As the calendar turns to June, it's time for TheBostonInsider to take a closer look at the 2016 Boston Red Sox.
For all of you loyal readers, you know that in my preseason predictions that I did not believe the Red Sox would be a playoff team. Along with pretty much all of the rest of those predictions, writing that the Red Sox would not be a playoff team seems awfully silly at this point of the season.
The Red Sox currently sport a 32-20 record, which is good enough for the best in the American League and has earned them a three-game lead over the Orioles in the A.L. East. Only the Chicago Cubs (35-15) are playing better baseball through the first two months of the season. If the Red Sox only managed to play .500 for the remainder of the season, they'd finish with 87 wins which would likely be enough for them to at least claim one of the two Wild Card spots in the A.L. playoffs.
I've never been one to not admit when I was wrong but after watching this Red Sox team in April and May, I don't think I've ever been so happy to admit that I was wrong.
If the Red Sox are to make a postseason appearance, their pitching staff needs to be bolstered.
The starting rotation could use one additional pitcher that could reasonably be expected to start a playoff game. David Price seems to be settling in after a rocky first month, Rick Porcello is having a good start to his second season in Boston, and Eduardo Rodriguez - who looked good in his first start of the season last night after battling a knee injury suffered in Spring Training - is a nice option for the third starter position. Knuckleballer Steven Wright is doing his best impersonation of the 1995 version of Tim Wakefield but, as with all knucklers, it's hard to project consistent success for Wright through the season.
The trade market will be competitive. Oakland's Rich Hill, who the Red Sox let walk away this Winter, is off to an excellent start and with the A's drifting out of contention he could be available right around the All-Star break. James Shields of the Padres, Julio Tehran of the Braves, and Ervin Santana of the Twins are other names that will likely be associated with the Red Sox.
Starting pitching is not the only concern for the Red Sox. Beyond closer Craig Kimbrel, set-up men Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara, and lefty specialist Robbie Ross Jr., the bullpen is full of questions. Clay Buchholz has already been moved to the bullpen due to his struggles as a starter and should noit be considered a long-term solution as a relief pitcher at this point. Joe Kelly, currently a starter, would potentially be a nice addition to the bullpen and if they do add a top of the rotation starter, moving Kelly to the bullpen may save them from having to deal for another right handed set-up man.
The Tommy John surgery for Carson Smith damaged their set-up depth and youngsters Heath Hembree and Matt Barnes have been inconsistent.
Adding another lefty would be a wise move. If the Yankees were to be out of the playoff picture by the trade deadline, bringing back Andrew Miller would be a welcome addition but it's unlikely the Red Sox would want to pay the price in prospects to their hated rivals to land him. A more realistic target is Minnesota's Fernando Abad.
Another right hander for the bullpen would also be a wise move. San Diego's Fernando Rodney, Atlanta's Arodys Vizcaino, and Milwaukee's Jeremy Jeffress are all potential targets for that role.
Adding pitching will be expensive and it will interesting to see how much Dave Dombrowski is willing to pay to add the arms that his team needs to solidify their starting rotation and bullpen for a potential championship run. Theo Epstein and Ben Cherington loaded the organization with top tier young talent. Some of those propects are already emerging as major league stars and the farm system is considered one of the best in the game. It will be inherent on Dombrowski and his staff to make the right decisions on which prospects to deal and to make sure that they get the proper value in return.
Who is the Red Sox MVP?
Steven Wright has made his case. His 5-4 record is not outstanding but his 2,45 ERA is near the top of the A.L. and he is tied with Clayton Kershaw, Johnny Cueto, and Chris Sale for the Major League lead in complete games with three.
So has Xander Bogaerts. The 23-year-old shortstop is leading the A.L. in batting (.350) and hits (76), is playing excellent defense, and currently has a 23-game hitting streak.
What about David Ortiz? At age 40, in what has been announced as his last season, Big Papi is leading the Major's in RBI (47), doubles (23), slugging percentage (.716), and OPS (1.132) and also has 14 home runs and a .335 batting average.
Mookie Betts is no slouch either. The 23-year-old right fielder is playing Gold Glove defense, leading the Major's in runs (49) and in triples (4), and is hitting a solid .283 with 12 home runs and 40 RBI out of the lead off spot in Boston's lineup.
Kind of hard to ignore the contributions of Dustin Pedroia and Jackie Bradley Jr. at this point but there's only so many candidates I'm willing to review.