Red Sox

Matt Barnes, Red Sox bullpen finally crumbling under weight of overuse and it's time for Dave Dombrowski to do something

Matt Barnes, Red Sox bullpen finally crumbling under weight of overuse and it's time for Dave Dombrowski to do something

BOSTON -- The Red Sox are torching Matt Barnes and the rest of their bullpen and if Dave Dombrowski doesn't act soon, he's going to find himself a heck of a lot more than one reliever short.

That's certainly the feel emanating from a ragged Red Sox relief corps that blew yet another save -- its league-leading 16th -- in a demoralizing 8-7 loss to the White Sox on Wednesday. Barnes took the loss after ending a marathon 10-pitch at-bat by leaving a fastball in Jose Abreu's wheelhouse, and the White Sox slugger didn't miss, blasting it over everything in left for the game-winning two-run homer.

Attention will undoubtedly focus on Barnes blowing his sixth save of the season and the Red Sox losing their eighth game with a lead after seven innings, but at some point, the workload should enter the equation.

Right-hander Brandon Workman leads the American League in appearances with 40, and Barnes and teammate Ryan Brasier are both right behind him in the top 10 at 36 apiece. That kind of wear and tear is taking a toll, particularly on Barnes, who has seen his ERA skyrocket from 1.99 on June 1 to 4.19 today. The 14 appearances he has made this month probably aren't helping.

"No, I feel good," Barnes said, though not necessarily convincingly.

Barnes lost the game when he failed to elevate the 10th and final pitch of his battle with Abreu, leaving a 97 mph fastball at the belt, where Abreu pulverized it. He was asked how much this one stings, particularly in light of the three-run rally that had given the Red Sox a 7-6 lead in the eighth.

"A lot. A lot," he said. "I didn't do my job. Offense did a phenomenal job of coming back and scoring three in the eighth, and then to give it up like that is tough."

Such losses are starting to feel inevitable, as the bullpen sags under the dual strain of (a) needing to pick up an average of six innings every time the fifth spot in the rotation rolls around, and (b) lacking a closer to handle the ninth inning and provide some definition to the final frames. The return of knuckleballer Steven Wright adds an experienced arm, but the Red Sox need more than say, Heath Hembree coming off the IL to save them.

"I know the usage is there," allowed manager Alex Cora, "but everyone has been used a lot. We've just got to get the job done."

Finding rest has been a balancing act. Workman (7-1, 1.70 ERA, three saves) was not available on Wednesday because of his workload, but he probably would've been pressed into duty if the Red Sox had extended the game.

"We try to take care of everyone," pitching coach Dana LeVangie said. "We're in a situation trying to win baseball games, trying to protect guys. We went into the first game of the series against these guys with Barnsey down. We have a plan for the most part going in. At times, we have to erase that based on what happens with the starter or whatever.

"At times, you can win or lose a game at the risk of losing a guy for two or three weeks, a month, because of it. I think we're trying to do this better, as much as we can."

Without reinforcements, it's hard to imagine the situation improving.

"Fatigued? Sure. All of the above," LeVangie said. "That's where a lot of those guys are. That's where we're at. That's part of being a reliever. Unfortunately, that's part of being their job. We've got a couple of days rest here leading into the London series, we've got one leading into the Toronto series. Hopefully, we can catch our breath."

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MLB rumors: Red Sox among teams that've talked to Giants about Will Smith

MLB rumors: Red Sox among teams that've talked to Giants about Will Smith

The Boston Red Sox would be wise to make a move to upgrade their bullpen before the July 31 MLB trade deadline. The problem for the defending World Series champions is they aren't the only team with that need.

San Francisco Giants closer Will Smith is among the best trade targets for contending teams to pursue as the deadline approaches. The 30-year-old left-hander has 24 saves, a 2.55 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 42 1/3 innings for the Giants this year. He also was named to the National League team at the 2019 MLB All-Star Game. Smith's contract expires after this season, so he would most likely be a rental for any team acquiring him.

The Red Sox have had conversations with the Giants regarding Smith, per The Athletic's Jim Bowden, but so have many other teams.

