The 2021 Boston Red Sox ballclub is off to an extremely hot start. Today is May 30th, and the team owns the third-best record in all of baseball and sits only a half-game behind the American League wins leader Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East. It is not without notice that this Red Sox team has holes. Fans see it, Chaim Bloom sees it, and Alex Cora sees it. What can be done to fix the holes? Let’s discuss some 2021 Red Sox trade targets.
Jump on the bandwagon, it’s going to be a wild summer of baseball.
2021 Red Sox Trade Targets: The Bullpen
Chaim Bloom deserves a great deal of credit for the landscape of the 2021 Red Sox bullpen. In 2020 the Red Sox finished 26th in bullpen fWAR. Now, right now, the Red Sox has the fifth-best bullpen, with a 2.1 fWAR. That will work, that will work. Just how did the Red Sox end up where they are in 2021? Aside from the demotion of Austin Brice to Triple-A, and Josh Taylor‘s early-season struggles, the Red Sox bullpen in 2021 has performed, especially of late, at an elite level.
As the pen sits right now, the Sox have a lockdown closer in Matt Barnes. Barnes owns a 1.31 xERA, 12 saves, 0.67 WHIP, and 41 strikeouts in 24 innings pitched. Current setup man Adam Ottavino has been near lights out recently.
Asidfe from Barnes and Ottavino, Hirokazu Sawamura has elite fastball velocity, to go along with the elite 90th percentile chase rate. Lefty pitchers Josh Taylor and Darwinzon Hernandez have looked much sharper in May. Garrett Whitlock is an interesting addition to the pen, being a Rule-5 pick from the Yankees, he needs to be managed more delicately as he must stay on the 26-man roster all of 2021 or will be forfeited back to New York. The Red Sox need one more pen piece by the deadline and this pen could prove to be truly elite.
Who will become one of the 2021 Red Sox trade candidates? Well, there is quite a bit of chatter about Pittsburgh Pirate, Richard Rodríguez. Rodríguez has been filthy so far in 2021, with a 0.86 ERA, a 1.56 xERA, six saves, 34 strikeouts in 21 innings, and a 0.48 WHIP. Not to mention he’s controllable through the 2023 season, and with Matt Barnes being a pending free agent, it would allow Rodríguez to slide into the closer role for 2022 if the Red Sox fail to re-sign Barnes.
Just imagine a bullpen combination of Barnes, Rodríguez, Ottavino, Sawamura, Hernandez, Whitlock, Taylor and Brasier, when he returns from the IL. Sounds pretty darn nice.
2021 Red Sox Trade Targets: The Rotation
Unequivocally the issue of the 2020 Red Sox was pitching. Pitching from the rotation, as well as the bullpen, it was just a whole crap storm of pitching. The Sox were handed the misfortunes of going into 2020 without the likes of Sale and Rodríguez, and the patchwork rotation just didn’t cut it.
Now, in 2021, the Red Sox have Rodríguez back, and he’s pitching not nearly as bad as Twitter trolls would lead you to believe. Take a peek at his percentiles, not too shabby.
Add in a very solid start to 2021 from Eovaldi, 3.31 xERA, 2.32 FIP and the emergence of free agent signing Garrett Richards, and solid back of the rotation starts from Martín Pérez, the Red Sox are really just a starter away from having a pretty nasty rotation.
Chris Sale might be the answer in 2021, he also might not be. It is quite a bit of an ask to have him pitch at Chris Sale 2019 level right off Tommy John. Some considered the 2019 version of Sale to not be vintage Sale, but just take a gander at his percentiles. He was elite in 2019.
Getting Chris Sale back in any form in 2021 will be a major plus. But, how about we take a look at who might just be on the trade block come July.
