With the August 1 non-waiver trade deadline quickly approaching, Dave Dombrowski has a list of problems to address.
Adding another starting pitcher, preferably a top of the rotation type such as Chris Sale, is on that list as is adding depth to the team's outfield. Adding the right player in both spots would go a long way towards getting the Red Sox into the playoffs.
While a starter and an outfielder would be nice, solving the team's issues in the bullpen has to be at the top of Dombrowski's to-do list.
The bullpen is the most chaotic area of the Red Sox due to injury and inconsistency.
As of this morning, it looks like closer Craig Kimbrel will be returning much sooner than was initially expected when he had knee surgery on July 11. Kimbrel threw 25 pitches at Fenway yesterday and is expected to do so again tomorrow before heading off to a minor league rehab stint if all goes well. John Farrell said it's realistic that Kimbrel could be back as soon as Monday.
The Kimbrel news comes at a time in which set-up man Koji Uehara's fate is uncertain. Filling in as the closer when Kimbrel went down, the 41-year-old Uehara tore a pectoral muscle on July 19 and talking to the media yesterday, Farrell was "hopeful" that he'd return before the end of the season. That news is unsettling.
Junichi Tazawa, the other primary set-up man, just returned from the disabled list.
Dombrowski did add Brad Ziegler right before announcing the injury of Kimbrel before the All-Star break and the former Diamondbacks closer has been a savior, allowing no runs over six inning pitched.
Matt Barnes (3-3, 3.23 ERA) and Robbie Ross Jr. (1-1, 4.04) have done an admirable job in middle relief and failed starters Clay Buchholz and Joe Kelly are now trying to salvage their seasons (careers?) in the bullpen.
All of this uncertainty in the bullpen should make adding a relief pitcher the top priority for Dombrowski.
Some potential targets for the Red Sox could be right handers Jeanmar Gomez of the Phillies and Jeremy Jeffress of the Brewers or, if it's a lefty, Fernando Abad of the Twins. Lefty Andrew Miller of the Yankees (and formerly of the Red Sox) would be a home run of an addition but he'd cost quite a bundle to pry from New York.
Dombrowski went on record yesterday that the team does not need bullpen help but I take that as posturing before the deadline. With a starting rotation that has only been so-so, having multiple arms out of the bullpen that can shut down an opponent will be critical if the Red Sox have any shot at making a run at the World Series.