The Boston Red Sox were rumored to be interested in acquring several different relief pitchers over the last few weeks, but the defending World Series champs ultimately made no impactful deals ahead of Wednesday's 4 p.m. ET MLB trade deadline.
"I'm not disappointed," Red Sox manager Alex Cora told reporters before Wednesday night's game against the Tampa Bay Rays. "This is a team, a group that we trust. I've been saying all along that the group has to get better. Yesterday, we had a chance to win the game; we didn't come through. Today is a new day. We have chance to win the series. We gotta stay with that frame of mind; just win series, keep moving on, get better. We got guys in that clubhouse and they're capable of doing it. We're going to trust the group and move forward."
The Red Sox made one trade this month when they added veteran starting pitcher Andrew Cashner to their rotation in a deal with the Baltimore Orioles. Cashner has, at least so far, failed to add quality depth to what's been a disappointing group of starters in Boston. He has given up nine earned runs and 24 hits over 17 2/3 innings.
One of Boston's biggest weaknesses is the bullpen, and the front office's inability to upgrade it could prove to be a devastating blow over the next few months. The Red Sox bullpen ranks second in the AL with 19 blown saves, it has the league's worst save percentage at 52.5, and it ranks 10th of 15 AL teams with a 4.53 ERA. The Sox don't have a reliable closer and instead have used multiple players in that role. The team's saves leader, Ryan Brasier, currently is pitching in Triple-A Pawtucket after being optioned earlier this month.
The Red Sox are nine games behind the rival New York Yankees for first place in the American League East. They also are two games behind the Oakland Athletics for the second wild-card spot in the AL. Adding another starter and/or a bullpen arm (or two) would have really strengthened Boston's roster and improved its chances of reaching the postseason. The Sox have just a 51.9 percent chance to make the playoffs as of Wednesday, per FanGraphs.
"As a group, everybody knows that this is a talented team. And we know the situation we're in," said Cora. "We're third in the division, we're in the hunt in the wild card. In the end, it really doesn't matter. We got to play better. We got the best offensive team in the big leagues, we got guys in the rotation that have done it before. They have to step up and we trust them. We have guys in the bullpen that have to do better. That's the bottom line."
The Red Sox now must rely on a flawed roster to claim one of the wild card berths and earn an opportunity to defend their World Series title. There's little room for error over the next two months, and the pitching needs to show great improvement for the Red Sox to return to the postseason for the fourth consecutive season.
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