What Should The Red Sox Do Now?

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How quickly fortunes can change in Major League Baseball.  After trouncing the Yankees in the first three games of their series at Fenway Park at the end of July by a combined score of 38-13, and with Chris Sale slated to pitch in the finale, the Red Sox seemed poised to make a late charge for a playoff spot, if not another division title.

Photo courtesy of Boston Sports Journal

We had seen them go on short runs where they have looked to have regained their form of 2018, only to slip back into their malaise and lose winnable games to mediocre teams.  But coming off series wins over both the Yankees and the Rays, and with eight more to play, we were duped into thinking this team had finally “flipped the switch”.  
Little did we know the biggest slide of all was yet to come.

The surge was enough to fool the fans, but apparently not de facto GM Dave Dombrowski.  After losing the finale of the Yankee series, and then another to the Rays in the opener of a series at Fenway, Dombrowski failed to make any move at the July 31st trade deadline.  He stated the team was not in position to justify dealing away talent to make a run.  Essentially, Dombrowski told the fans, and the team, that they weren’t going to win even with whatever reinforcements were available for acquisition.

Is it a coincidence the team has failed to win a game since the trade deadline?  The team has shown little fight since then, and were absolutely embarrassed in getting swept in a four game series over the weekend at Yankee Stadium.  Even a team meeting between double header losses on Saturday failed to light a fire under the team. 

Going into play on Monday night, the Red Sox have lost eight straight games and find themselves 14.5 games behind the Yankees in the division, and 6.5 games out of the second wild card spot.  There is still a mathematical probability the team could go on a run while those above them falter, but do we really have any faith that can happen given the failures of the bullpen, and with the starting rotation also faltering over recent weeks?

Remember, there is no longer an August waiver trade period.  The Red Sox can’t make a deal to bring in help, or to sell off pieces to contenders for prospects to help rebuild the farm system.

With nearly two months remaining in the regular season, and management all but conceding the season to be over, what can the Red Sox do to get a jump on 2020?

1.     Give Sale a rest

No one has been a bigger disappointment this season than Chris Sale.  He claims he is healthy, but the results have not been there on a consistent basis.  Given the investment the team made in signing him to a five year extension earlier this year, they need to protect their investment.

MLBshop.com The Official Online Shop of Major League BaseballThere is no reason to continue to run Sale out there every fifth game to take a beating.  He appears to genuinely care about his performance, and his continued struggles must be wearing on him.  The team should place him on the IL with some phantom injury (turf toe, stiff neck, etc.) and give him the rest of August off to re-work his mechanics and regroup mentally.  He can then have a chance to work to regain his form in September, but only as part of an expanded rotation, making one start a week.

Sale will likely balk at this plan.  He is a fierce competitor and will not want to be seen as a quitter.  But he and the team need to have Sale healthy and ready to hit the ground running at the start of the 2020 season.

2.     Continue to groom Darwinzon Hernandez

The 22 year old left hander has shown some promise since being recalled to Boston and thrown into the bullpen mix.  He has a tendency to struggle with his command, and can only benefit from more work at the major league level.  He can replace Sale in the rotation and audition for the role of fifth starter in 2020 to replace the soon to be departed Rick Porcello and Andrew Cashner.

3.     Showcase Michael Chavis

Chavis’ call-up in May provided a spark to the team and helped them pull out of the funk with which they started the season.  His tape measure home runs had fans anointing him as a future superstar and successor to Dustin Pedroia at second base.  However, the league quickly found not one, but two huge holes in Chavis’ swing.  Since his early success, Chavis has been relegated to being primarily a platoon player at first base.

Chavis is still young, and could yet figure out the adjustments necessary to be successful at the major league level, much has Rafael Devers done this season.  He needs to play consistently at one position for the remainder of the season, preferably at second base.

This plan could serve two purposes.  Like Hernandez, it can be an audition for a spot on the 2020 team.  Or, if Chavis goes on a tear to finish out the season, to showcase him as a possible trade chip in the offseason.

4.     Call up Bobby Dalbec (in September)

There isn’t much talent in the Red Sox farm system that can potentially be of help in 2020.  Third baseman Bobby Dalbec is an exception to that rule. 

The 6’-4”, 225 lb, 24 year old Dalbec is a third baseman by trade, and by all accounts is a plus defender with a strong arm.  However, like Chavis before him, he is blocked by the younger Devers at the major league level.  The Red Sox will be in the market for a first baseman next year, and Dalbec could provide a low cost alternative, allowing budgetary allocations to other positions of need, such as the bullpen or a right fielder (more on that in a future column).

Dalbec spent most of 2019 with the Portland Sea Dogs, where he batted only .234 but slugged 20 homers.  He also struck out 110 times in 439 plate appearances, a nearly 25% K percentage.  He was recently promoted to AAA Pawtucket where he will face some pitchers with major league experience.

Regardless of his performance in Pawtucket for the remainder of the AAA season, Dalbec should be called up when the rosters expand in September.  Even if he doesn’t play, he will get a taste of the major league atmosphere and get the opportunity to work with the major league staff.  

5.     Retire “Sweet Caroline”

Things have not been “so good – so good” at Fenway this season.  The Red Sox have a below .500 record at home.  The playing of “Sweet Caroline” in the bottom of the eighth inning has long since run its course, and in my humble opinion it’s time to retire it for good.  

What do you think of retiring “Sweet Caroline”?  Check out our Instagram poll and log in with your vote.  If you think it is time for it to join Big Papi in retirement, let us know what you think should take its place.


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Boston Sports Syndicate: What Should The Red Sox Do Now?
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