Aim For The Middle To Get To The Top

It’s getting to that point of the season where I start to get real nervous.

The Red Sox are in contention with an incredibly talented, multi-faceted and productive offense. But the bullpen is shaky. And the starting rotation is … well, we’ve been over that already.

The rumblings are starting among the media and the fanbase.

It’s time to make a move.

A big one.

Names are being thrown around – names like Sonny Gray (who is having kind of a terrible season, if you haven’t been watching).
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It makes me nervous, because attempting to skim the cream of the crop is the absolute wrong move for this team and this time. The price, regardless of the immediate return, will be too high.

Take a close look at how the trade deadlines of the 2004 and 2013 seasons played out. In both seasons, Boston moved a different quality of player and received important, structural pieces as opposed to center pieces. In 2013, it was the Red Sox moving Jose Iglesias and eventually getting a necessary arm in Jake Peavy in a three-team deal.

In 2004, of course, Boston dealt Nomar Garciaparra in order to upgrade its defense with a pair of Gold Glovers in Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz.

Those are the types of deals that win championships. Move for role players: guys who won’t overwhelm a clubhouse, or lineup, but will subtly compliment the overall needs of the club.

This was a fact that got somewhat lost in last year’s trade deadline frenzy.

The Blue Jays, for example, shipped heavily – giving up a trio of promising arms for two months’ worth of David Price. They traded away more pitching for Ben Revere and traded away even more pitching (and Jose Reyes) for Troy Tulowitzki. And they lost in the ALCS.

The Royals, on the other hand, made a smart deal for the super utility of all super utilities — Ben Zobrist, and moved for Johnny Cueto. It was a microcosm of the different degrees in deals: Cueto, the marquee move, gave them two great starts, a decent start and an awful start in the postseason. As a Royal, he went 4-7 with a 4.76 ERA. Zobrist batted .284, with a .364 OBP, seven homers and 29 RBIs in his short stay in Kansas City. In the postseason, he hit eight doubles, drove in six runs and drew seven walks.

The point is this, and it is simple: Stay away from trying to make the big deal. Boston is one player, maybe two players away from a World Series caliber team.

Don’t aim for the Sonny Grays of the market. Look instead for the steady, middle-of-the-rotation arm or fading top-of-the-rotation arm.

Doug Fister comes to mind out of Houston. Or Julio Teheran out of Atlanta. Or play the hope card with a guy like Patrick Corbin in Arizona or Andrew Cashner in San Diego.

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An arm that could give up just three or four runs in a postseason game could work with this offense. There’s no need to empty the stable of prospects to go to that elite level. They just need a guy who can get through six innings without imploding. If they can swing a solid reliever, that’d be the icing on the cake.

So far, Dave Dombrowski appears to think along those lines. And my guess is the move will come sooner rather than later.

If it swings the other direction, though, and we start talking about Sonny Gray, it might be time to start worrying.

 

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