CLEVELAND — There was Drew Pomeranz a year ago and Eduardo Nunez in July. Now, there’s Rajai Davis.
The Red Sox have continually pushed forward with in-season trades, and the timing is hard to ignore. As the Sox have soared in August — they’re 16-4 since the non-waiver trade deadline, and nipping at the idle Houston Astros’ heels for best record in the American League — the value of new blood in a clubhouse and a lineup are shining through.
Not every deal is of great impact. See Fernando Abad, who’s essentially MIA. Not every deal of great impact right away, either. See Year 2 Pomeranz, who went toe to toe with Corey Kluber in Wednesday night’s 6-1 Sox win over the Indians. Somehow, that wasn’t surprising in Pomeranz’s best year yet.
But either way, Dave Dombrowski is not one to remain idle at the trade deadline, a stark contrast to the Astros — the team the Sox now could dethrone for home-field advantage in the A.L. playoffs. Houston’s decision not to make any notable upgrades this year brought outspoken disappointment from both the ace of the staff, Dallas Keuchel, and Josh Reddick, the former Sox outfielder.
“You’re aware that if you make a move that’s viewed positively, that it can have a great influence mentally on your team,” Dombrowski said earlier this month on the Baseball Show podcast of the impact of trades. “However, you would not make a move strictly for that purpose. … It really comes down to how your team performs once the players arrive.”
They’re performing alright.
The Sox’ home runs have spiked this month. One internal theory is that the new, lengthened look to the lineup has contributed significantly, as opposed to things simply evening out after power was scarce most of the year.
It’s a viable contributing factor. Nunez and Rafael Devers show up, and pitchers can’t pitch around the other names as they did previously. There are more threats and more opportunities for mistakes to be capitalized on.
Nunez ripped his sixth home run since joining the Red Sox on Wednesday night, giving him two more long balls in 22 games with the Red Sox than he had in 76 games with the Giants this season.
Power is something Nunez really showed for the first time in his career last year, with 16 in all.
“For the last two years I've learned more 'top' than before,” Nunez said, referring to lifting the ball more. “Before I was more [swinging] down, line-drive hitting, ground ball to the opposite field. So I changed my approach.
“We have a little camp in the Dominican with [Robinson] Cano, [Edwin] Encarnacion, [Jean] Segura, all those guys. And we have a hitting coach, that's Luis Merced over there, we figured out that on an inside pitch, I tried to hit the ball to the right field, we decided to pull the ball. We decided it's better to pull the ball.”
Still, the Sox didn’t expect this kind of power. They expected just a lift.
“I don’t know that we were thinking home run,” manager John Farrell said. “He was swinging the bat well. We needed to add to our offense, which, let’s face it, month of July we were stagnant. He’s done that, and the power certainly has been there. He’s such a good high-ball hitter, and that’s where a lot of those home runs have come from, pitches up.”
Now, Davis is here. He’ll play center field, Farrell said after Wednesday night’s game, presumably in an everyday capacity, although that’s to be seen.
(Deven Marrero was sent back to the minors to make room for Davis, who is to be around Thursday. Blaine Boyer also returned to the roster from the disabled list, with Hector Velazquez sent down.)
Jackie Bradley Jr. may not be down too long with a thumb sprain, but if you’re in the Red Sox clubhouse, it has to sit well with you knowing that even as September creeps up, more help has arrived. Rather instantaneously, too. Bradley gets an MRI in the morning, a trade is made in the afternoon.
“When we found out this morning, picked up the phone and called Billy Beane back today and moved it along at a quicker pace, because we had room on the roster for him,” Dombrowski said.
There’s power in trades, including power that’s unexpected.