COMMENTARY | The Boston Red Sox, as currently assembled, have three glaring needs before the trade deadline.
Before listing these needs, I should acknowledge that they are, right now, one of the better teams in baseball. As of July 1, the Boston Red Sox are leading the AL East by 2.5 games over the Baltimore Orioles and they have the No. 1-ranked offense in the major leagues.
Defensively, their fielding percentage is ranked ninth in the AL, however, Will Middlebrooks and Pedro Ciriaco have accounted for one third of those errors (15 of 45). They have depth at every defensive position, save 3B, where José Iglesias is currently doing a standout job but is playing out of position. No player on the current active roster can reliably back him up. Ryan Lavarnway is backing up Jarrod Saltalamacchia at catcher as Cody Ross has gone to the 60-day DL.
Their regular starting rotation has an ERA of 3.53 and ranks No. 1 in the AL. Starter Clay Buchholz should return soon after the All-Star break and Jon Lester may have a hip problem.
The bullpen ranks 12th in the AL with a 4.14 ERA, 1.39 WHIP and a save percentage of 55%. RP/SP Franklin Morales is on the 15-day DL.
Top Glaring Needs and Possible Acquisitions
What if José Iglesias is injured or has to play SS or 2B? Right now there is not an answer for the Red Sox at 3B. Yes, the two minor leaguers, Diaz and Snyder, were a combined 2-for-7 with 2 runs scored and a walk -- and also 1 late-inning error -- this past weekend against the Toronto Blue Jays. Outside of these players, plugging in Will Middlebrooks if Iglesias goes down is hardly reassuring.
What could the Red Sox do? Placido Polanco is a veteran third baseman who currently ranks No. 1 defensively amongst third basemen in 2013. In 63 games played at 3B in 2013, he has made 1 error. His current contract of $2.75 million is not exactly out of reach for the Red Sox to absorb for the remainder of 2013. His ability to mentor José Iglesias could only be an added bonus. The Marlins surely do not plan on a long-term contract with Polanco at the end of the season as he will be a free agent and age 38 in October. He will most likely not hit .420, but he is not a defensive liability.
The bullpen of the Red Sox has been OK, not great. A guy who can reliably nail down 1 late inning would be a welcome addition, as the Red Sox are very close to the bottom of the barrel when it comes to save percentages and bullpen WHIP. There are reasonable options available, as I stated earlier this week. These do not include Jonathan Papelbon.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia has been decent this year but defensively he has been less than average. His CS% of .18 makes a walk a likely double should someone with even middle-range speed get on base. Should he get injured or need time off, is Ryan Lavarnway sufficient? I don't think so, at least not in 2013.
What the Red Sox need is a veteran catcher who has very good defensive numbers and, as an added bonus, some experience catching members of the current pitching staff. That player is available right now and for a decent price in Kelly Shoppach. He is currently being paid $1.5 million for 2013, is a free agent in 2014 and played for the Red Sox as recently as 2012. His current CS % of .37 (lifetime .30) is more than double that of Saltalamacchia (.18). Allegations that he is a bit of a "clubhouse lawyer" may disrupt the team's chemistry, but these allegations may have been simply part of the overall 2012 clubhouse madness in Boston. There might be nothing to them.
The Red Sox have no doubt performed unexpectedly well thus far this year. To continue their magic, these defensive and bullpen needs have to be addressed before they become a problem. The team has the resources to address these needs; let's hope it does.
Patrick Bernier is a freelance writer who has been following the Boston Red Sox for 25 years.
You can follow Patrick on Twitter @PatrickBern7.
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- Boston Red Sox
- Jarrod Saltalamacchia
- Ryan Lavarnway