The 2014 season has 54 games remaining, so it’s probably too early to get excited about the 2015 Red Sox.
But it’s hard not to think about the possibilities that exist after quick-fix artist Ben Cherington remade the roster in a span of one day and four trades.
In Yoenis Cespedes and Allen Craig, the Red Sox added two righthanded-hitting corner outfielders with power. That’s precisely what they needed on either side of defensively gifted Jackie Bradley Jr.
Craig is a better first baseman than he is an outfielder. But the Red Sox were running Jonny Gomes out there and he figured it out.
Joe Kelly, a product of the St. Louis pitching factory, has a chance to be a solid No. 4 starter in the American League.
The Red Sox fixed the mistake of signing Stephen Drew by sending him to the Yankees. Now they can figure out for once and for all whether Xander Bogaerts can play shortstop and Will Middlebrooks third base.
Prediction: Bogaerts destroys American League pitching the rest of this season.
Trading Jon Lester and John Lackey also created opportunity for Anthony Ranaudo, Brandon Workman, Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, and their other young pitchers. The next two months will be a test of their mettle. Here’s hoping Henry Owens gets a chance in September, too.
“Obviously some of those young pitchers are going to get a lot of opportunity the rest of the way,” Cherington said.
“We have an opportunity to watch that and give them an opportunity to pitch and develop. We’ll know a lot more about that group before the end of the season and that will help inform us to some degree going into the offseason.”
Come Oct. 1, the Red Sox will have learned a lot more about their young players than they would have without the trades. The next two months will not be wasted watching veterans pad their statistics.
They also will have a better sense of how Cespedes, Craig, and Kelly fit.
“We have new players that we want to make sure are comfortable and get acclimated to Boston and comfortable in the ballpark and everything that comes along with Boston,” Cherington said.
“We’ve got young players who are still developing and need to continue to improve and develop and we need to focus on that and we need to start building a team again. So a lot of guys that are now on this roster will more than likely be on the roster next April. So we’ve got to start building a team that can win. The next 54 games are really important towards that.”
The Red Sox are far from finished. They need to figure out who their leadoff hitter is in 2015. Somebody has to have the job before spring training starts instead of the guessing game they played this season.
The rotation also cannot be Clay Buchholz, Kelly, and assorted rookies. They need at least one top-of-the-rotation type. Free agency could be their best route, with James Shields one possibility.
The Red Sox could, in theory, bring Lester back. But don’t expect that. The Sox had their opportunity in spring training and missed their chance by blowing up the negotiations with a lowball offer of $70 million.
Lester will pitch for Oakland and enter the market with Max Scherzer as one of the best two starters available and with no draft-pick compensation attached. The Yankees and Dodgers will view Lester as being perfect for their needs. He’s healthy, productive, playoff-tested, and a proven big-market pitcher.
The Yankees, with CC Sabathia’s future uncertain and Masahiro Tanaka having a torn elbow ligament, will zero in on Lester from the start of free agency.
If the Red Sox truly wanted to keep Lester, they would never have traded him and exposed him to the market. The next time he’s back at Fenway will be in another uniform. Don’t boo him, either. He wanted to stay.
The Red Sox also could make more trades to fill their holes. They have a huge stockpile of chips to make moves this winter.
In terms of young starters either in the majors or close, the Sox have Matt Barnes, De La Rosa, Edwin Escobar, Brian Johnson, Owens, Ranaudo, Eduardo Rodriguez, Webster, Workman, and Steven Wright.
That’s 10. For certain, some could be converted to the bullpen, but a trade is practically required to solve the crowding.
The Red Sox also have two catchers (Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart), two third basemen (Middlebrooks and Garin Cecchini), a first baseman (Travis Shaw), an excellent shortstop (Deven Marrero), and a trio of second basemen with varying degrees of defensive versatility in Mookie Betts, Sean Coyle, and Brock Holt.
Add it up and you have 19 Triple-A or MLB players who could he traded, and that doesn’t include Bradley, Bogaerts or Daniel Nava.
Does some combination of those players add up to Giancarlo Stanton, Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez or another established hitter? It certainly seems possible.
The Marlins would have to at least think about Betts, Owens, Marrero, and Middlebrooks for Stanton. It would hurt the Sox to lose those four players, but they could handle it.
Perhaps even Cespedes could be the centerpiece of a package for Stanton if the Marlins thought they could keep him.
The point is the Red Sox have plenty of options now. Maybe blowing up the team, winning the World Series, and blowing up the team will become a trend around baseball. As much as Red Sox fans may hate losing Lester (and even Lackey, admit it), your team is closer to winning again now than it was on Wednesday.