The Biggest name out there is undoubtedly Max Scherzer. Mad Max owns a 2.27 ERA, 1.6 fWAR, and a 12.08 K/9. He’s still very much elite, even in his age 36 season. Don’t get too attached to this idea Red Sox fans, the asking price would be far too high for a team rebuilding the farm system. Chaim Bloom could just go out and sign Scherzer as a free agent at the end of 2021, and it will only cost the Red Sox money.
So, what starter is an actual realistic 2021 Red Sox trade candidate? Maybe Danny Duffy, the lefty from KC. Duffy, like Scherzer, will be a free agent after the 2021 season and has been pitching well, yet unlike Scherzer, the cost of prospects will come at a much lower price. Trading for another starter also adds more depth, as the recent injuries to Houck and Seabold have diminished a bit of the starting depth. Come August, with a trade for Duffy, the starting depth could look a little something like Sale, Eovaldi, Rodríguez, Duffy, Richards, Rivetta, Pérez, Houck, and Seabold.
2021 Red Sox Trade Candidates: The Offense
Boy oh boy, the 2021 Red Sox offense is darn elite. The Red Sox offense ranks fourth on Fangraphs, just behind the White Sox, Astros and the Dodgers. What the Red Sox do possess is the best two-five hitters currently in the game. Xander Bogaerts is the best hitting shortstop in baseball according to fWAR, Devers is ranked third at third base, Martinez is first at designated hitter, and Alex Verdugo is having a career year slashing, .287/.345/.461 and a 120 wRC+.
So, where are the hole? Shortstop, third base, and catcher are solidified in the infield, even with Christian Vázquez not playing to 2019 level, at least not yet. Second base should be played solidly by Christian Arroyo moving forward. And a platoon of switch hitter Danny Santan and rookie Bobby Dalbec should be more than serviceable. However, there could be the need for extra help at first, but we’ll get to that in a bit.
The outfield had been mostly Verdugo in left, Hernández in center and Renfroe in right.
The weakest link for the Red Sox offense has been the bottom third of the order. Moving Kiké down to the seventh spot would help lengthen the lineup, as he has only a .299 OBP for 2021. Alex Cora does not seem to want to budge at Kiké or Verdugo hitting second, so we must roll with the two when figuring out how to improve the landscape of the lineup.
Kiké Hernández, Alex Verdugo, J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Hunter Renfroe, Danny Santana, Christian Vázquez and Christian Arroyo is a very nice lineup to mess around with. But, is there a need for more help? Sure, absolutely, and before you get all crazy excited, no, no, no, Kris Bryant will not be one of 2021 Red Sox trade candidates coming to Boston. Let’s think a little smaller.
The weaknesses to the Red Sox really, and unfortunately fall a good deal on Marwin Gonzalez. Gonzalez is hitting .199/.292/.284 with a wRC+ of 64. As much as Renfroe has been playing into an everyday role, that’s how much Gonzalez has been playing his way out of the lineup. Danny Santana proves to add as much versatility as Gonzalez, while also hitting switch.
Who could the Red Sox add? Santana seems to be a great platoon option at first, will it be with Dalbec? Or will he be demoted to Triple-A Worcester? So, let’s look to first base. Hernández has the versatility to be moved to second, Arroyo becomes an important part of the bench. What about old friend Anthony Rizzo? That’s barring if the Cubs recent hot streak doesn’t hold up. He’s a left bat that never got the chance to play at Fenway. Rizzo isn’t having his best season, but he’s still really darn good, hitting .258/.366/.434 with a 121 wRC+, that will play nicely in this Red Sox 2021 lineup.
What’s a Red Sox team with the additions of Danny Duffy, Anthony Rizzo, and Ricard Rodríguez? Well, it’s a heck of an improvement on an already pretty solid 2021 team. Now, will any of these trades actually happen? You know, could happen, might be way off, but it’s sure fun to think about. Did anyone see the trades for Nate Eovaldi or Steve Pearce as difference makers in 2018? Maybe not, but they proved to be such. Only time will tell what Chaim Bloom decides to do, but it’s sure going to be a fun rest of the season to watch.
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