BOSTON — As a six-game homestand begins and trade season picks up, the Red Sox have an eye on adding a reliever and a right-handed bat, a source with knowledge of the team’s thinking said.
Trade plans can change and evolve in the next month, but the Sox see room to add a piece to complement their left-handed hitting infielders: Mitch Moreland, Rafael Devers and Brock Holt. Adding a reliever and an infielder should not mean mortgaging an already thin farm system.
Alex Cora has barely used his bench this year. The Sox are tied for the third-fewest plate appearances as a pinch hitter, at 29. The pinch hitters have also done terribly, for whatever such a small sample size is worth, with a .074/.138/.111 line. The Sox have one extra-base hit and two hits total, with the latter tying them for the fewest in the majors.
The Sox also have a .670 OPS against left-handed pitching overall, the fourth-worst mark in the majors and the worst in the American League. They may naturally rebound, but it’s a stark comparison to the two major league leaders: the Yankees, at .828, and Astros, at .805.
In a way, the Sox are in a similar position to last year: they added a right-handed bat in Eduardo Nunez and a reliever in Addison Reed. Both were solid contributors, Nunez beyond expectations. But Nunez this season has shown poor range in the field and has dipped significantly at the plate (.247).
With uncertainty surrounding Dustin Pedroia’s health, the Sox presumably would want to add a bat that can handle second base as well as a potential corner infield spot. But, with Brock Holt competent at second base, the Sox might find it easier to find a corner infield type rather than an all-around utility infielder.
Devers is clearly a great talent who may be at the hot corner for years to come. But in the short term, the Sox have to consider late-inning defense in a playoff setting, and what can make the 2018 team the strongest it can be come October. Smart teams will find moments to target subpar defenders on the infield, and the Yankees and Astros are both smart teams. Devers may be a great defender down the road, but for now, the Sox may be wise to mitigate his learning curve.
As for the bullpen, the loss of Carson Smith for the season in combination with the slow progress of Tyler Thornburg has left a spot for the Sox to add a late-inning reliever. Arguably, that spot has existed since the offseason, when Reed left as a free agent, but Joe Kelly and Matt Barnes have stepped up admirably.