If the Boston Red Sox intend to make a playoff push in the second half of the season, they'll likely need to go after some outside help. Below is a shopping list that may come in handy for the Red Sox as the trade deadline approaches:
2. More offense
To say that Boston is "offensively challenged" would be an understatement.
The Red Sox recently went eight straight games without ever scoring more than three runs, and they only managed to put up that many once during the stretch.
On the way to winning the World Series in 2013, Boston led all of Major League Baseball in averaging 5.27 runs per game. This year's club is scoring nearly a full run-and-a-half less. From ESPNBoston.com's Gordon Edes:
The Sox averaged 3.86 runs per game in their first 72 games. Only five times in their history have they averaged fewer. Two were war years (1943 and 1945), one was 1968 -- when the entire big leagues went into a collective slump, prompting a lowering of the mound -- one was in 1932, when the Sox lost 111 games and one was in 1992, when they finished last.
Edes also notes that Boston is on pace to plate just "306 runs" at Fenway Park, which would be the team's lowest home output since 1945.
For the Red Sox to have a chance of returning to the postseason this year, their lineup will have to become significantly more potent. Any efforts Boston might make to bolster its roster will almost certainly involve outfielders.
David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and Mike Napoli are fixtures at DH, second base and first base, respectively.
Before the season started, catcher A.J. Pierzynski was signed to a one-year $8.25 million contract with the though that either Christian Vazquez or Blake Swihart (both ranked among the organization's top 10 prospects) would fill the position in the future. If Pierzynski is to be replaced, it'll be from down on the farm not through a trade.
Last month Boston re-signed Stephen Drew at roughly $10 million for the remainder of the season, then installed him at shortstop and shifted phenom Xander Bogaerts to third base. Barring a catastrophic slump, neither of them will be going anywhere either.
The Red Sox's infield is locked in. The outfield, on the other hand, is a mess.
Center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is struggling to hit above .200, right fielder Shane Victorino isn't healthy and left field is a revolving door of various players. Brock Holt and his .318 batting average have been a very pleasant and unexpected surprise, but sadly he can't play every position simultaneously.
In order to combat its scoring woes, here are three outfielders Boston may want to pursue in the weeks ahead:
The Red Sox are rumored to be showing interest in Kemp, but there are conflicting reports as to the validity of the rumors. On Sunday Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe wrote "The Red Sox, who need to improve their righthanded hitting, spent significant time watching Kemp last week." However, on Monday WEEI.com's Rob Bradford countered with:
According to a major league source, there is "nothing going on" regarding the Red Sox and a possible acquisition of Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp.
There had been reports that the Sox were heavily scouting Los Angeles, with Kemp as a potential target. But while the Red Sox continue to explore multiple avenues in regard to upgrading their outfield's offensive production, according to the source there is no momentum regarding any deal involving the Dodgers outfielder.
Regardless of whether or not Boston is currently chasing Kemp, he's definitely someone who could add a spark to the Red Sox's batting order.
Kemp made the All-Star team and finished second in the NL MVP voting in 2011 and was again an All-Star in 2012. He's been plagued by injuries ever since, though, appearing in just 73 contests in 2013. After getting off to a slow start this season, Kemp is batting .310 in 44 games dating back to May 3.
The major downside with Kemp is that he still has five-and-a-half seasons left on an eight-year, $160 million contract that runs through 2019.
Dexter Fowler, Houston Astros
Fowler is in the second season of a two-year, $11.6 million deal, and he is eligible for arbitration in 2015. But he likely doesn't fit into the Astros' long-term plans, and they could be happy to trade him in order to build for the future.
This season Fowler is hitting .277 with six home runs, 24 RBI and a .383 on-base percentage. But like Kemp, he has overcome a slow start, batting .313 with a .431 OBP in 174 plate appearances since May 12. Fowler also has stolen six bases, which would lead a Red Sox club that has swiped a total of just 27 bags all year.
Seth Smith, San Diego Padres
Smith will be a free agent at the end of the season, and San Diego might be eager to get what they can for the 31-year-old before his contract expires. In 64 games for the Padres, Smith is hitting .286 with a .396 OBP.
His power numbers are what should be of great interest to Boston, though—Smith's eight home runs would rank third on the team behind Ortiz (17) and Napoli (9), while his .519 slugging percentage would be tops on the Red Sox by a large margin over Ortiz's .478.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.