Things aren’t going well for the Boston Red Sox in 2015. They were something of a media darling entering the offseason after spending boatloads of cash in free agency to upgrade their lineup and making some aggressive trades to round out their rotation. Many had them down as the favorites to represent the American League in the World Series if not win the whole dang thing. Yet nearly a quarter of the way into the season, Boston is stuck below .500 and has one of the worst pitching staffs and lineups in the American League. With so much going wrong for them it is fair to wonder: are the Red Sox beyond repair?
If there is a blessing in Boston’s early season struggles, it is that they are just 3.5 games out in their division. For a team that can’t pitch or hit, that’s something of a miracle. It pays to be in a mediocre division. For that reason and the fact that their roster, at least on paper, still possesses a lot of talent, this team still has a 46.4% change of making the playoffs, according to Baseball Prospectus. What they need to do to realize those odds is figure out how to unlock that talent.
Youngsters Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts have been lousy. Pablo Sandoval has been underwhelming. David Ortiz is showing his age. Mike Napoli has been a disaster. The catcher’s position is where offense has gone to die for Boston. The point is that there is a lot of things that need to be fixed for the Red Sox lineup to start living up to its potential. As a team with a collective 85 wRC+, they don’t just need one or two of those guys to heat up, they need just about all of them to turn things around.
Things aren’t much better for the pitching staff, especially in the rotation where Wade Miley, Joe Kelly and Justin Masterson have posted ERAs well north of 5.00. The “bright” spots for them have been Rick Porcello (4.26 ERA) and Clay Buchholz (4.93 ERA). That’s no way to try and win ballgames.
The good news is that the rotation is probably pitching better than their numbers indicate, at least if you believe FIP. Masterson, Miley and Kelly all have an ERA a full run higher than their FIP and Buchholz is two full runs over his FIP. If their ERAs all start catching up to their FIP, things will improve in Boston, though they still won’t be great.
Those that didn’t believe in Boston before the season were quick to point out that they rotation lacked a true “ace.” Right now, the Red Sox don’t have that true #1 starter or even a true #2. They’ve been linked to a Cole Hamels trade for what feels like eons now, but have yet to pull the trigger. They still could pursue such a deal, but now much deal with the complication of having to reserve assets to fix their beleaguered lineup as well. Even then, that only knocks one of their poorly performing starters out of the rotation. There are still more guys that could be replaced and that can get expensive.
Fortunately, the Red Sox aren’t short on prospects as they’ve built one of the top farm systems in the game. They’ve got the assets necessary to pull off a series of big deals as a result, they just may not be able to wait that long. It is mid-May now, but the trade market typically doesn’t open up until July. Boston is going to have to find a way to generate some internal improvement over the next six to eight weeks before they can realistically expect reinforcements to arrive.
If those underachieving bats don’t start achieving and those rotation ERAs don’t start progressing towards their lower FIPs, time may well run out on the Red Sox before they even get a chance to cash in those prospect trade chips.