Red Sox

How Red Sox could blow this team up if they don't start playing better, and five stars they could trade

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How Red Sox could blow this team up if they don't start playing better, and five stars they could trade

BOSTON -- David Price may have been on to something.

Back in April, the Red Sox left-hander issued a warning after a two-game sweep at Yankee Stadium.

"If we don't play better, there's going to be a lot of changes around here," he told the Boston Globe. "I remember when Boston won the World Series in 2013. In 2014, they were trash. Trash . . . If we don't start playing better, J.D. Martinez, Mookie Betts, maybe myself, we could get traded."

What sounded over the top and alarmist suddenly feels within the realm of possibility, even if it's not exactly likely. But if the Red Sox continue nose-diving against their playoff competition, we shouldn't discount the chance of the defending World Series champions placing their finger on the button. Maybe it's time to start thinking about a purge.

On Tuesday night, they delivered yet another dreadful performance in a 9-5 loss to the Rangers. Red Sox pitchers walked eight batters, including five by rookie Darwinzon Hernandez, who should've been nowhere near a big-league mound after posting a 5.13 ERA at Double A and walking more than seven batters per nine innings, but such is the state of the roster that manager Alex Cora had nowhere else to turn.

They allowed an inside-the-park home run when right fielder Brock Holt crashed into the fence near the Pesky Pole chasing a Hunter Pence fly and then just stayed there. They made a pair of errors, including a dropped pop-up by third baseman Rafael Devers that led to the go-ahead run. They handed the game to the dregs of the pitching staff, with predictable results, dropping to .500 at 34-34 in the process. Baseball-Reference now places their odds of reaching the playoffs at 22.6 percent.

"We absolutely have to be better than this if we want to be in the hunt," Cora said.

And so now we wonder: was Price right? Could the Red Sox sell? And if so, how big should they think?

Let's toss around a few names that would normally be considered untouchable, because they're integral to the repeat effort, but what the hell, we're approaching desperate times.

1. MOOKIE BETTS

Trading the defending MVP in his prime is insane . . . unless you're convinced he won't sign a long-term extension, in which case moving him now and starting a rebuild shouldn't be off the table.

Some talented players have delivered massive hauls at the trade deadline, whether it's the Indians turning Bartolo Colon into Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips and Grady Sizemore in 2002, the Rangers flipping Mark Teixeira to Atlanta for future All-Stars Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, and Matt Harrison five years later, or more recently, the Yankees very smartly transforming relievers Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman into Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier, and Justus Sheffield, among others.

Moving Betts with a year of team control remaining would be waving a white flag on the season, but the Red Sox need to realistically balance the cost of going all-in for a wild card spot vs. retooling to remain competitive moving forward.

And if Mookie is going to walk anyway? Then it's not so crazy.

2. ANDREW BENINTENDI

Some of us (me) have been predicting Benintendi would win a batting title for three years now, but he hasn't really put things together yet. Still only 24, and under team control through the 2022 season, Benintendi would hold tremendous value on the trade market, where he could perhaps address holes in the bullpen, as well as the farm system.

There's real risk in surrendering him, especially when he's in the midst of a disappointing season, but with so much uncertainty on the horizon — Will J.D. Martinez opt out? How much longer will Betts be here? Who replaces Rick Porcello? — acquiring legitimate depth would have a real purpose on a roster that has suffered serious erosion.

3. MICHAEL CHAVIS

The bloom has come off that rose after a hot start, but 10 homers in his first month and positional flexibility make Chavis an attractive target. The Red Sox never expected the rookie to make such an impact; otherwise he would've opened the season on the roster. Now that opponents have found a potentially serious flaw in his swing, attacking him up in the zone with power and inducing him to chase off-speed pitches away, the Red Sox might be best served maximizing his value while they can.

Trading Chavis would leave them awfully thin at first and second base, but another bullpen arm is more important at this point than a strikeout-prone infielder.

4. RICK PORCELLO

If the Red Sox fall in the standings, then Porcello could be an option for contenders seeking an experienced starter, à la Jake Peavy in 2013.

The Red Sox don't seem interested in retaining Porcello — an argument can be made that he should've received the $68 million they gave Nathan Eovaldi — and if they're going to bid him farewell anyway, they might as well get something for him while they can.

As Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel taught us this winter, there's no guarantee a departing free agent will return a draft pick, anyway.

5. DAVID PRICE

He brought it up, so we might as well consider it. Price has already been moved at the deadline twice in his career, going from the Rays to the Tigers in 2014, and from the Tigers to the Jays a year later.

He is the ace of the Red Sox at the moment and coming off a scintillating postseason that erased any doubts over his ability to win in October. He could alter the trajectory of the postseason if he's moved. He's owed $96 million through 2022, when he'll be 36, and even if the Red Sox eat a lot that money, removing him from the books while adding younger, cheaper talent would give them more flexibility to retain players like Betts or Martinez.

Hey, it was his idea.

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2020 MLB Season: Five newcomers who could make an impact for Red Sox

2020 MLB Season: Five newcomers who could make an impact for Red Sox

The Red Sox weren't good enough in 2019 to make the playoffs, so it stands to reason that if they're going to find a way over the hump in this dine-and-dash 2020 campaign, some new faces will have to deliver.

Because chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom was only able to spend what he could scrounge from Dave Dombrowski's old couch this winter, the Red Sox did most of their tinkering on the fringes of the roster.

