Following a disheartening walk off loss at the hands of the rejuvenated Josh Hamilton and the Texas Rangers, the slumping Boston Red Sox fell to a season low seven games under .500 at 22-29, good for last place in the unimpressive American League East.
The struggling Sox averaged just a shade over 2.8 runs per game in the month of May. Their 10-19 record on the month is the team’s worst monthly record since September of 2012, when Bobby Valentine ran the ship. Fingers are being pointed every which way; the starting rotation, the veterans in the lineup, and John Farrell, a man who’s head is wanted on a silver platter by many.
22-29, in a weak division, isn’t the end of the world. It’s still early enough where a winning streak here and there could catapult the Boston Red Sox back into contention. Realistically speaking, this team in it’s current state doesn’t seem prepared to string together any wins. Their run differential of -48 is worst in the American League, and their team ERA of 4.60 sits in the same spot.
Things are bleak on Yawkey Way. When things get bleak, teams move pieces get moved in a sometimes desperate attempt to drag themselves out of mediocrity. The Red Sox have proven in the past that they are not afraid to pull the trigger on a trade, big or small. With the summer just around the corner, teams will begin to shape up and look to make a move to fortify themselves for a playoff run.
Boston, if out of contention, could come in handy here.
Some teams may not be waiting around for the summer to make a move, as Nick Cafardo notes that the Los Angeles Dodgers have been scouting Boston’s relief pitchers. The two most prolific relivers in Boston’s ‘pen are closer Koji Uehara and set-up man Junichi Tazawa.
Uehara, 40, has a 1.76 ERA on the season, with a 10.57 strikeouts per nine inning rating with 10 saves. The 28-year-old Tazawa flashes a 1.71 ERA in 21 innings pitched, primarily in the eighth inning.
Both pitchers would be an immediate addition to the Dodger’s bullpen. Los Angeles holds a one-half game lead on the San Francisco Giants in the National League West at 29-20. Having a shut down arm in the back of the bullpen can only help.
For Boston, it might make the most sense to move the veteran Uehara. At the age of 40, it’s unlikely that he’s going to improve in the future. Having him around on a losing team may be wasting the last stretch of his career, whereas he could be potentially fighting for a World Series bid with the Dodgers.
Tazawa on the other hand, is a different story. The right-hander is in the prime of his career, and is developing into one of the elite set-up men in the league. He’s someone that even in their infidelity, the Boston Red Sox could hold on to for a few years and hope for better times. For Boston to move him, it may take a little more “prying” from a suitor.
A potential Tazawa dealcould be compared to the last time Boston moved a highly touted reliever; Andrew Miller.
At the time of his trade to the Baltimore Orioles last summer, Miller had a 2.34 ERA and a 14.2 strikeout/nine innings in the same role that Tazawa now holds. Miller brought back pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez, who excelled his way through Double-A and Triple-A, turning heads all the while. Rodriguez found his way onto many top prospect list, and became the top young arm in Boston’s organization.
In any potential Tazawa deal, it’s unrealistic to expect a someone of Rodriguez’ caliber going back to the Red Sox. A relatively gifted prospect however is something Tazawa could be worth to some teams looking to battle their way into the postseason (cc: Dodgers).
Tazawa and Uehara aren’t the only veterans that could be on the move. Cafardo added in his column that a St. Louis Cardinals-Allen Craig reunion would make sense.
Craig came over to Boston last summer along with Joe Kelly in exchange for John Lackey. Since joining Boston, success has eluded Craig. He’s batted .130/.235/.192 with one home run in 53 games with the Red Sox.
Coming into 2015, Craig’s spot on the major league roster has been up in the air. With Mike Napoli at first base and a loaded outfield, there’s sparse room for Craig. On May 18, Craig was outrighted to Triple-A Pawtucket after batting .124 in 24 games.
Back in St. Louis, starting first baseman Matt Adams is set to miss time with a torn quad. The Cardinals have their eyes set on a pennant, and without one of their biggest hitters in the lineup, staying afloat in a competitive division becomes quite the daunting task.
Why does bringing back Allen Craig to help fill the void left by Adams make sense? With St. Louis from 2011 to 2013, Craig was an impact player, averaging .312 with 46 home runs. In 2013, Craig was named to the National League All-Star team, batting .315 with 13 home runs and 97 RBI. He was a key cog in the Cardinal’s lineup, helping them make it to the World Series to face the (you guessed it) Boston Red Sox.
A down 2014 season where he batted just .237 with the Cardinals made it easier for the team to move him to Boston, but it’s clear that Craig can succeed in St. Louis. He may not be the player he used to be, and he may not be the same type of player as Adams, but he doesn’t have a home in Boston and the Cardinals could acquire him on the cheap.