As we wake up this morning, our Boston Red Sox are in the thick of contention for the A.L. East championship. They are chasing the Orioles and have the Blue Jays right behind them. Only two games separate the three teams and, if the season ended today, all three would qualify for the American League playoffs.
Following two consecutive seasons of last place finishes in the division, this is exactly what Red Sox Nation needed from the 2016 season. Boston baseball fans expect, and certainly pay for, a competitive team and this year's nine have lived up to that expectation through 91 games.
This team has enough offensive talent to make a run at the World Series and by trading for reliever Brad Ziegler and starter Drew Pomeranz, Dave Dombrowski has made a concerted effort to upgrade his pitching staff. He also bolstered his team's bench by trading for infielder Aaron Hill.
Dombrowski's work may not be done. Craig Kimbrel is out until at least the end of August, Junichi Tazawa is currently on the disabled list, and last night Koji Uehara left the team's 4-0 win over the Giants with a strained right pectoral muscle. Reinforcements for the bullpen will clearly be needed.
In regards to Dombrowski still having work to do, there was an interesting rumor reported by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports about Pomeranz.
According to Rosenthal, the Cubs were looking to trade for Pomeranz with the intention of then using him in a separate deal to add a different (and unidentified) starter.
I wonder if Dombrowski might be looking to do the same thing. The Red Sox paid a hefty price for Pomeranz by giving up their top pitching prospect, Anderson Espinoza, to the Padres. Pomeranz, despite his All-Star status this season, is not viewed as an elite pitcher but he is relatively young (27), he seems to be on an upward trajectory in his career, and he's also under team control through the 2018 season.
Maybe Pomeranz will be used as bait by Dombrowski to add a top tier starting pitcher like Chris Sale or Sonny Gray. Adding an elite pitcher to go with David Price, Rick Porcello, and Steven Wright would give the Red Sox the type of pitching needed to win the A.L. East and seriously contend for the World Series.
Speaking of trades, how about Jackie Bradley Jr. to the Yankees for Andrew Miller? Who says no?
One of the challenges that John Farrell will face over the last 71 games will be how to provide aging stars David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia rest while not injuring the team's chances to secure a playoff spot.
Ortiz, at age 40, is having an MVP caliber season but has not been shy about talking about his sore feet. Pedroia, age 32, is having another excellent campaign but injuries have been a constant issue with him over the last several years as he tends to break down from his all-out style of play.
Farrell will have to juggle the team's need to have both All-Stars in the lineup but also keep them healthy enough to play into October.
Dombrowksi's trade for Aaron Hill provides Farrell with a competent fill-in for Pedroia and Brock Holt can also help out at second base. Getting Chris Young back from his groin strain - which doesn't seem like it will happen anytime soon - would give Farrell an option to fill-in at designated hitter to provide Big Papi with an occasional day off. Another option to allow Ortiz some needed rest is to shift Travis Shaw from third to first base and insert Hanley Ramirez as the DH for the day with either Hill or Holt moving to third.
Is Rick Porcello inserting himself into the discussion for the A.L. Cy Young award?
At 12-2 with a 3.47 ERA, the 27-year-old righty is certainly in the discussion to be named the best pitcher in the American League. It doesn't hurt his case that he's pitching in the middle of a pennant race.
Now if only David Price would pitch like a Cy Young candidate for the next two and a half months, the Red Sox would be in a great position to win the East and become a favorite for the A.L. title.
Enjoy Drew Pomeranz' debut tonight.