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MLB playoff picture: Where Red Sox stand after 2019 trade deadline

MLB playoff picture: Where Red Sox stand after 2019 trade deadline

The 2019 MLB trade deadline finally has passed, and now the postseason races in both the American League and National League are about to heat up.

The Boston Red Sox, despite a poor start to the year, still are in the thick of the AL wild card chase with two months remaining in the regular season. FanGraphs gives the Red Sox, as of Wednesday, a 51.9 percent chance of making the playoffs, including a 47.2 percent chance of securing one of the two wild card berths. The Red Sox are just two games behind the Oakland Athletics for the second wild card position entering Wednesday's action, so the defending World Series champs don't have much ground to make up. 

However, the Red Sox chose not to make any upgrades to their roster at Wednesday's trade deadline, and they now must rely on a shaky bullpen and an underperforming rotation for the rest of the year.

How will the trade deadline activity impact the playoff chase? Here's a look at where the Red Sox stand in the AL East and AL wild card races.

AL EAST
1. New York Yankees, 67-39
2. Tampa Bay Rays, 61-48 (7.5 GB)
3. Boston Red Sox, 59-49 (9 GB)

The Red Sox picked up two games on the Yankees after taking three of four matchups versus New York last weekend at Fenway Park. Boston has plenty more opportunities to pick up ground on New York with eight more games against the Yankees this season. The chances of the Red Sox mounting a serious challenge for the division title are slim, though. FanGraphs gives the Red Sox just a 4.7 percent chance of winning the division as of Wednesday.

Luckily for the Red Sox, both the Yankees and Rays didn't make any substantial upgrades at the trade deadline. The Yankees only added a minor league pitcher and the Rays made a few small moves that are unlikely to move the needle much. In that sense, Boston dodged two bullets Wednesday.

AL Wild Card
1. Cleveland Indians, 62-44 
2. Oakland Athletics, 61-47
Tampa Bay Rays, 61-48 (0.5 GB)
Boston Red Sox, 59-49 (2 GB)
Los Angeles Angels, 56-53 (5.5 GB)
Texas Rangers, 53-54 (7.5 GB)

The Indians gave up one of their best starting pitchers in Trevor Bauer and acquired outfielders Franmil Reyes and Yasiel Puig as part of a three-team deal involving the San Diego Padres and Cincinnati Reds. Cleveland didn't make any other major moves, which made sense given the fact the Indians have the AL's best record in July. If it's not broke, don't fix it, right? The Indians are still just three games behind the Minnesota Twins for the AL Central lead, and with a talented roster that has plenty of postseason experience, it's hard to bet on Cleveland missing the playoffs. 

The Red Sox have a good chance to overtake the Rays, however. The defending champs have more talent and experience than Tampa Bay, plus these teams have six more head-to-head matchups remaining. A four-game series in Tampa Bay late in September could play a pivotal role in deciding the wild-card race. Let's not forget the Rays recently lost reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell, who will miss at least a month recovering from elbow surgery. 

The Athletics are the other team ahead of the Sox in the wild card chase and they acquired starting pitcher Tanner Roark from the Cincinnati Reds. Roark adds quality depth to an A's rotation that already ranked fifth in the AL in starters ERA. The Athletics are unlikely to fade down the stretch. They hit a lot of home runs (fifth-most in the AL), they don't strike out often (fourth-fewest in the AL) and their team ERA ranks fifth in the AL. 

The Red Sox's best chance to reach the postseason is to overtake the Rays and get into the AL Wild Card Game.

Click for the biggest winners and losers from the MLB trade deadline>>>

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Maybe David Price isn't as untradeable as we think for Red Sox

Maybe David Price isn't as untradeable as we think for Red Sox

David Price has caused no shortage of headaches with the Red Sox, from blowing up at Dennis Eckersley to tweeting cryptically about the White House visit to making no effort to hide his disdain for "Manager John" Farrell.

But Price also delivered when it mattered most, during the 2018 postseason, when he led the charge to a title as the de facto postseason MVP.

He seemed positioned to maintain that momentum before a wrist cyst got in the way. Though his final 2019 numbers were mediocre — 7-5, 4.28 ERA — he struck out a career-best 10.7 per nine innings and was the team's best pitcher in the first half, when he went 7-2 with a 3.24 ERA.

