Red Sox will look elsewhere, within for help

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Red Sox will look elsewhere, within for help

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
Tampa -- In less than three weeks, the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline will arrive, offering the Red Sox one more opportunity to upgrade their roster and fill needs.

For now, it's difficult to say definitively exactly what those need are. With Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz currently on the disabled list and Josh Beckett unableunwilling to pitch in Tuesday's All-Star Game, the starting rotation is, to put it charitably, problematic.

But most of the injuries to starters are minor in nature and it's likely both Beckett and Lester will resume their regular turns within the next week.

Moreover, the starting pitching is so threadbare that there's little in the way of front-line pitching available - even if the Sox were willing to make a bold move.

That leaves three areas for the Red Sox to address by month's end.
1) Right field

J.D. Drew has provided 10 extra-base hits in the first 90 games and the production at the position has been almost non-existent.

Some big names (Carlos Beltran, perhaps Michael Cuddyer) are available, but every indication is that the Red Sox are not thinking big at this position. Beltran will be owed 6 million at the deadline, and while ownership will be willing to increase payroll somewhat, that's a significant investment leap.

With the highest-scoring lineup in the game, there's no compelling need to land a big bat. Instead, it's far more likely that the Sox will be more inclined to add a complementary part, someone such as Jeff Baker of the Chicago Cubs.

Baker crushes left-handed pitching and is affordable.

The Sox don't need an everyday All-Star; they'd settle for a better version of Darnell McDonald.

2) Bullpen

The answers here might come from within.

If Bobby Jenks can stay healthy and give the club another experienced late-inning power arm, the Sox would be in better shape.

Similarly, if Franklin Morales can throw as well as he has in recent weeks, the urgency to find a lefty reliever would quickly lessen.

If, however, one or both pitchers stumble, the Sox would likely view their bullpen as inadequate for the demands of September and beyond.

Almost every contender seeks a bullpen upgrade at the deadline; the Sox would be no different.

3) Shortstop

Jed Lowrie (shoulder) hasn't swung a bat in weeks and likely won't return until August. Marco Scutaro has been fine as the starter, but he, too, has a history of breaking down.

If something were to happen to Scutaro in the coming weeks, the Sox would be caught with few options at a critical position. Drew Sutton is a useful role player, but would be exposed as an everyday infielder. Both Yamaico Navarro and Jose Iglesias lack the experience and polish to take over on a full-time basis.

Acquiring an experienced, tested middle infielder isn't just prudent - it's essential.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam.

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

BOSTON -- Every year it seems like there are major issues or question marks to start spring training where the answers are up in the air.

In 2015, the Red Sox lacked an ace, had Hanley Ramirez moving to left field and Pablo Sandoval coming to town.

In 2016, Ramirez was moving back to the infield, but at a new position, and his bat was in question. Sandoval was coming off a year where he couldn’t hit his weight (he hit .245 and he last weighed in at 255 pounds). How would the starting rotation look after David Price?

This year, there seem to be three questions, but in a way, they’ve already been answered.

How will the Red Sox make up for David Ortiz’s absence?

Well, for one, the Red Sox have three Cy Young-caliber starting pitchers (Price, Chris Sale and Rick Porcello) in their rotation.

And two, Hanley Ramirez is coming off a career year with his highest career output in RBI (111) and second-highest home run total (30). And while Mitch Moreland isn’t the greatest hitter, he’s good for 20 or more home runs. Plus, it seems he’s holding a spot for a certain Red Sox prospect who’s bouncing back well from an injury.

 

Will Sandoval earn the starting third base job back?

The weight loss is a good sign, not only for the physical reasons, but it shows he’s mentally committed to being better.

However, that doesn’t guarantee he gets his job back.

“I’m not going to say [third base] resolved itself,” John Farrell told CSNNE.com, “but you know Panda’s done a very good job of committing to get himself in better shape and we’re looking forward to seeing that play to in spring training.”

Even if Panda can’t put it all together, Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner, both Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge would be competing for the job as well.

Holt as plan B -- in the infield? Who wouldn’t take that?

Who’s going to start at catcher?

Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart each have their pros an cons.

Leon did it all last year, but went from hitting .383 in his first 39 games to .242 in his last 39.

Vazquez has Ivan Rodriguez-esque abilities behind the plate, but couldn’t keep the staff under control last year and cannot hit.

Swihart, who turns 25 April 3, is the youngest of the three, has the most potential at the plate, but is far and away the worst of the three defensively at the most important defensive position -- excluding pitcher -- on the field.

They all have their drawbacks, but they’ve all shown at some point why they can be the Red Sox starting catcher in the present and future.

Everywhere else, the Red Sox seem to be in a comfortable position as pitchers and catchers reporting to camp draws ever nearer.

“I think the fact that we’ve got veteran players that have done a great job in staying healthy [and] young players that are getting more establishing in their return, we’re in a pretty good place in terms of the overall status of our position player group,” Farrell told CSNNE.com.

And it seems some players are confident in the team’s options as they ready for camp.

“We’re looking good in a lot of areas,” shortstop Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com. “Especially the pitching staff, [since] we just got Chris Sale one of the best in the game.”

“Pablo’s definitely going to bounce back, especially with the weight he’s lost."

Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

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Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

BOSTON -- “I didn’t feel that love after I made a pitching change in the sixth inning,” Terry Francona said after a 45-second standing ovation from Boston fans upon receiving the MLB Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA Thursday.

It’s without question the love for Francona runs deep in the city. Why wouldn’t it? He was the leader in breaking the 86-year old curse, and wound up winning another World Series title for Boston three years later.

Actually, he was more of a co-leader, working alongside the same person who won the MLB Executive of the Year honors from the BBWAA for 2016.

Theo Epstein -- who received an ovation 17 seconds shorter than Francona, but who’s counting -- reminisced about the Red Sox ownership group that took a chance on a young kid who wasn’t necessarily the ideal candidate to take over as GM of a team, but now that’s helped him build the Chicago Cubs into a winning franchise and establish a great working environment.

This October marks 13 years since the ’04 championship, 10 years since ’07 and six years since the pair left Boston. Without question they’ve left their mark on the city and forever changed Red Sox baseball.

And while the fans showed their undying gratitude for Francona with an ovation almost as long as his acceptance speech, the Indians manager recognized the favor the current Red Sox brass has done for him.

“I’d like to thank Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox for getting Chris Sale the hell out of the Central Division,” Francona said.