Monday Sox Notes

A great win, a great series win, some AL East trade deadline talk, and updates on the Red Sox 2021 draft picks

Way back in 2004, the Red Sox played the Yankees in the American League Championship Series. You might’ve heard your great-grandparents talk about this. This is before the Red Sox did stuff like win the World Series. This was when the Red Sox did stuff like lose excruciatingly to the Yankees at any available opportunity. So anyway, the Yankees won the first three games, including Game Three by the prophetic score of 19-8, to take a commanding 3-0 series lead. It was over. No team had come from such a deficit and won. But yada yada yada the Red Sox came back, winning Games Four and Five in extra innings, and Games Six and Seven in New York by increasing margins, until the the final innings of Game Seven weren’t a nail-biter, but a coronation. It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen on a baseball field.

This series against the Yankees that just took place at Fenway Park wasn’t that, but it wasn’t not that either. It was a little bit that. Just a little bit, but sometimes you don’t need a lot, just a little bit, and wow that little bit is the most delicious. The entire series was, if we’re being honest, riddled with the stuff.

Sox Take Three Of Four Against New York

The first game on Thursday had the Red Sox down 3-1 in the bottom of the ninth before tying it, going to extras, losing the lead in the top of the 10th (stupid runner on second rules) and then scoring two to win it in the bottom of the 10th. Dizzying.

The second game Raffy Devers repeatedly clubbed Yankees pitching and it wasn’t close. The third game though, that was the first three games of ‘04. Heck, that was every game the Red Sox ever played against the Yankees between the years 1920 and 2003. It was like a cocktail of all that crap distilled and mixed with something hideous, maybe Malört (if you haven’t heard/tried it, watch this). The Red Sox were in complete control, then the Yankees got a few lucky hits, an actual good hit, and the game was gone. Well, after the Red Sox stranded four runners, three in scoring position, over the last two innings, that is.

It was brutal, ugly, and awful in the way baseball can be sometimes. There’s nothing good about a game like that except that there are always games like that every season. It’s the only thing to take solace in, that, excessively crappy as that game was, it wasn’t special, just a bad baseball game dotted somewhere at random in between 161 other games.

I think that’s how you have to look at it. And that’s probably how the Yankees are looking at the crown jewel of the Red Sox’ season to date, a 5-4 come-from-behind win on Sunday. Can you win a game in which you’re not just down 4-0 in the 8th but you’re being no-hit? Ask the 2021 Red Sox. They know.

But here’s the difference between the ho-hum of the Red Sox tough loss and the extreme seriousness of the Yankees similarly tough loss:

Were Are We Now: AL East Edition

Thanks to losing three of four in Boston, the Yankees are now nine games behind the Red Sox for first place in the AL East. Nine games! If you’d told me back in April that there would be a nine game difference between the teams at the end of July, I’d assume the Yankees were the ones up.

Nope.

The good news for New York is they’re only 3.5 games out of a Wild Card spot and the only team between them and the two current Wild Card teams is the paper-tiger Mariners, owners of a -52 run differential and, somehow, some way, a 54-46 record. So the playoffs are still pretty achievable, even after dropping three of four in Boston.

The Blue Jays, current holders of the second best run differential in the division, find themselves a half game behind the Yankees for the Wild Card and 9.5 games behind Boston. So that’s kinda weird. The Jays are, I think, a pretty good team, worthy of the playoffs, though I do think their hitters might have had their numbers goosed a bit by playing in the bandboxes in Buffalo and Dunedin, Florida. We’ll see if things change after they move back to Toronto July 30th.

The Rays managed to tie the Red Sox in the standings after their blown game against New York on Saturday, but then immediately fell a game behind again after losing to Cleveland on Sunday. Nelson Cruz hit another homer though, so that’s nice. As nice as it would be to put some games between themselves and the Rays, the Red Sox probably need to make a move or three in order to get into a position where something like that is possible.

