The sky is falling in Boston, where the Red Sox are just 6-15 in July and have been outscored by 70 runs in those 21 games.
With a record that’s dropped to a single game over .500, the Red Sox sit three games out of the final wild-card spot in the AL, tied with the Guardians. Maybe more to the point, Boston is just a half-game out of last place in the very tough AL East, a half-game up on the Orioles and 17 games behind the first-place Yankees.
Injuries have played a role, to be sure. The IL is packed with players who were big parts of Boston’s outstanding month of June — the Sox were 20-6 — and that’s tough to overcome. But the “why” isn’t as important as the “what are you going to do” right now. The Red Sox are not in an enviable position, with a roster that was always lacking pitching — unless prayers were answered — and it doesn’t seem likely that a rebound is coming soon.
So, yeah, it makes a lot of sense for the Sox to be sellers heading into the Aug. 2 deadline, especially when you consider how many players are set to be free agents after the season anyway. Here’s a look at six players Boston could move in the next week.
Xander Bogaerts and five other Red Sox who could be dealt if…
Xander Bogaerts, SS
Need to know: Bogaerts signed a six-year, $120 million extension in April 2019, a contract that included an opt-out after the 2022 season, his Age 29 year. In the five seasons before the deal, he produced a .284/.343/.430 slash line, good for a .773 OPS. Since then, the shortstop has made the All-Star team every year possible (there was no All-Star Game in 2020, obviously) and averaged a .305/.378/.507 slash line, good for an .885 OPS. That’s a really solid increase.
It makes sense that he’d use the opt-out leverage to land a larger contract, right? He wouldn’t be in line to land a jaw-dropping contract, but better to negotiate a longer deal heading into your Age 30 season than heading into your Age 34 season, right?
At one point, it looked like he might get that from the Red Sox, but then Boston signed shortstop Trevor Story to a long-term deal this spring. Story is at second base, but it doesn’t take a tea-leaves reader to see what the future holds. If the Red Sox were legitimate contenders this year, it would have been worth it to keep Bogaerts this year and see what happens. But with the season falling off the cliff, now feels like the time to trade him; anything would be better than the nothing they’d get if/when he leaves as a free agent.
J.D. Martinez, DH.T
This is the final year of the five-year, $110 million contract he signed in February 2018, and he’s a free agent after the season. No options on the contract. According to Cot’s Contracts, he has limited no-trade protection (three teams).
Nathan Eovaldi, SP
Need to know: The right-hander will always be a Boston postseason legend for his epic six-inning extra-innings relief effort in Game 3 of the 2018 World Series, after throwing an inning in Game 1 and another inning in Game 2. Sure, the Sox lost that game, but Eovaldi saved the bullpen and Boston wound up winning the Series in five games.
The Red Sox gave him a four-year, $68 million deal that offseason, a deal that expires at the end of this season. Like Martinez, no options of any kind. Eovaldi cruised through his first dozen starts, posting a 3.16 ERA with 72 strikeouts in 68 1/3 innings, but he went on the IL in early June with a back injury. He came off the IL to make one start before the All-Star break, and then was lit up by the Blue Jays in his first start after the break. That outing — nine earned runs in 2 2/3 innings — shot his ERA up to 4.30. It was, though, only the second time in 14 starts he’d allowed more than three earned runs.
He would make a great No. 3 in the rotation of any playoff contender. If he’s traded and he’s the No. 4 or No. 5 guy in his new team’s rotation, that team is a legit World Series contender.
Enrique Hernandez, OF
Need to know: A healthy Hernandez would be a valuable addition to a contender, with his ability to play multiple positions — though he’s been primarily an outfielder in Boston, he played all over the infield with the Dodgers — and his extensive postseason experience. Thing is, he’s on the 60-day IL with a hip issue, and he’s not even eligible to return until Aug. 7 at the earliest. Sox manager Alex Cora said a few days ago that Hernandez was ready to start swinging a bat, which is good.
But, yeah, that’s a lot of risk. The only reason he’s here is that he’s a free agent after the season, and if the Sox do decide to sell, there’s no reason to hold onto him if a team is willing to roll the dice that he’ll come back healthy and be ready to contribute by mid-August or September. He’s the kind of player worth a flyer, though.
READ MORE:Red Sox Fans Fight During Game at…….
Michael Wacha, SP
Need to know: Wacha was one of Boston’s best baseball stories this season, rolling up a 2.69 ERA in 13 starts before landing on the IL with a shoulder issue. Ranked by bWAR, he is behind only Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts, with a 2.3 mark. The 31-year-old allowed more than two runs in only three of his 13 starts, including a three-hit shutout of the Angels in his first June outing.
It’s tough to trade a starting pitcher on the IL, though Wacha threw a simulated game Monday. And if the Sox keep losing, his return to the rotation could be essentially an exhibition for interested teams. Wacha signed a one-year, $7 million contract in the offseason.
Christian Vazquez, C
Need to know: Like Martinez, Eovaldi, Hernandez and Wacha, Vazquez is a free-and-clear free agent after the season. At 31 years old, he’s producing offensively a bit above his career averages, with a .277/.321/.432 slash line, with eight homers, 39 RBIs and 18 doubles in 78 games. That’s solid offense behind the plate for a contender, whether the need is a full-time starter or an above-average backup.