Because we tend to focus on the negative around here (not me, though, I only see sunshine), we often judge Price for his faults. He's no longer a 200-inning pitcher. His elbow could blow. He considers himself a great teammate, but he consistently brings negativity into the clubhouse, which multiple rival executives have noted warily.

He's too expensive. He hasn't made an All-Star team or earned a Cy Young vote since 2015. He's past his prime.

It's hard to read the preceding paragraph and think there'd be a market for him this winter, especially since he's due $96 million over the next three years. But focusing on those negatives obscures some positives that other franchises might consider.

Price is a proven ace who has won one Cy Young Award and finished second twice. He's a classic change-of-scenery candidate after four tumultuous seasons in Boston, and a club in a friendlier market — like, say, St. Louis — could make a case for reinvigorating him. For all of the concerns over his health, he has thrown nearly 400 innings since avoiding Tommy John surgery in 2017.

And most importantly, with seemingly every team in baseball on the hunt for starting pitching, why should Price be immovable, when only last year a 36-year-old Robinson Cano with five years and $120 million remaining on his contract was not?

If the Red Sox want to drop below the $208 million luxury tax threshold, removing as much of Price's $32 million salary as possible would be one way to do it that doesn't involve giving away a former MVP in his prime — jettisoning Price would open a clearer path to keeping Mookie Betts for one more season, anyway.

So what is Price worth? As free agency cranks into gear, we're actually seeing some parameters forming in the starting pitcher market. Four starters have signed contracts with average annual values of at least $10 million, from Kyle Gibson (3 years, $30 million with Rangers) to Zack Wheeler, who just agreed to leave the Mets for a five-year, $118 million deal with the Phillies. Meanwhile, righty Jake Odorizzi accepted a one-year qualifying offer from the Twins for $17.8 million, while veteran left-hander Cole Hamels inked a one-year, $18 million contract with the Braves.

The two biggest fish remain unsigned in Houston's Gerrit Cole and Washington's Stephen Strasburg, both of whom will each command nine-figure deals. Former World Series hero Madison Bumgarner, defending NL ERA champ Hyun-Jin Ryu, and possibly ex-Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel will probably earn $15-$20 million annually. And then after that the drop in talent is pretty steep, to pitchers like Rick Porcello, Michael Pineda, and Tanner Roark.

Viewed through that lens, suddenly Price feels like … an asset? The Phillies will pay Wheeler nearly $24 million a year, starting with his age-30 season, more on projection than performance. His lifetime ERA+ is 100, which is the definition of average. And whatever injury concerns exist about Price, it's worth noting that Wheeler missed all of 2015 and 2016 to Tommy John surgery.

Were Price a free agent this winter, he'd probably be in the Bumgarner/Ryu camp, a clear notch below Cole and Strasburg, but still desirable. It's hard to say what he'd earn, but even with his injury concerns, an AAV of $18 million feels like the floor. The fact that he's only signed for three more years maybe bumps that hypothetical number to $20 million annually. If the Red Sox ate $36 million, could they find a market for Price at three years and $60 million?

It doesn't sound so crazy to me, especially once you stop fixating on the negatives.

MLB's Top 10 free agent starting pitchers>>>>>

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Report: Brian Bannister leaving Red Sox to join Giants

Report: Brian Bannister leaving Red Sox to join Giants

After five seasons in Boston, Brian Bannister is taking his talents elsewhere.

The former Red Sox vice president of pitching development will join the San Francisco Giants, according to Jon Morosi of MLB Network.

Bannister was initially hired by the Red Sox as a scout in 2015. Later that year he was promoted to director of pitching analysis and development by then-Sox GM Dave Dombrowski.

In 2016, Bannister became Boston's assistant pitching coach and VP of pitching development. He was removed from the coaching staff but kept the latter title following the 2019 season.

Bannister spent five years as an MLB pitcher with the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals before pursuing a scouting/coaching career.

UPDATE (7:30 p.m. ET): Bannister confirmed his Boston exit Wednesday night in a pair of tweets thanking the Red Sox organization.

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