Welcome back to Read Sox. This week we consider the Red Sox (in)activity at the trade deadline, the summoning of Andrew Benintendi to the show and the importance of David Price over the next two months. We’ll also look at the road-heavy schedule the Sox have the rest of the way, Clay Buchholz’s emergence as a reliever and John Farrell’s opportunity to assert himself as a competent manager of the bullpen.
The trade deadline came and went with merely a whimper in Boston. Although rumored to be in on a few major deals (Chris Sale, Carlos Beltran), the Red Sox elected to make just one relatively minor move to add bullpen depth, getting LOOGY Fernando Abad from the Minnesota Twins. While this is not necessarily the standout move that many Red Sox fans wanted, Alex Speier of The Boston Globe details how Abad could be the left-handed specialist that the Red Sox have needed for much of the season. It is also important to note that while the Red Sox were not tremendously active on deadline day, Dave Dombrowski made a number of moves over the last month to improve aspects around the margins of this already competitive team. He added a right-handed utility infielder in Aaron Hill, a switch-hitting utility-infielder (and sort of outfielder) in Michael Martinez, a right-handed bullpen arm in Brad Ziegler, and a left-handed starter in Drew Pomeranz. Sure Chris Sale would have looked nice in a Red Sox uniform, but holding onto Andrew Benintendi and Yoan Moncada — the likely cost of acquiring a player of Sale’s ilk — was the more prudent course of action.
On Tuesday night, we got an initial glimpse of the benefit of Dombroski’s decision to not deal either of the Sox’s top prospects, as Andrew Benintendi has been called up to the big leagues. Benintendi started this season at High-A Salem, was promoted to Double-A Portland in May and will skip Triple-A all together on his route to Boston. Benintendi took a week or two to figure out the Double-A level, but ultimately showed that his standout performance at High-A was not limited to the lower level. Over 263 PA he hit .295/.357/.515, and only struck out six more times (30) than he walked (24). Impressive stuff from the 22-year-old. Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald notes that Benintendi will be the long-end of a left-field platoon with Bryce Brentz, who will play against opposing left-handed starters. And eventually the Brentz part should be played by Chris Young. A side benefit of the Benintendi call-up is that it allows Brock Holt to resume the super-utility role in which he has been most successful over the last two seasons and should help prevent him from getting overly fatigued.
Benintendi will likely take some time to adjust to this next level of pitching, as he has in each of his previous stops on the promotion ladder. Whether he will then take off and make things look easy like he has in the past (à la Dustin Pedroia), or go through an extended period of difficulty before figuring it out (à la Jackie Bradley Jr.) will be an interesting aspect of his development to watch. With this in mind, it is worth noting that Christopher Crawford, senior prospect writer at Baseball Prospectus, suggested that with Benintendi’s four plus tools it is difficult to see him not making an impact immediately.
This is an exciting move for the Red Sox in the immediate term and potentially for years to come.
For David Price, the 2016 trade deadline was a different experience than the 2014 and 2015 deadlines. In each of the last two seasons, Price had to deal with months of trade rumors and then everything that comes with being traded. Price told Tim Britton of the Providence Journal that he has enjoyed not being churned through the rumor mill and is happy to be staying in Boston. On Thursday night in Anaheim, Price showed what he is capable of on the mound, and, as Rob Bradford of WEEI.com notes, offered a beacon of hope for the final two months of the season.
The Red Sox are going to need strength in the second half, as they have a road-heavy schedule that, Alex Speier notes, the likes of which has only been seen once since 1961. Forty-one road games in their final 63 games provides a real test for this team. The Sox posted a 24-21 record (.533 winning percentage) over their first 45 road games; a rate that will need to continue if they want to stay in the thick of the AL East and Wild Card races.
This season has been unquestionably difficult for Clay Buchholz. At times it has appeared as though his tenure with the Red Sox was nearing an end, and on Monday Buchholz was fairly confident he was going to get traded. Reportedly the Red Sox had discussions about moving him but ultimately did not, a decision that Alex Speier suggests could change the broken cycle of acquiring pitchers in Boston. The Red Sox can work to fix pitchers rather than replace them. Brian Bannister, director of pitching analysis for the Red Sox, worked with Buchholz to adjust his release point back to the level it was in 2013, when he was dominant over 16 starts. Along these lines, in his notebook for The Boston Globe, Peter Abraham outlines how Buchholz is asserting himself as a reliever and should help make the Red Sox bullpen a team strength over the final two months of the season.
Speaking of the bullpen, Craig Kimbrel is back. Junichi Tazawa is back. Joe Kelly and Buchholz have been transitioned to bullpen roles. Matt Barnes and Robbie Ross Jr. have shown they are competent. Brad Ziegler and Fernando Abad have been added in trades. The depth is there. Now, as Matt Collins writes at Over the Monster, John Farrell is the key to getting the maximum value possible out of each player. Managing the bullpen is one very visible way a manager can augment his team’s record (see Showalter, Buck in Baltimore). With the relief pieces now in place, Farrell needs to do just that for the Red Sox.
Three Good Game Stories
On Saturday, Drew Pomeranz’s third start in a Red Sox uniform was underwhelming and the offense came up empty with runners in scoring position, resulting in a 5-2 loss to the Angels. In his game story, Rob Bradford writes that Pomeranz felt that, with the exception of a couple of batters, he threw the ball well. Hopefully that feeling translates to better results over his next few starts.
Heading into the ninth inning of Sunday’s game against the Angels, the Red Sox offense was mired in a streak of 16 consecutive scoreless innings. They then erupted for five runs in a wonderful comeback. Peter Abraham has details from the exciting win, including Xander Bogaerts describing the game as a potential turning point.
On Monday the Red Sox’s west coast road trip continued in Seattle, where the team was looking to build on Sunday’s late-inning heroics. Eduardo Rodriguez was excellent over 6.1 innings, Junichi Tazawa and Craig Kimbrel each threw scoreless innings, new-guy Aaron Hill hit a game-tying home run and Mookie Betts delivered the winner. Evan Drellich has more on the game and Mookie’s ongoing emergence as one of the elite players in the game.
Photo by Mike DiNovo/USA Today Sports Images