Podsednik to fill in for Ellsbury and Daniel Nava, Ryan Sweeney and Darnell McDonald stepped in during Crawford’s absence.
Though the reinforcements played above their ability at times, overall they still didn’t provide what Ellsbury and Crawford are capable of.
Now that the anticipated starting left and center fielder’s are back the Red Sox can start to make a run at a playoff spot.
The Red Sox Starting Rotation Will Perform Better in the Second Half
So far the primary reason why the Red Sox have struggled in 2012 is their starting rotation has failed to perform as expected.
Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are the primary underachievers. All three have ERA’s over four when in 2011 they all had ERA’s lower than 3.50.
Some of this can be blamed on adjusting to the team’s new pitching coach, Bob McClure, who is the Red Sox’s third pitching coach in three years.
Despite the excuses the big three of the Red Sox rotation need to step it up in the second have. All three are capable of pitching like Cy Young candidates and they will be at the heart of the Red Sox turnaround in the second half of the season.
Adrian Gonzalez Will Get Hot in the Second Half
After the starting rotation, Adrian Gonzalez has been the biggest disappointment during the first half of the season.
While he has played Gold Glove caliber first base, he has struggled at the plate.
Not only is his batting average below his career numbers, as of July 17 it was a full 50 points lower than it was in 2011.
Aside from the significant drop in his batting average, Gonzalez has struggled to hit for power with just seven home runs as of July 17.
However, Gonzalez seems to have rediscovered his swing and is hitting .384 in his past 21 games (per BaseballReference.com).
If Gonzalez builds on that momentum and can regain his power he will be a force in the middle of the Red Sox lineup.
Bobby Valentine Has Gotten Acclimated to Boston
While Bobby Valentine may have made some questionable decisions during the beginning of the season that cost the Red Sox a couple of wins, he has settled in nicely as of late. Remember that Valentine was out of the game since 2009 and hadn’t managed in the major leagues since 2002.
One thing that has been clear is Valentine has noticeably taken control of the Red Sox bullpen.
Despite not having Daniel Bard in the setup role and with Andrew Bailey yet to pitch in a single game, Valentine has managed to use the relievers perfectly. The Red Sox bullpen has the second best ERA in the American League at 3.04 as of July 17 (according to Fangraphs.com).
Valentine also managed the injuries as best he could and now that Kevin Youkilis is gone he doesn’t have to put Adrian Gonzalez in right field.
With the season halfway over, Valentine has a better understanding of his team and will be able to make adjustments in the second half of the season.
The Red Sox May Look to Add Under the New Wild Card Format
Even though the Red Sox have underperformed they are only one game out of the second wild card spot.
Though they may not be the favorites come playoff time anything can happen and if they can manage to secure one of the two wild card spots they will at least have a shot at returning to the World Series.
Three of the teams ahead of the Red Sox in the wild card standings are bound to falter in the second half. The Cleveland Indians, Baltimore Orioles and Oakland Athletics have all played beyond expectations so far.
The Indians and Orioles are almost guaranteed to slip up at some point since both have negative run differentials.
The 9.5 game gap between the Red Sox and the first place New York Yankees makes it looks like the team is completely out of contention, the reality is they are still in the thick of things especially with the introduction of the second wild card spot.