The Boston Red Sox have blown preseason expectations out of the water this season.
After a poor 2019 and an even worse 2020, many fans thought that the team was not ready to compete in 2021.
But with two months in the books, the Red Sox are 32-22 and firmly in the mix in the American League East.
Three moves could turn the team into a legitimate title contender.
3. Get Chris Sale Back
Fortunately, this is a move that should take care of itself.
Chris Sale is still (with any luck) one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball, and the Red Sox have been without him since the 2019 season.
The southpaw underwent Tommy John surgery in early 2020 and he’s expected to return this summer.
Chris Sale continues with his pitching program in Fort Myers, no delays and still in line for a June/July return.
— Boston Strong (@BostonStrong_34) May 10, 2021
Sale was not entirely himself in that 2019 season, pitching to a 4.40 ERA over 25 starts.
He did maintain a ridiculous strikeout rate (218 Ks over 147.1 IP), but got tagged for the highest home run rate of his career (1.5 HR/9).
The Sale that we’re used to seeing is the ace who finished in the top six of Cy Young voting for seven consecutive years from 2012-2018.
He was named an All-Star in each of those seasons.
Over his first two years with the Red Sox in 2017 and 2018, Sale posted a 2.90 ERA and a 2.11 ERA.
He struck out an absurd 308 batters in 2017 and followed it up with 237 strikeouts in 2018.
The veteran got the final out of the 2018 World Series to cap off a title run that he was an integral part of.
Fortunately for the Red Sox, three relatively new names have come up huge in Sale’s absence this season.
Martin Perez (3.55 ERA), Garrett Richards (3.75), and Nick Pivetta (3.86) deserve all the credit in the world for their importance to the rotation, especially in a year where Nathan Eovaldi (4.01) and Eduardo Rodriguez (5.64) have struggled thus far.
2. Trade For A Lefty Reliever
While the Boston bullpen has been extremely serviceable thus far, the team lacks a reliable lefty reliever.
Matt Barnes (2.63 ERA), Adam Ottavino (2.95), Garrett Whitlock (1.73), and Hirokazu Sawamura (3.15) have established themselves as the top relief options for this club, but all of those guys are right-handed.
Darwinzon Hernandez—a lefty—does have a 3.38 ERA, but he’s been shaky at times.
The Red Sox could really benefit from adding a proven lefty at the deadline.
Some possible candidates include Josh Hader of the Milwaukee Brewers (0.83 ERA, 0.82 FIP, 0.76 WHIP), Brad Hand of the Washington Nationals (3.72 ERA, 5.04 FIP, 1.35 WHIP this year, but has a career 3.65 ERA, 3.69 FIP, 1.24 WHIP over 10 MLB seasons), and Tyler Anderson of the Pittsburgh Pirates (4.63 ERA, 4.39 FIP, 1.21 WHIP).
There are plenty of other options on the market and the Red Sox should have no trouble filling this hole.
1. Trade For Starling Marte
The Red Sox lack quality outfield depth, and Starling Marte—who is in the midst of one of the best seasons of his career—is more than capable of providing that.
Truthfully, Marte would almost certainly steal a starting job from a player like Enrique Hernandez.
Marte is batting .328 on the year with a .952 OPS.
He’s getting on base at a massive .432 clip, the highest mark of his career by far if it holds.
Trading for a player like Marte would take this Red Sox lineup from solid to good.
Starling Marte, who was activated off the injured list today, has had some great swings. Just drilled a ball to right-center against Ottavino, one of the hardest-hit balls against him this year. In different conditions, it's probably in the bullpen. Tonight, it's an out.
— Alex Speier (@alexspeier) May 29, 2021
The veteran is a free agent at the end of the season so it would be no surprise if the Miami Marlins move him.