Well here we are, a little over a month to do to the trade deadline and the Sox have a double digit lead over second place Toronto (I love saying that). By no means am I ready to hoist the AL East Division Title, so first we must look at where the Red Sox can improve themselves.
Overall this is a very strong team and this is reflected in the fact they have the best overall record in baseball and one of the best records on the road. But there are some holes.
1. Julio Lugo: Lugo was one of Epsteins free agent busts, err signings over this past offseason. Normally this guy is a mediocre hitter a best, who plays a mediocre short-stop and has good speed. He has good speed, but he is a better hitter than his current sub mendoza average would indicate. At this point it is clear he is pressing and it appears to be affecting his fielding as well. He has been trying to break out of it by bunting, but has even looked bad doing that. The Sox have Alex Cora as a back-up, but that is his role… You don’t want him out there on a day to day basis. The Red Sox should start looking for a journeyman type infielder. One person to look out for is Omar Visquel of the SF Giants. Sure he’s getting old, but he plays a solid defense and still hits consistantly. Plus being put on a contending team often helps to take years off a players actual age. I seriously doubt the Red Sox will trade Lugo, but don’t be surprised if they are looking for help at SS.
2. Outfield: Manny is Manny in LF, he isn’t going anywhere. Cocco Crisp in CF has been improving and JD Drew is about what I expected in RF, overrated and oft injured. There have not been too many rumors as of yet in the OF department, but one to watch is Seattle. Ichiro is a free agent and likely won’t want to stay with the rebuilding M’s. The idea of him and fellow countryman Dice-K Matsuzaka playing on the same team with a legitimate shot at winning the World Series has people in Japan excited. However Seattle would have to fall seriously out of the Wild Card race for that deal to happen and if it were to happen the Sox would have to give up a lot to get him (Crisp, Lester?). Look for the Red Sox to try and find another Dave Roberts someplace (possible even Dave Roberts), a role player used for speed and defense. The great strike out machine of Wily-Mo Pena remains intriguing, he might be dealt or not. If given a chance to play every day, Pena could hit 40 or more Home Runs in a Season and strike out 250 times. Rob Deer eat your heart out.
3. Starting Pitching: You can never have enough Pitching. Thus far Schilling (on the DL), Beckett, Wakefield, Dice-K and Julian Tavarez have done a good job being healthy and pitching quality starts. But there are a couple of issues. 1) Schilling looks old this year 2) Beckett is a pitch away from the DL 3) Wakefields Knuckleball doesn’t always knuckle 4) Tavarez can be lights out or lit-up and 5) The entire starting staff is Right-handed. We need a lefty in there! So who do the Sox want? Well I can’t say there is a whole lot out there. But they will look long and hard at any lefty starter with a heart beat. Mark Buerhle’s of the White Sox is a possibility and the Sox will keep an eye on Dontrelle Willis, who while getting hit pretty hard right now, might just need a change of scenery. Other guys such as Erik Bedard, Ted Lilly, Joe Kennedy, Jamie Moyer (again) may also get looked at. You can also bet that the Red Sox will be looking to make deals to get players simply so that the Yankees don’t. Espstein stood pat at last year’s trade deadline, I doubt he will this year.
4. Relief Pitching: As I stated before, you can’t have enough pitching. The Red Sox are currently lacking a real righ handed set-up man. Hideki Okajima has been filthy as the lefty version, but they could use another right handed arm. Timlin looks old and I don’t think the team has enough confidence in anyone else right now. It is very important to protect those leads and get to Papelbon without overworking anyone. The Sox will look at current closers such as Eric Gagne and Ostuka in Texas, Chad Cordero of the Nationals and depending on how teams fare in the next couple of weeks, Tom Gordon of the Phillies, Armando Benitez of the Marlins and Brad Lidge of the Astros. Again, the Red Sox will also be looking to make deals to block the Yankees. They want to kick them while they are down.
There are other big names out there I’m sure the Red Sox will be reported in having interest in. Mark Texiera, Ken Griffey Jr., Todd Helton and even Barry Bonds. Only Texiera and Helton would really provide anything significant to the Sox both in the short and long term. Obviously things will change over the next couple of weeks and the Sox continue to play, but if they start playing poorly for an extended period of time, I think Theo will be eager to pull the trigger on some deals. Remember the Sox traded Nomar in 2004 and look what happened.