What’s Next

The Red Sox now have four against those Jays in Boston before going to Tampa for three games, the third of which happens immediately following the trade deadline. We’ve already seen the Rays are buying, and in a way that we haven’t really seen before. They acquired 41-year-old Nelson Cruz from Minnesota and the rest of his expiring contract for the cost of three prospects, one of whom is well-regarded starting pitcher Joe Ryan. It’s not every year you see the Rays acquire A) someone really old, B) someone really expensive, and C) at the cost of multiple prospects. But I suspect there will likely be more moves along those lines from the Tampa front office who likes their chances against a Red Sox team many still aren’t buying as division winners.

Unlike the Rays who are in win-now mode, the decision-making from the front offices in New York and Toronto will be fascinating to follow up to Saturday’s Trade Deadline deadline as both teams could make solid arguments to both sell or buy. You could make a compelling argument the smart thing for both franchises to do is bow the the divisional standings and capitalize on the seller’s market to maximize the value of their short term pieces to acquire valuable long term assets. That said, I anticipate both will buy, or at least attempt to do so. The Yankees might have one big move left in them this season, though it’s difficult to see how that would help considering the back of their lineup, the back of their rotation, and the back of their bullpen all need major overhauls. The Blue Jays just need pitching, anywhere, anyhow, in any form. You’d think there would be a move in there somewhere, either for a short term reliever or a bigger move for a longer-term starter.

The Red Sox… well, that’s the truly interesting story, at least from where I sit. They’re the underdog, the team nobody thought would be here. They’re good, obviously good, but how good are they really? No doubt the Red Sox front office has a model that tells them in great detail, but you don’t need a model to know the team could stand a few upgrades. One of those upgrades will come in the person of starter Chris Sale, who threw 3.1 innings for Double-A Portland on Sunday. He looked good and a bit rusty at the same time. The Red Sox will give him a few more rehab starts, which would put him in line to start in Boston in a few weeks time.

So that’s one Trade Deadline upgrade. Assuming Eduardo Rodriguez is healthy and the migraine headaches that forced him out of his last start in the second inning aren’t a long term issue, the Red Sox probably don’t need to add another starter. Prospect Connor Seabold is healthy and though he’s only made one start for Triple-A Worcester, he’s probably the ‘break glass in case of emergency’ guy. It wouldn’t hurt to add another starter, but the cost to add any starting pitching at the trade deadline is always expensive, and the cost to add someone who represents an upgrade over Martin Perez and/or Garrett Richards, the two most likely starters to lose their rotation spots, would be very expensive.

Better, I think, to spend that limited prospect capital on a first baseman. Who? I wrote about this very topic a few weeks ago and the same names remain out there.

Then there’s always the bullpen. No bullpen is perfect and the 2021 Red Sox’ is no exception, so you might reasonably expect some sort of addition there. The nice part about it is if you add one guy, you’re always pushing the worst bullpen piece out, so you don’t have to add Craig Kimbrel to upgrade the bullpen. J.T. Chargois or a similar model would work just as well from that standpoint.

Draft Signings

Finally, not only did the Red Sox draft Marcelo Mayer, but they signed him as well. Sure, that was sort of assumed, but you don’t get the player without both, so throw a second party is what I’m saying.

To date the Red Sox have signed a bunch of their 20 draft picks. For an updated list, the always fantastic Sox Prospects has you covered. There are a few as still unsigned guys though and one that really stands out in University of Florida outfielder Jud Fabian, who Boston took in the second round 40th overall. Fabian will probably sign. We can say that up front. The Red Sox have somewhere around $2.5 million to entice him to ignore his final season at Florida and turn pro, and he’s probably not going to say no to that. That’s a lot of money to turn down, especially when it’s no sure thing you’ll ever see anything like it again. So, while Fabian isn’t signed yet, that doesn’t mean he won’t sign. He’ll very likely put pen to paper before the signing deadline of August 1st at 5pm Eastern.

Beyond that, there are a few other guys who it would be nice to get into the system to see what they can do, but the truth is it’s probably nobody they would really regret losing in the long run. Right now it is Fabian or bust, at least as far as future 2021 draft signings go.

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