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They added one potential impact piece in outfielder Alex Verdugo, albeit at the steep cost of former MVP Mookie Betts. Otherwise, they're seeking contributions from a host of under-the-radar sources.

Perhaps we'll be pleasantly surprised. Here are five newcomers to watch.

1. Alex Verdugo

We wrote about the new right fielder on Monday, and he's the closest thing to an All-Star the Red Sox added. Verdugo does a little bit of everything from the left side, hitting for average, developing power, and not fearing the moment. He owns one of the strongest arms in the game and could be a plus defender as well.

Andrew Benintendi has already been penciled into the leadoff spot, which leaves Verdugo batting fifth in all likelihood. But if Benintendi falters, as he did last year, Verdugo could easily end up hitting in front of No. 2 man Rafael Devers and trying to make the offense go.

2. Jose Peraza

There's a reason Peraza was one of Bloom's first moves, signed back on Dec. 13. The 26-year-old Venezuelan is a former top prospect who was non-tendered by the Reds after hitting .239 in 141 games last year.

He once ranked as high as 54th in Baseball America's list of the game's top 100 prospects, however, and he's only two years removed from hitting .288 with a career-high 14 homers. Peraza is in a battle with Michael Chavis for the starting second base job, and if Peraza has an edge, it's his glove. While Chavis was drafted as a third baseman and profiles as more of a corner infielder, Peraza has spent his entire career at second and short.

He's considered an above-average defender at second, and his speed plays as well, with three straight 20-steal seasons before sliding back to seven thefts last year.

3. Martin Perez

This one could go either way. Perez's ceiling is as a league-average left-hander, which certainly has value. The problem is, he hasn't reached that ceiling in three years. He's the best candidate to replace what Rick Porcello gave the Red Sox last year, which is 175 innings (prorated, of course) of a 5.00 ERA.

That may not sound like much, but on a team desperate for pitching, there's a value in taking the ball every five days and lasting six innings.

The Red Sox hope they can tinker with Perez by rediscovering the cutter that made him so effective last spring before abandoning him for most of the summer. In a perfect world, he wouldn't be the team's third starter, but these are far from perfect times.

4. Jonathan Lucroy

Red Sox history is littered with veteran reclamation projects who never really went anywhere after some early promise, from Ramon Martinez to John Smoltz to Grady Sizemore. Lucroy represents the latest attempt at reclaiming some past magic.

A two-time All-Star who finished fourth in the 2014 MVP voting after blasting a league-leading 53 doubles with the Brewers, Lucroy has been savaged by neck issues over the last three years. He underwent surgery to repair a ruptured disc this winter, however, and claims to have restored his former bat speed.

If that's true, then the 34-year-old could still have something to give, whether it's at catcher, first base, or DH. It also doesn't hurt that he's a favorite of manager Ron Roenicke from their days together in Milwaukee, where they led the Brewers to the playoffs in 2011 for just the second time in 30 years.

5. Collin McHugh

Speaking of reclamation projects, McHugh might have the highest upside of any newcomer, provided he can actually make it back to action. A former 19-game winner and Cy Young contender with the Astros, McHugh is only two years removed from posting a 1.99 ERA in 58 relief appearances.

He returned to the Houston rotation last season and won three of his first four starts with a 1.96 ERA before elbow soreness took its toll. He was bounced from the rotation in May and shut it down for good at the end of August with a flexor strain.

It seems unlikely that McHugh will be ready for Opening Day as he continues throwing bullpens and side sessions, but the hope is that he's available before the end of the season.

Ex-Red Sox Daniel Bard has a shot to make Rockies, complete amazing comeback

Ex-Red Sox Daniel Bard has a shot to make Rockies, complete amazing comeback

When last we saw Daniel Bard, he was walking two batters on nine pitches in April of 2013 against the Astros. That was his last big league appearance, and though it was enough to earn him a World Series ring, for a long time it looked like it would be his disheartening swan song.

But seven years later, Bard hasn't given up on his dream, and at age 35, he is making a case to the do the improbable.

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On Monday, Bard retired all three batters he faced at Coors Field as part of an intrasquad scrimmage with the Rockies, prompting this observation from Nick Groke of the Athletic: "Bard looks good. Rockies are very pleased. Seems to be pitching his way to opening day."

If he makes it, it would be the ultimate triumph of perseverance. Bard's story is well-known to Red Sox fans, but a brief recap: He reached the majors in 2009 as a flame-throwing setup man, and he looked like Jonathan Papelbon's successor after posting a 1.93 ERA in 73 appearances as a setup man in 2010.

He threw 100 mph, he showed no fear in big situations, and it appeared he'd be a fixture for at least five or six years.

He went 2-9 and was disturbingly ineffective down the stretch in 2011, but no one noticed because the team was collapsing around him. Then came the disastrous decision to move to the starting rotation under Bobby Valentine in 2012. Bard developed the yips and couldn't find the plate, his nadir coming on June 3 in Toronto when he walked six, hit two, and sent multiple pitches to the backstop.

That started an odyssey through the minors that included an ERA of 175.50 at Single A with the Rangers in 2014 (0.2 IP, 13 R, 0 H, 9 BB, 7 HBP), a year off for surgery to correct thoracic outlet syndrome, and failed minor league stints with the Cardinals and Mets.

He once again struggled to find the plate at spring training in February and March with the Rockies, allowing seven runs in 2.1 innings while walking three, but manager Bud Black has been impressed with the way the ball has left his hand, which means there's a chance he makes the opening day roster and completes a comeback seven years in the making.