We are nearly a third of the way through the season, and a whole lot has happened. It seems like two seasons have already completed in Beantown with very separate results.
In April and the beginning of May, the Red Sox struggled to hit, pitch or do much of anything. New acquisitions Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford bore the brunt of the criticism from the Boston media, and it appeared that the season would spiral out of control after a 2-10 start.
Since then, the Sox have gone 28-13 and have finally begun to validate everyone's preseason predictions. Currently, the Sox sit in first place in the AL East, and things seem a lot brighter. The pitching has come around, the offense is scorching hot and the rest of the American League has a lot to worry about.
With a majority of the season ahead of us, a lot of things can still change. The trade deadline is not until July 31st, but teams are surely scouting everywhere possible to find the player or two to put them over the top. As of now, the Red Sox have few holes, and are likely to be quiet for the most part. However, they could use a piece or two to stay ahead of the hated New York Yankees.
Here are nine players who could don Red Sox uniforms by the end of July.
One of the Red Sox's major needs lies in the depth department. They would like to keep Jose Iglesias in the minors while he develops, and the combination of Darnell McDonald, Mike Cameron and Marco Scutaro is simply not getting the job done.
Jeff Baker is tearing the cover off the ball in limited action, posting a .368/.382/.483 line in 87 at-bats.
Baker is currently on the DL with a groin strain.
Add another Chicago Cub to this list.
One issue the Red Sox have had, for the past few seasons (aside from glorified DH Victor Martinez), struggled to get offensive production from their catchers. Jarrod Saltalamacchia has been a disappointment with his .278 on-base percentage this season and has become nothing more than a stopgap.
Although Geovany Soto is struggling just as much (.228 BA), he has a track record of putting up solid numbers. Adding him to an outstanding lineup, in addition to playing for a contender, would rejuvenate Soto and help the Red Sox keep their offensive output at a high level.
One of the major issues the Red Sox have going forward is the reliability of their starting rotation. Aside from Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester, the Sox simply do not know what they are going to get on a daily basis.
Sure, Josh Beckett looks like he has recaptured his 2007 form, but would anyone really be surprised if he struggled the rest of the way, given the up-and-down nature of his tenure in Boston? I won't even elaborate on Dice-K and John Lackey.
Although Brett Myers has yet to pitch in the American League, he's a reliable guy over the course of his career. He has had a rebirth in Houston, becoming the ace of a last-placed team. Should Houston chose to rebuild, Myers could provide the Sox with the back-end-of-the-rotation solidification the team needs to sustain a pennant challenge.
Here is another option, should the Red Sox attempt to strengthen the back of their rotation. Francisco Liriano has become available as a result of the Twins struggles and was rumored to be dealt before the season began.
After a disastrous start to the season, Liriano seems to have recovered and has put together a string of decent starts. His BAA is at an impressive .218, he just needs to limit his walks and keep his pitch count down. He has electric stuff and could go on a streak of outstanding starts to propel a team into the playoffs. That team could be the Red Sox.
One of the aforementioned problems the Sox have is their bench and their inability to bring an impact player to get things going. David DeJesus would be a perfect solution to this problem. The Sox have some talented outfielders waiting in the wings (Ryan Kalish and Josh Reddick) but could use a veteran presence before turning over the keys in 2012.
After struggling in 2010, many teams passed on adding the career .287 hitter to their roster. DeJesus brings a certain energy to a ballclub with his play, and would be an excellent addition to the Red Sox for the stretch run. Oakland will certainly be willing to listen to offers for the 31-year-old.
Here comes the debate.
The Mets have all but conceded that if they do not plan on bringing back Jose Reyes in 2012, they will deal him before the trade deadline. The Mets are out of contention already (pretend to be shocked) and could look to add pieces for the future instead of committing nine figures to an injury prone shortstop.
The Red Sox have the pieces to make this deal work. Daniel Bard will likely replace Jonathan Papelbon as closer in 2012, but he could be included in any possible deal. Jed Lowrie has had a breakout year for Boston and could also be dealt.
Resigning Reyes would not be a foregone conclusion should this deal go down. The Sox would receive draft picks should he walk at the end of the season. Adding a player of Reyes' caliber would definitely make the Sox the clear favorites to win the World Series. The Red Sox are saddled with some bad contracts but would have a degree of flexibility after ridding themselves of Marco Scuttaro and J.D. Drew. I would not be shocked if this deal happened.
The Cleveland Indians sport one of the best records in baseball, and this can largely be contributed to the shrewd moves made by management over the past few seasons. They have a slew of young, talented players that should keep Cleveland in contention for seasons to come. One of their older players, Grady Sizemore, appears to be heading out of town. In his prime, Sizemore was a five-tool player capable of carrying an entire lineup. Now, Sizemore is an aging center fielder with a big contract that Cleveland would like to move.
The Red Sox would certainly love to add Sizemore to their roster. He has had a solid start to this season (small stint on the DL aside) and could draw attention to teams that need to add a final piece to their respective puzzles.
The likelihood of this deal happening has decreased significantly with the surprising form of the Indians, but should Cleveland look with an eye to the future while contending in 2011, dealing Sizemore to Boston may be an option.
As a general rule to teams making playoff runs, you can never have enough pitching, whether it be starting or the bullpen. The Red Sox are no different.
The Sox have had a mixed bag of results so far from their bullpen. Bobby Jenks and Hideki Okajima have been disasters, and Jonathan Papelbon and Daniel Bard have yet to be as sharp as fans would hope. Getting the last outs of games has been a difficult task at times and come playoff time, this problem will be magnified if the Sox do not address it.
Chad Qualls would be a good option for Boston in this spot. He has been a reliable pitcher for the majority of his career, and with the amount of quality arms in the Padres bullpen, San Diego will certainly be willing to part with him. Qualls is off to a good start this season and could be a valuable addition to the Red Sox bullpen.
More bullpen help!
Joel Hanrahan has had an outstanding season for the Pittsburgh Pirates, going a perfect 14-14 in save opportunities. Most of the arguments for adding Chad Qualls could be applied here. The Red Sox have to solve their bullpen problems if they want to remain ahead of the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays for the rest of the season.
Hanrahan would be more difficult to acquire, given he is only 30-years-old. However the Pirates have failed to prove they are willing to spend money to keep their players, making a deal for Hanrahan a realistic possibility. He would add a dependable arm to a bullpen that suddenly lacks any reliability.