Deep down inside, we all want to see the Red Sox add pieces by the August 1st trade deadline. We’ve seen them excel during impressive winning streaks of four, six (twice), and eight games while winning series against preseason contenders like the Orioles, Yankees, Blue Jays, Guardians, Phillies, Padres, Rangers, and Mets. Their outright dominance of the Blue Jays and Yankees alone have given many of us reason to believe that the Red Sox have officially reached their window of contention.

On the other hand, the Red Sox have also suffered losing streaks of three (four times), four (three times), and five while losing series to chump teams like the Pirates, Cardinals, Rockies, White Sox, and even the putrid A’s. Every time we get excited that the Red Sox may have turned the corner and figured things out, they embarrass us for believing in a team that has given us every reason to doubt them for the past two seasons.

On the surface, the solution seems simple. Trade away some talent from the now formidable Red Sox farm system to acquire a couple pieces that may be able to put them over the top. However, the reality of the situation, as usual, is much more complicated.


A Trio of Overachievers

As impressive as the Red Sox have played over the last month, it’s hard to believe that they’ve endured the last five weeks with only three bona fide starting pitchers. When Tanner Houck’s face got shattered by a Kyle Higashioka line drive back on June 16th, nobody would have ever believed that Brayan Bello, James Paxton, and Kutter Crawford had the stuff to hold down a starting rotation on their own. Yet that’s exactly what they’ve done.

With Nick Pivetta and Chris Murphy assuming long relief roles to support a hodgepodge of opener efforts from Brennan Bernardino, Joe Jacques, and Justin Garza, the undermanned Red Sox staff has managed to eat some respectable innings two out of every five games while awaiting the returns of Houck and Chris Sale. Houck’s return timeline has been cloaked in mystery, with the only reported progress being that he is now able to eat solid foods once again. Sale is eligible to return from the 60-day Injured List on August 1st, coincidentally the same day as the trade deadline.

Assuming that Sale will return to the rotation in a timely fashion with the ability to start every five games for the remainder of the season (a gigantic assumption, I know), the Red Sox will still be short one starting pitcher until Houck is healthy. On top of that, despite the outstanding job James Paxton has done thus far, nobody will be surprised if Big Maple goes down with a Big Injury at some point between now and the end of the season.

Then there’s Garrett Whitlock (remember him?), who is locked in a heated competition with Sale to see who can make the most trips to the IL in a three-year period. Whitlock was shut down with right shoulder inflammation on July 2nd. He could theoretically begin a rehab assignment and penciled in to return any day now, but the Red Sox have remained mum on his status.

This gives us an incredibly broad range between the best and worst case scenarios for the starting rotation going into the trade deadline.


Seeking Help

Best case: Sale and Whitlock are given the green light to rejoin Bello, Paxton, and Crawford in early August, with Houck beginning a rehab assignment soon after. The Red Sox begin their march toward the playoffs with five healthy starting pitchers, while a sixth follows closely on their heels.

Worst case: Sale’s shoulder and Whitlock’s elbow both remain inflamed while Houck shrivels up at the thought of taking the mound again, losing his nerve and turning in his wings like Cougar in Top Gun. Bello, Paxton, and Crawford remain the only starting pitchers on the roster, triggering front office thoughts of turning Pivetta and/or Murphy back into starters, where they’ve both been duds this season.

I can envision the Red Sox having success down the stretch with a rotation featuring four starting pitchers and one Bernardino/Pivetta game every fifth day. But as President of Baseball Operations, Chaim Bloom has an obligation to prepare for the worst case scenario. Thus, the Boston Red Sox must acquire a starting pitcher at the deadline.

As usual, the rumor mill has the most out-of-touch fans hoping that the Red Sox will pick up a front line starting pitcher like Mitch Keller from the Pirates, Blake Snell from the Padres, or even Shohei Ohtani of the Angels (!!!) simply because they are all due to be free agents at the end of 2023.

None of those things will happen.


Our Options

Pitchers like Keller, Snell, and especially Ohtani would be nothing more than two-month rentals that would still command a big (astronomical in Ohtani’s case) return of players with multiple years of team control. With Bloom’s vision now crystallizing and the Red Sox finally priming to be long-term contenders starting in 2024, Chaim is not going to jeopardize the farm system he has staked his reputation on to satisfy the championship aspirations of a bi-polar 2023 Sox team. Boston’s realistic championship window begins next season, and Bloom will not be making any big needle-moving deadline deals until then.

