The Boston Red Sox enter the All-Star Break surging, with a record of 68-30 and are 38 games over .500 for the first time since 1949, and baseball fans in Boston finally have something to celebrate again.
They may well have two of the top four MVP candidates in superstars Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez and are sending them to Nationals Park along with three other All-Stars in Mitch Moreland, Craig Kimbrel, and Chris Sale. However, despite the success and praise lauded upon them, only one number is important—4 1/2 games, which is the lead the Red Sox have over the New York Yankees in the American League East standings.
The Red Sox are on pace to win 100 games for the fifth time in their history and the first since 1946, and they hold the best record in the MLB going into the All-Star Break for the first time since 2007. Yet, despite all of it, the Yankees are right behind them. The Red Sox need to keep up their torrid pace in order to stay ahead of New York. This, after all, could be the last year of the championship window for the Red Sox.
Boston and New York are competing with the Houston Astros and the Cleveland Indians for American League supremacy. The Red Sox are the clear-cut fourth choice of any of the teams going into the playoffs because they have had the least success of the four in the past couple of years.
Next year, the Red Sox will have big names as free agents like Kimbrel and Joe Kelly. David Price could opt out. The ‘Killer B’s’ will be up after that, with Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and Jackie Bradley Jr. all starting to reach their final years of arbitration. The Red Sox have a high payroll as it is and they will have some tough decisions to make.
This year is their best chance to win a title. No Wild Card has won the World Series since the MLB introduced the one-game playoff in 2014. The Red Sox desperately need to capture the No.1 overall seed in the playoffs in order to secure the home field they haven’t had the past couple of years. But that begs the question—with the second half of the season looming, which Red Sox players and personnel need to step up to bring Boston a fourth title in the last 15 years?
Sandy Leon– Christian Vazquez suffered a broken finger against Kansas City that sidelined him for the next six to eight weeks. Sandy Leon needs to step it up, and so far he’s been up to the task.
He’s been hitting better over the past month and his slash line is now .242 with four homers and 19 RBI. However, the Red Sox need Leon to be able to defend at the level that he has been all year, not just improve his hitting. The Red Sox have elite arms behind the plate and they will need them come playoff time, with his hitting to back it up.
Jackie Bradley Jr– This should be the most obvious choice for players that need to step it up. Bradley stepped it up prior to the All-Star break, but his entire career has been a series of hot and cold streaks. He needs to finish the season hitting above .230 for the Red Sox to solidify their lineup and keep letting his defense speak for itself.
Tyler Thornburg– Thornburg returned for a July series against Kansas City and he has looked good so far out of the gate. The same could not be said for Joe Kelly though. He’s been absolutely atrocious in July, and the Red Sox need a setup man.
With the team strapped for cash, there isn’t likely to be a trade for an elite bullpen arm like Brad Hand at the trade deadline. Thornburg needs to become the shutdown arm he was advertised as when the Red Sox traded Travis Shaw for him in the winter of 2017.
David Price– Price has been good, but not great. His enigmatic starts have been well profiled, especially against the Yankees. He needs to start pitching like he deserves the $31 million that he is being paid this year. Price needs to be able to perform when the chips are on the table against the powerhouses of the American League.
Dave Dombrowski– ‘Trader Dave’ Dombrowski has done as advertised—he’s traded for big pieces. In doing so, however, he’s stripped the farm system down to bare bones. The stockpile of prospects Ben Cherington accumulated is gone, and so is the salary cap.
The Red Sox barely have any money to acquire someone who they need at the deadline. Dombrowski shouldn’t trade studs like Rafael Devers or Andrew Benintendi or any of their top prospects like Jay Groome.
That being said, this team still has serious holes. They need to add someone. Now’s the time for Dombrowski to earn his keep, and find this year’s Brad Ziegler or Addison Reed in order to put the Red Sox over the top and rival the bullpens of the Yankees, Indians, and Astros.