After winning a major league-best 108 regular-season games and a World Series in 2018, the Red Sox have come out somewhat flat this year. The club’s firmly in the playoff hunt again, but at a middling 36-34, it sits a game out of an American League wild-card spot. Still, in discussing the upcoming trade deadline with Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com, Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski predictably revealed a willingness to buy.
Boston’s “always open to improving” should “the right opportunity” come along, Dombrowski said. The two-time championship-winning executive added the team will take an “aggressive” approach if it remains in contention leading up to July 31. That’s unsurprising coming from Dombrowski, who has been active on the summer trade market during his time in Boston. Just a year ago, pre-deadline acquisitions in first baseman Steve Pearce and right-hander Nathan Eovaldi played instrumental roles in the Red Sox’s run to a title. The season prior, Dombrowski pulled in reliever Addison Reed and infielder Eduardo Nunez in July, and he picked up lefty Drew Pomeranz and infielder Aaron Hill in 2016.
Judging by Dombrowski’s Red Sox history, moves are likely to happen in the coming weeks. The team’s bullpen is one area many Red Sox fans hope Dombrowski upgrades, but he’s not panicking over the maligned unit.
“People keep asking that question and have been asking it,” he told Cotillo of his relief corps. “It’s amazing how many fans and reporters in almost every city in Major League Baseball ask that same question.”
Boston’s bullpen does rank in the majors’ top 10 in ERA, FIP and K/BB ratio, all of which supports Dombrowski’s belief that it’s not in dire shape. Marcus Walden, Brandon Workman, Heath Hembree and Matt Barnes are among much-utilized Red Sox relievers who have posted respectable or better production in 2019. However, the team hasn’t found a full-time closer to take over for Craig Kimbrel, who officially said goodbye to Boston when he signed with the Cubs last week.
Additionally, the Red Sox are devoid of a lefty reliever at the moment, though the mending Brian Johnson could help in that regard when he returns from the injured list in the coming days. Johnson may end up in play for the Red Sox’s rotation, as could suspended knuckleballer Steven Wright when he comes back later this month. Their starting staff hasn’t gotten much production behind the established quartet of Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello and Eduardo Rodriguez. Eovaldi, Hector Velazquez, Ryan Weber, Josh Smith and Darwinzon Hernandez have fallen flat across a combined 17 starts.
While Eovaldi’s a strong bet to reclaim the remaining spot in Boston’s starting staff when he comes off the IL, it’s up in the air when that will happen. Out since undergoing elbow surgery in late April, Eovaldi suffered a setback in his bicep last weekend. His arm problems could help inform Dombrowski’s deadline plans and persuade the exec to add another legit starter capable of aiding in the club’s playoff push. At the very least, the Red Sox look like candidates to increase their starting depth before the end of July.
Of course, in Boston’s case, the luxury tax is worth keeping in mind as it gears up to potentially add outside help. According to Jason Martinez of Roster Resource, the Red Sox’s luxury tax payroll currently checks in at more than $251MM, which puts them on pace to exceed the league’s highest threshold ($246MM). If that occurs, the Sox will have to pay a 75 percent surtax for every dollar spent over the limit. They’ll also see their top 2020 draft pick fall 10 spots. The franchise ran a $239MM luxury tax payroll in 2018, which cost it $11.95MM in taxes and 10 spots on its first selection in this month’s draft.