Any additions to this roster will be conservative ones that will not cost any of the farm system’s crowned jewels like Marcelo Mayer, Roman Anthony, Blaze Jordan, Nick Yorke, Cedanne Rafaela, Shane Drohan, and the like. Sox fans that are seeking help for 2023 should not expect anything more than a back-end starting pitcher like Jack Flaherty of the Cardinals or Lance Lynn of the White Sox, neither of whom has set the world on fire this year.

With Bello and Paxton performing like front-end starters while Crawford has functioned as a solid number four or five, adding one more serviceable arm to the back of the rotation should give the Red Sox a crew of four good starting pitchers that can usually keep their team in the game for five innings. Add Chris Sale, Tanner Houck, and/or Garrett Whitlock into that mix, and suddenly Boston will have themselves an impressive starting rotation.

Corey Kluber is also sill a thing, believe it or not, although I don’t foresee him returning to the rotation unless the Red Sox completely freefall out of the Wild Card race. He will likely return to his old mop-up relief role once he is cleared, which should at least serve the purpose of keeping crucial bullpen arms like Bernardino, Josh Winckowski, and the returning John Schreiber out of games that have already been decided.



Bloom has publicly stated that he also hopes to add a lefthanded hitting middle infielder before the deadline to “help balance out the lineup.” That statement makes my brain hurt, because I don’t see how balance can be achieved by adding yet another lefty to a lineup that already features Rafael Devers, Masataka Yoshida, Alex Verdugo, Triston Casas, and Jarren Duran.

It’s not just that six lefties is a lot to have in a lineup, which it most certainly is. What concerns me more is that so many of the team’s crucial bats hit from that side of the plate.

Beyond Justin Turner, every single impact bat the Red Sox have is lefthanded. While Adam Duvall always has the potential to be the power threat that he was in the first nine games of the season, he still hasn’t convinced me that his swing has recovered from the fractured wrist he suffered in April. And while we’re all on pins and needles waiting for Trevor Story to return to the lineup and the shortstop position, will any of us be surprised if Story scuffles for the remainder of the season after healing from an experimental elbow surgery?

With Pablo Reyes now ineligible for the Injured List, it looks like the Red Sox will have no choice but to get rid of Reyes, Kiké Hernandez, Christian Arroyo, or Yu Chang, all of whom are righthanded hitting middle infielders, in the next day or two. Considering all the lefties they already have on the team, it would seem to make far more sense for the Red Sox to replace the righthanded middle infielder that they cast off with another righty.

Of all the pending free agents that are likely on the trading block, Paul DeJong of the Cardinals makes the most sense. He’s a great defensive shortstop that can also hit a bit, meaning he’d likely be a sensational second baseman once Story returns. However, that defensive value could come at a premium that Bloom is unwilling to pay. Tim Anderson from the White Sox and the Guardians’ Amed Rosario would have sounded like amazing additions a few months ago, but they’ve both been atrocious at the plate this season.

With DeJong being the only righthanded middle infielder on the market that makes sense, Bloom may have no choice but to go with a lefty. In that event, the most sensible options I see are Brandon Crawford of the Giants and Kolten Wong from the Mariners. Crawford and Wong have both been incredibly light hitters in 2023, but they’ve each had long careers as excellent middle infielders. Assuming Story is healthy, either Crawford or Wong could play a good second base while hiding in the nine-hole of a Red Sox lineup that looks scarier by the day.


Expect the Unexpected

Of course, this is Chaim Bloom, baseball’s answer to Bill Belichick. None of us have any idea what Bloom will actually do at the deadline, and I guarantee that most of us will be scratching our heads and second-guessing those decisions after they are announced. Many fans doubted that Kyle Schwarber and Hansel Robles would move the needle in 2021, and they were wrong. Most of the same fans thought the same thing about adding Tommy Pham, Eric Hosmer, and Reese McGuire last year, and they were right.

The safe bet for this year is an eclectic mix of buying and selling much like last season’s deadline, with the primary focus remaining on building for 2024 and 2025.

Bloom won’t go all in on this season, but he won’t sell the farm either. Is that the right choice to make? Probably.

As I said a couple weeks ago: this team is not good enough for “win or bust” mode, but too good for “blow it up” mode. The all-important question remains as shrouded in mystery as the health of the Red Sox rotation.

How good is this team really?



By Luke

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