The Giants are probably the most intriguing team right now because how they play over the next nine days is expected to help determine whether they decide to sell on Madison Bumgarner, Will Smith, Tony Watson and Sam Dyson. Smith has been one of the most in-demand relievers so far this summer, as the Braves, Phillies, Nationals, Cardinals, Brewers, Cubs, Dodgers, Red Sox, Astros and Twins have all had conversations with the Giants about him. Several of those teams have realized that Watson makes for a strong fallback position for contenders who will need that sixth-to-eighth-inning lefty for October.

The roadblock for the Red Sox, and any other team interested in trading for a Giants pitcher, is that San Francisco might not become a seller at the trade deadline. The Giants are 9-1 in their last 10 games and sit just two games behind the second wild-card playoff spot in the National League entering Tuesday. Trading these pitchers would be a hard sell to the fanbase unless the team goes into a huge slump over the next week.

The Red Sox already have made one trade, acquiring veteran starter Andrew Cashner from the Baltimore Orioles earlier this month. Making a bigger deal for a bullpen upgrade likely won't be easy for the Sox. Boston's farm system lacks elite talent and depth, and outside of the top prospects (and that list is small), there aren't many names for sellers to get excited about.

The Red Sox should at least try to make some sort of bullpen deal. They sit just two games behind a wild-card spot in the American League entering Tuesday, and they have invested way too much money into their roster to become sellers or stand pat at the trade deadline.

Click here for the top rental targets the Red Sox could pursue>>>

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MLB rumors: Latest trade buzz on Red Sox, Rays, Giants as deadline nears

MLB rumors: Latest trade buzz on Red Sox, Rays, Giants as deadline nears

The 2019 MLB trade deadline is July 31, and the rumor mill is heating up as World Series contenders examine the market in search of upgrades.

Several of the teams to watch over the next week play in the American League East. The New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays all could be buyers, while the Toronto Blue Jays are among the most interesting sellers with starter Marcus Stroman and first baseman Justin Smoak among potential trade targets for contending teams.

Here's a roundup of the latest trade rumors with the deadline approaching.

Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox could use another arm in their bullpen, but they don't have many attractive assets (aside from their very best prospects) to dangle on the trade market. 

"Considering the Sox have luxury-tax concerns, a depleted farm system and a maddeningly inconsistent major-league roster, an impact addition for the bullpen would appear unlikely," The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal wrote Monday.

One bullpen option for the Red Sox is Daniel Hudson, but they aren't the only team looking at the Blue Jays reliever.

San Francisco Giants
The Giants were expected to be sellers, but a recent surge up the standings could change the team's approach as the deadline nears. San Francisco has won nine of its last 10 games and enters Tuesday just two games behind the second wild-card playoff berth in the National League. The Giants have several pitchers, including starter Madison Bumgarner and closer Will Smith, who teams would covet if available.

Plenty of teams will have scouts in attendance for Bumgarner's next start Tuesday night.

Tampa Bay Rays
Very few people expected the Rays to be in the playoff race this late into the season, and they surprisingly sit in second place in the AL East entering Tuesday. The Rays also are one game behind an AL wild-card spot, so we should expect them to be buyers at the trade deadline.

Toronto Blue Jays
Marcus Storman is considered the best starting pitcher available, and the Blue Jays would be wise to trade him while his value is high. Stroman is 28 years old and won't be a free agent until after the 2020 season, so he's not a rental.

The Athletic's Jim Bowden recently listed several teams that have shown interest in Stroman and Texas Rangers starter Mike Minor:

The two starters who are most likely to be traded at this point appear to be the Toronto Blue Jays’ Marcus Stroman and Rangers southpaw Mike Minor. The Yankees, Twins, Astros, Phillies, Athletics and Brewers have all at least inquired on both of them. Matthew Boyd of the Tigers is also available, but the asking price is astronomical — though of course that could change in the next nine days.

The Atlanta Braves are among the contenders that need another starter, but it doesn't sound like much is brewing between them and the Blue Jays regarding Stroman.

Click here for the top rental players who could be traded>>>

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