Red Sox stuck in limbo at trade deadline

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Red Sox stuck in limbo at trade deadline

At a game over .500, nine games out of first place and four games behind the second wild-card leader, the Red Sox found themselves in limbo on the day of the non-waiver trading deadline.

They're not fully engaged in the playoff race, but neither are they completely out of it, and their actions -- or lack of same -- toward the deadline.

The Red Sox made just one deal involving personnel on their 25- man roster, and it was essentially a swap of journeyman relievers -- with a 36-year-old outfielder thrown in for good measure.

As deadline deals go, it didn't exactly rival the four-team blockbuster that sent Nomar Garciaparra out of town and sent the Red Sox to their first championship in 86 years.

Fans wanted more, of course, a dramatic move in one direction or the other. Some wished for a massive sell-off; others wanted a trade of impact.

The Red Sox delivered none of the above.

They weren't seller or buyers. They were more like interested bystanders.

If they had been, say, eight or 10 games below .500, then they could have done what the Philadelphia Phillies did -- throw up the "For Sale'' sign and make the best deals they could for some established veterans, stockpiling prospects to fight another day.

The Phils auctioned off outfielder Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence in part because they were really, truly out of contention.

Conversely, if the team had been eight or 10 games over, the Sox would have been motivated to obtain a difference maker. Maybe then, the Sox would have been convinced to package two of the three Killer B's -- Matt Barnes, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. -- to trade for Josh Johnson or someone else who could make a difference this year and several seasons beyond.

For the best example of that approach, think of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who, in the last week, landed Hanley Ramirez, Brandon League and Victorino.

But the Red Sox weren't in it, or out of it. They just were.

You could see the seeds for this approach being planted two weeks ago, when Cherington, the day before the second of the half of the season, noted that, in Boston, giving up on a season simply isn't permissible.

And it's here that "The Monster'' of which Theo Epstein spoke, is in play. Because there are tickets to be sold, sponsorships to be negotiated and TV ratings to bolster, starting over isn't an option.

Yet they haven't been good enough or consistent enough to warrant a big acquisition.

Limbo can be uncomfortable.

Larry Lucchino revealed a week ago that the Sox had "empowered'' general manager Ben Cherington to do something "bold,'' thereby whetting the appetites for those who hoped for either a fire sale or blockbuster acquisition.

"It was an unfamiliar position,'' said Cherrington. "You're trying to balance the desire to make the team better and give the guys in the clubhouse every chance, (vs) the reality of where we are. You need to do the math and the cluster of teams ahead of you and what you need to actually pass all of them. We have to weigh that against the desire to make the team better.

"It was an additional layer in the decision-making process, as opposed to the past, when we've sort of been more clearly buyers.''

Acknowledging Lucchino's permission to be bold, Cherington didn't "find anything bold that made sense to us.''

Cherington, in his first year as GM but a veteran of many deadlines as Theo Epstein's assistant, labeled this July experienced "uncharted waters. It gives you more clarity when you're on side or the other.''

And so, they stood (almost) pat, which is a gamble in itself, considering that the inaction is, in effect, a show of faith in team's underachieving roster.

"We're happy with the guys we have here,'' said Cherington. "It's really a reflection more on them. We believe in the group. We feel we like we have as good a chance as any of the teams in this cluster of teams fighting for a wild card and win a lot of games the next two months.''

That, in point of fact, may be the boldest move of all at the deadline, for Cherington and his assistants are banking on a bunch that have done little to inspire anyone through the first two-thirds of the season.

Mitch Moreland fancies himself an ideal fit with Red Sox

Mitch Moreland fancies himself an ideal fit with Red Sox

Mitch Moreland put up mediocre numbers and won a Gold Glove in a walk year. For his efforts, he received a one-year, $5.5 million contract on the open market. 

That’s not a lot. Maybe his .233 average stood out to teams more than his 22 homers, but either way it’s somewhat surprising that a one-year deal on low money is the best he could do given the fact that his career average was .258 prior to last year and he’d hit .275 or higher in two of his previous four seasons. 

The contract might not be a major score for Moreland, but he said choosing Boston was. 

“I had a couple options, but really just the whole fact that it’s place that I really wanted to play,” he said of Boston. “Getting an opportunity to come here and be a part of a winning environment, being part of a winning environment and having a chance to go out and play for a championship is huge to me, personally, and this is a great option. 

“What they were able to do last year, you know you were in for a fight when you were playing these guys. It was a gritty group of guys that had a ton of talent. I like to think of myself as that type player, as a gritty type player and hopefully I felt like I could fit in here and move forward and try to help out and make that goal happen of winning a championship. 

“That’s the main goal as far as playing this game for me. I feel like we’ve got a great opportunity here, and that was before the [Chris] Sale news broke, too, you know? So seeing that also, it just shows you that we’re in it. We’re in it and trying to go all out to make that happen. I’m happy to be a part of it.” 

It doesn’t hurt that his batting average is higher at Fenway Park than it is in any other stadium in which he’s had at least 30 at-bats. Moreland has hit .341/.378/.683 with four homers and eight RBI in 41 career at-bats at Fenway. Asked to explain his success in Boston, he noted that “comfortable” was the only word that came to mind. 

So what is the Red Sox’ plan for the former Rangers first baseman? To play him at first against righties and let Hanley Ramirez DH, John Farrell said. 

Farrell did also point to Moreland’s recent work against lefties. Last season was one of two in his career (the other being 2013) in which Moreland had a better average against lefties than against righties. Moreland hit .277/.320/.479 against southpaws last season, with .221/.293/.407 marks against righties.

“Against right-handed starters, Mitch will be the first baseman,” Farrell said. “That gives us the flexibility to DH Hanley in that spot. One thing I also mentioned to Mitch is we’re certainly open to his at-bats growing in number against left-handers, last year was his best year against left-handers in his big league career.

"With Mitch, getting everyday at-bats against right-handed starters at first base and Hanley moving to the DH slot, that alignment, we also have the ability against quality left-handers, where Hanley would go back to first base and then we’ve got the ability to rotate some guys through the DH slot. 

Added Farrell: “His strengths as a player are many, but we feel this is a very good fit in a number of ways, and positionally first and foremost.” 

Red Sox make Mitch Moreland signing official

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Red Sox make Mitch Moreland signing official

The Red Sox officially announced the signing of first baseman Mitch Moreland Thursday. To make room for him on the 40-man roster, the team designated left-handed pitcher Williams Jerez for assignment. 

Moreland has played his entire career with the Rangers, winning a Gold Glove at first base last season. He hit .233/.298/.422 with 22 homers and 60 RBI for the Rangers last season before becoming a free agent. He has a career batting average of .254, with a career-high 23 homers in both the 2013 and 2015 seasons. 

A second-round pick of the Red Sox in the 2011 draft, Jerez started his professional career as an outfielder before being moved to pitcher.