Adrian Beltre has posted some impressive numbers in the early stages of his first season with the Red Sox. He has a .332 average, seven home runs, 40 RBI.
And two teammates eliminated.
Twice Beltre has run over leftfielders chasing a pop up, and twice said leftfielder left the game with soreness in the midsection. At this rate, Beltre might finish the season with a higher body count than error count.
But Beltre's wave of destruction got us thinking about some things the Red Sox could need as the season goes along. None are major fixes per se, but any of the following could make a big difference as the race for the AL East title heats up.
Beltre prompted this thought, as he first put Jacoby Ellsbury on the DL—and subsequently brought his toughness into question—and later sidelined Jeremy Hermida for a day or two.
Darnell McDonald has done a superb job filling in, playing perhaps the best ball of his career to date, but the Sox could use another established outfielder so they don't have to keep recalling the Jonathan Van Every's and Josh Reddick's of the world.
This has proven to be one of Theo's strengths over the years. He's procured the likes of Dave Roberts, Bobby Kielty, and Mark Kotsay off the waiver-wire, replacement parts all but all guys who played critical roles. Roberts and Kielty, in particular, essentially won games during the 2004 and 2007 World Series runs, respectively.
The Sox don't need to find a Manny Ramirez. But another serviceable big league outfielder to add some depth wouldn't hurt.
Hideki Okajima hasn't been as okey-dokey lately as he's been in the past. And the Sox clearly have a need for a reliable arm or two to bridge the gap from the starter to Bard and Papelbon.
This, of course, is a problem just about every major league team is dealing with. And that makes it that much harder of a role to fill. But the Sox clearly haven't gotten what they wanted from Okajma, Manny Delcarmen, and Ramon Ramirez. And don't get me started on Scott Atchison (who looks like he's 83 years old).
The answer may well lie in the pen right now, especially if Delcarmen can return to form, as he's shown glimpses of over the last few weeks. But another reliable lefty or a sturdy middle reliever would be a great find. Theo hasn't always done well here—Eric Gagne and Byun-Hyung Kim come immediately to mind—but he'll have to take a shot to plug some holes in the pen before Bard's arm falls off.
Alex Cora was never the most important player on the roster. But he played key roles for several Red Sox teams, providing steady defense at several infield positions while adding the occasional hot streak at the plate.
Bill Hall has been fine as a backup in the infield and outfield, and nobody is suggesting we replace him. But his defense can be suspect, and who knows if he'll hold up all year. I like what he's given the Sox, but a little insurance never hurts.
The ideal fit would be someone who can play second, short, and third steadily, even without providing much pop at the plate. But a late-inning defensive replacement or someone to take over if Hall goes down wouldn't be a bad idea.
Speed threats win playoff games. Simple as that.
Dave Roberts did it in 2004, and Joey Gathright would have done it last year had Jonathan Papelbon not picked the worst possible time to self-destruct. This isn't something the Sox need now, but something that could be critical come October.
Gathright is the perfect example. Boston picked him up off the scrap heap late last year for one thing and one thing only: late-game stolen bases. And then, with the season on the line against the Angels, he pinch-ran and did just that—swiped a key base and scored what at the time looked like a key insurance run (we all know what happened next and I will now go shave my beard with a cheese grater).
You can use a roster spot in the playoffs on someone who brings speed and little else, and it's proven valuable twice in the last six years. If the Sox can find a speedster on the waiver wire sometime between now and August, they'd be smart to stash them away somewhere.
Don't get me wrong, I love Mike Lowell. Everyone loves Mike Lowell. But right now he's doing little more than eating up a roster spot Boston could certainly utilize better.
Keeping Lowell around through April and early May proved invaluable, as he spelled Big Papi during the doldrums and produced as he always has. With Papi back to form, keeping an aging veteran who has little remaining range and no speed is a waste of a roster spot.
Especially with nagging injuries like Hermida's and Mike Cameron's, having a versatile bench player available would certainly be helpful. Lowell's bat is never a question mark, and he'd probably hit 15 homers if they put him in the lineup the rest of the way, but as his current role is constituted he's not serving a purpose.
Other than clogging the roster.
Boston could more easily address any of the previous mentioned needs if Lowell was gone, and could perhaps use Lowell to fill one of those holes, shopping him for pitching help, another outfielder or infielder, or a reserve speedster. You're not going to get much for for Lowell at this point anyway, so why not turn the classy veteran into a solution for one of your problems instead of a problem with no looming solution.