It’s easy to dream up trades that could improve the Red Sox. But invariably such proposals are unrealistic. So, too, are calls to change the team’s philosophies in the middle of the season.
But there are some moves that could help the team improve immediately and could be done with a minimum of expense and fuss. With the Sox creeping back to respectability, here are six ideas to speed that process:
1. Move Pablo Sandoval to first base, play Brock Holt at third: Once second baseman Dustin Pedroia returns from the disabled list, Holt becomes an important player without a position. Let him play third and shift Sandoval to first base.
Mike Napoli is hitting .192 and his offense is affecting his play in the field based on mistakes made in recent games. There is virtually no chance the Red Sox will bring him back in 2016, so why not make the transition now? Sandoval’s defense at third base has been a disappointment, particularly backhanded plays on the line. So move him across the diamond and give Holt a permanent position. This will improve the lineup and the infield defense at the same time.
Using Sandoval at first base and Holt at third makes more sense than using Holt at first base. Holt’s athleticism is a better fit at third base.
The other variation would be to return Holt to super utility and bring Allen Craig back from Triple A Pawtucket to play first base. But Craig is hitting only .269 with a .751 OPS since his demotion.
2. Put Joe Kelly in the bullpen: The Red Sox desperately need relief help. Let Kelly pitch out of the bullpen in the second half. You can always return him to the rotation next season. Junichi Tazawa and Alexi Ogando are going to break down without some help.
Kelly wasn’t much of a starter, but his fastball should help in one-inning outings.
3. Put Steven Wright in the rotation: Justin Masterson’s leash can’t be very long at this point. He has a 6.14 ERA and 1.68 WHIP through nine starts. Wright isn’t flashy but he offers start-to-start reliability and the ability to give the team a chance to win.
4. Trade for relief help: No, not a closer. Obtain a trustworthy middle reliever, preferably somebody under control for 2016. The Sox have this vast reservoir of wonderful prospects in Single A, so deal a few of them before they get to the higher levels and get exposed. They waited too long with players such as Henry Owens and Garin Cecchini and now their value has plummeted.
Get somebody like Jeremy Jeffress from Milwaukee or J.J. Hoover from the Reds. Take a run at lefty Charlie Furbush of the Mariners. Such deals would help immediately and down the road.
Is there a reliever at Triple A or Double A you feel good about at this point? The Sox can’t keep running the likes of Jonathan Aro and Noe Ramirez out there.
5. Hit Pedroia leadoff when he returns and move Mookie Betts down: Betts has a .336 OBP. Pedroia has a .367. Pretty simple. Betts also has shown a proclivity for driving in runs. Hit him sixth.
6. Break Brian Johnson into the majors through the bullpen: The Sox have been holding back on promoting Johnson, who has a 2.68 ERA in 15 starts for Pawtucket. So why not bring him up and have him pitch out of the bullpen? The Sox need lefthanded help and Johnson would be able to go multiple innings.
Here are a few other thoughts and observations on the Sox:
■ In 2013, John Farrell trusted his players to do the right thing and they usually did. But trust has to be earned and this team has not done that. Betts getting thrown out stealing third base on Friday night was the latest example.
Betts shouldn’t need to be told to stay at second, but apparently he has to be. The outfielders shouldn’t need to be told how many outs there are, but apparently somebody has to. There have been too many mental mistakes this season. Whether it’s Farrell, bench coach Torey Lovullo, or somebody else on the staff, the Sox should tell their players exactly what they should or should not be doing.
■ The All-Star reserves will be announced at 7 p.m. on Monday night on ESPN. As befitting their place in the standings, the Red Sox will get the required one player, maybe two.
For a last-place team, the Red Sox have a number of solid candidates. You can make a case for Holt, Pedroia, Tazawa, Clay Buchholz, or Koji Uehara.
The choice will probably come down to which player best fills a need on the American League roster. But the player who most deserves a trip to Cincinnati is Xander Bogaerts.
The shortstop had a terrible 2014 at the plate and in the field. It was partially a product of his feeling the weight of expectations and the team mishandling him, shifting his position three times in a span of four months.
Now Bogaerts has emerged as one of the best shortstops in the league. He worked hard in the winter to improve physically and was attentive once the season started picking up nuances.
■ The Red Sox are 11-7 in games started by Shane Victorino and 12-8 in games started by Ryan Hanigan. Despite all the time they missed, Victorino is 10th on the team in WAR and Hanigan is 12th. Their returns might be bigger than you expect.
■ The fickle nature of baseball is evident in the career of Mike Carp. The first baseman and outfielder had an .885 OPS for the Sox in 2013, driving in 43 runs in only 243 plate appearances. He hit .333 with runners in scoring position and had two home runs as a pinch hitter.
Every time Farrell turned to Carp in ’13, it seemed like he delivered.
Carp, who just turned 29, has played only 59 games in the majors since 2013, hitting .175. The Red Sox let him go last August and Carp has been with the Rangers, Nationals, and Dodgers since. Los Angeles released Carp in May and he has yet to catch on with another team.
The Red Sox obtained Carp in spring training in 2013 and he proved to be an important player. For all the careful planning and analysis, sometimes it’s just right place, right time.
■ David Ortiz has 480 home runs and 560 doubles. Only Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, Eddie Murray, Rafael Palmeiro, and Albert Pujols can also make that claim.
■ The Sox are six games out of first and six games under .500 with five games remaining before the break. That the Yankees series will be an important one speaks to the strides this team has made in the last two weeks.