I fully expected the Boston Red Sox to acquire a hitter at some point, either before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, or before the August 31 waiver trade deadline.
Their lineup has sputtered of late, scoring an average of just 4.5 runs a game in the month of July and hitting an anemic .223 for the month.
Names such as Nick Johnson, Victor Martinez, and Adrian Gonzalez have been rumored as potential trade targets for the Red Sox. While Martinez and Gonzalez are pie-in-the-sky type of reaches, the idea of Johnson being traded seemed realistic at least.
Johnson is a pending free agent on an awful Washington Nationals team and his career .399 on-base percentage would appeal to the Sox’ offensive approach. Johnson has a history as a contributor in a pennant race in the AL East; he was a semi-regular for the Yankees in 2002 and 2003.
Instead, the Sox cast their lot with Adam LaRoche, hoping that, for the second year in a row, a slugger from the Steel City could propel them into the postseason.
LaRoche, like his new teammates, is mired in a prolonged slump. He’s hitting just .109 since July 4th. However, he’s a noted second-half hitter: Since 2006, LaRoche has hit .314 in the second half, as opposed to .247 before it, with better power numbers.
His career track record indicates he is about to heat up. Perhaps with better lineup support, LaRoche will see better pitches and help produce runs for the Red Sox.
However, LaRoche has spent his entire career in the National League, which is widely regarded as the weaker of the two leagues. Also, many scribes who follow baseball more closely than I could dream to consider LaRoche below average for a first baseman both offensively and defensively.
While published reports insist that LaRoche will be in a time-share situation with Kevin Youkilis, Mike Lowell and David Ortiz, the Red Sox wouldn’t acquire a player making $7 million this year to simply platoon. The Sox must be worried about Lowell’s hip, Ortiz’s season-long hitting woes, or Youkilis being asked to do too much.
To me, LaRoche doesn’t sound like a resounding answer to the Sox' problems with their lineup. The better investment would have been to pursue Nick Johnson. From here, it looks like Boston GM Theo Epstein swung and missed.