June 28 – Last month, people wrote the Red Sox obituary.
After a faceplanting out of the gate, the Red Sox looked like obvious sellers, and with a host of key players approaching the free agency, the teardown could have been quick and dramatic.
Utilities? The Red Sox are rolling, leading the AL Wild Card race and are arguably the most interesting club to watch for the upcoming trade deadline.
While a blockbuster Xander Bogaerts trade is likely off the table, otherwise the Red Sox are in a unique position where they could do just about anything. The club is still in need of filling, veterans may be on their way out and a ton of prospects knocking on the door, so are the Red Sox going all in? Handing over the keys to some of the younger players? Both?
It’s a fascinating dynamic and there’s no clear right path, but it doesn’t matter which way the club is headed. Red Sox head baseball officer Chaim Bloom has some tough decisions to make.
1. A big swing? Red starter Luis Castillo
If the Red Sox want to make a clear statement that they are in it to win it, adding the best starting pitcher on the market would be a great way to do it. Luis Castillo is a former All-Star who will remain under team control until next season and currently has a 3.71 ERA, and coupled with Chris Sale’s imminent return could elevate Boston’s rotation from just good and deep to borderline elite.
There’s no doubt that Boston has the pieces to make such a trade, but it may not have the guts to foot the bill. Castillo would need a substantial package of prospects, one that would almost certainly include fast-rising pitcher Brayan Bello and at least one other blue chipper before Cincinnati even thinks about it.
Given Bloom’s often expressed desire to build lasting success, a bold move like this wouldn’t fit, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea. One advantage of having a deep farming system is that they can make big moves and still have cards to play later, and the Red Sox’s recent success in building organizational depth has given them a lot of young talent to work with .
2. Can Sox target elite losers?
If the Red Sox plan to make a big move on the deadline, adding an elite assistant pitcher seems more likely than a front-line starter like Castillo. Boston has stabilized its shaky bullpen by raising Triple-A righty John Schreiber (0.79 ERA in 24 games) and installing former first-round pick Tanner Houck as closer (6 for 6 in save odds), but the club could undoubtedly use another top arm. to use .
Who could get them? Gregory Soto from Detroit would probably top the list. The 27-year-old lefty has a 2.67 ERA and 14 saves, despite pitching for one of the worst baseball teams, and won’t hit a free agency until 2026 either. Pittsburgh’s David Bednar is another attractive option, he is also 27 with a 1.78 ERA and 11 saves and will remain under team control until 2026.
Soto and Bednar are guys you can build a bullpen around for the long haul, but those extra years of team control won’t come cheap. Another option is to add a more established pitcher as a cheaper hire, someone like Chicago Cubs rightfully David Robertson or Colorado’s Daniel Bard†
Bard in particular would make a great story. A decade ago, a former top contender with the Red Sox, Bard famously burst out, spending seven years away from the big leagues before making a comeback and reviving his career in Colorado. He currently has a 1.88 ERA and 15 saves with the Rockies, and a return to Boston would both boost the club and complete the circle of his stellar career. Better yet, he could probably be hired for a similar prospect to the one Boston gave up for Kyle Schwarber last summer.
3. Buy and sell? How Sox can improve creatively
The Red Sox have had no problems scoring points in recent weeks, but the club could still use a big bat and first base is the logical place for an upgrade. While Franchy Cordero has played well since being called up in late April, he and Bobby Dalbec have still paired up for sub-replacement-level production, and top contender Triston Casas isn’t likely to be in position for a promotion anytime soon thanks to a sprained ankle that left him in the past. month aside.
Of the available first basemen, Washington’s Josh Bell checks many boxes. He’s a former all-star hitting .308 with 11 home runs and a .882 OPS, and he’s also a pending free agent, so he wouldn’t block Casas in the long run. Brian Reynolds of Pittsburgh may be another more expensive option, opening up the possibility of a Reynolds-Bednar blockbuster.
Such a trade would almost certainly require the inclusion of top outfield prospect Jarren Duran, but the Red Sox could also be heading in a completely different direction. Jarren Duran has played well as a substitute for Kiké Hernández while the center fielder is out, and with Hernández and Jackie Bradley Jr. both imminent free agents, he’s made a strong case for why he deserves one of those spots in 2023.
Maybe even earlier than that.
Rather than trade Duran, the Red Sox could just as easily have Hernández or Bradley Jr. trade and place Duran in their place in the starting lineup. Either one would likely bring back at least a decent prospect, cementing Boston’s organizational depth, while also cashing in on other assets to improve its big league roster. The club could do something similar with left-handed reliever Josh Taylor or any of the other three left-handers in the bullpen, especially if Bloom brings in another top reliever from elsewhere.
Obviously there are plenty of moving parts in the game, but if Bloom plays his cards right, the Red Sox can meet the deadline with a better, deeper and more streamlined roster, well positioned for October and years to come.
E-mail: [email protected]† Twitter: @MacCerullo.