July 21, 2011

The Sox at the deadline.

With the All-Star Game behind us and the Philadelphia Phillies -- I mean, the National League -- having secured home-field advantage in the World Series, it's time for every team to prepare for the second half and muster their reinforcements.

The AL East is a two-headed monster, and it's very likely that both heads will reach the postseason. Were there a greater gap between the Yankees and the Red Sox, perhaps Boston might stand pat at the trade deadline. But the overachieving Yankees continue to play well, which may force Theo Epstein into making a move.

Interestingly, though, the Red Sox don't have a lot of weaknesses. They have baseball's most powerful offense, a strong bullpen and three top starters. The rotation would seem to be the weakest point, given that all three of those top pitchers have lost time to injuries, but Josh Beckett returned strong and Jon Lester is due back very shortly. Clay Buchholz has been out much longer than expected, but the patchwork quartet of Tim Wakefield, Andrew Miller, Kyle Weiland and John Lackey have kept the team afloat, thanks in great part to thunderous offensive support.

And who's available, anyway? Epstein and every other GM with brainwaves have been kicking the tires on Ubaldo Jimenez, but the Colorado Rockies would demand a king's ransom. Hiroki Kuroda doesn't want to leave the Dodgers, and bringing back Derek "DUI" Lowe would be silly. Jeremy Guthrie? Doug Fister? The Sox can probably do better with the pieces they already have.

Right field, however, is an interesting area. It's the only position of below-average production on the team, or at least it was until the emergence of Josh Reddick. Reddick has always been a player of high potential, but he looked overwhelmed while sucking down his previous few cups of coffee. His mental approach kept him in the minors, until this year when, as Theo Epstein put it, "the light went on." His .378/.432/.671 slash line -- with 4 dingers and 18 RBIs in only 82 at-bats -- no longer sounds like a weakness to me.

Reddick, of course, would be replacing J.D. Drew, who Sox fans have been all over since he arrived. Yes, he seems very overpaid, but I'd argue that his first few years in Boston were worthy of such a contract. Plus, his defense has always been outstanding.

But I can't defend him this year; Drew has been flat-out awful. I just wait patiently until he grounds out to second; if he comes up with men on, I pray for a walk. He has hit .223/.321/.309 with 4 homers and 22 RBIs in 233 ABs. Think about that. Reddick's batting average is higher than Drew's OBP in a fraction of the at-bats. If there was a J.D. Drew era, it's officially come to an end.

There are other options: Carlos Beltran is known to be available, Hunter Pence is a possibility (for a high price) and players like Michael Cuddyer and Josh Willingham are always on the radar. But unless the Sox actually sell a small farm for Pence, I say give Reddick the full-time job until he no longer deserves it. There are concerns that the lineup is far too left-handed, but I don't particularly care what hand a batter hits with, so long as he hits. And, although in a very small amount of 2011 at-bats, Reddick has yet to show any particular weakness against lefties.

With the deadline ten days away, the front office will have a little time to decide if the emergence of internal options and the return of injured players will be all the reinforcements they'll need. If I was the general manager, I would save all my chips for when they were really needed and refuse to overpay for anyone, even a Pence or Jimenez. If those teams intend to drain the Sox, they can try to rob someone else. Focus on the little pieces just to fill in the gaps, that's what I say, because a healthier Boston Red Sox team shouldn't have too much to worry about in the second half.

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