Expect 2013 to be much quieter in Boston.
The difference is that the Red Sox are leading the AL East and have been for some time. This time last year, Boston was barely over .500.
Heading into the trade deadline, the Red Sox don’t exactly have a ton of weak spots, but that doesn't mean they’re not shopping around. There are three spots open for possible upgrades: the bullpen, the rotation and the left side of the infield. Most likely, the Sox will bring in some reinforcements for the bullpen, which has been plagued by injuries all year.
Here's a look at four players at the center of Red Sox trade rumors and the odds of each trade actually going through.
Odds of a trade: Likely
With the injury issues the Red Sox bullpen has been battling throughout the season—Joel Hanrahan out for the year, Franklin Morales in and out and now Andrew Miller out for the year too—Boston could use some help in the late innings.
The seventh and eighth inning setup man slipped recently, giving up the most runs this season (three) in a loss to the Cubs on Monday night. He now has a 4.00 ERA for the season , but it was at 3.04 before his most recent outing. He's allowed 12 earned runs in 27 innings.
Thornton has a 3.54 career ERA over a decade in the majors and would be a great Band-Aid over Boston's bullpen blues.
With the only other apparent competition coming from the Braves, Boston could stand a good chance of landing the lefty.
Odds of a trade: Highly Unlikely
As far as players the Red Sox could potentially part ways with at the deadline go, third baseman Will Middlebrooks has surfaced frequently in discussions.
Middlebrooks had a breakout season in 2012 before missing the end with a broken wrist. But since his return in 2013, he's done very little to impress. The 24-year-old posted a poor .194 batting average over 53 appearances before being demoted to Triple-A.
Perhaps the season's biggest surprise, Jose Iglesias, has since stepped into Middlebrooks' position full-time—that is, until Stephen Drew injured his hamstring and Iglesias had to slide over to shortstop. Call-up Brock Holt has mainly taken over at third.
Without both Middlebrooks and Drew producing at this time, the Red Sox could be looking to upgrade their left side of the infield. Yet the organization appears committed to Middlebrooks, who last season looked on track to have a long and successful career in Boston.
The Sox continue to stress that they are simply committed to the plan to give Middlebrooks time to get back his swing in the minors. He's also put up strong numbers lately in Pawtucket, suggesting he's poised to bounce back in the second half of the year.
Though the Red Sox might have their ears open for potential third basemen and Middlebrooks would likely be looked at as good bait, don't count him out just yet.
Odds of a trade: Unlikely
It's possible the Red Sox are in the market for a starting arm. One option is the Cubs' Matt Garza.
The only reason the Red Sox would really consider acquiring another middle-of-the-rotation starter is because Clay Buchholz has spent the last month on the DL and Jon Lester has regressed significantly since his stellar start to the season.
But the Red Sox rotation remains solid and isn't in desperate need of an upgrade. John Lackey, Felix Doubront and Ryan Dempster have all pitched well enough to avoid being voted off the island.
Garza spent time on the disabled list this season with shoulder problems, and his health could be a concern. But he's been impressive when healthy, going 5-1 in 10 starts with a 3.22 ERA.
MLB Trade Rumors calls Garza the best available starter, and several teams are interested in pursuing him. The Red Sox have not been ruled out from that list, but it's not likely to happen. Buchholz should return before the month's end, and Garza could be considered too costly.
Odds of a trade: Unlikely
The other option for a starting pitcher: Cliff Lee.
Lee would obviously have a much bigger impact on the Sox rotation than Garza, and not many teams would turn their backs on an ace like him. But the real questions remain: Do the Red Sox truly need him and at what cost?
Several other teams will be taking a shot at Lee, and Philadelphia won't give him up if the price isn't right. The truth is, while he'd be a welcomed addition, Boston looks poised for a playoff run without him.