I’ve lost track of weeks due to the All-Star break and a busier than usual schedule. But I have Sox thoughts!
-- This is easy to say when they’re on a five six game winning streak, but I’m kind of enjoying this Sox team. The season, as a whole, has been disappointing and not a ton of fun. But the team itself, day-in and day-out, is kind of enjoyable.
Yes, the offense is bad. Abreu at-bats being really the only reason to tune in much of the year. Though Eaton and Melky finally turning it around, has helped make the last month or so much more ‘watchable’. Yet still, there are too many half innings where I turn my head to do something for a few, what feels like seconds, and when I look back, we're’ coming out of commercial break and the Sox are back playing defense. That’s bad. But I guess it makes the game go quick.
But the Sox pitching has been fantastic. And it’s been a joy to watch most every day, especially since Rodon has joined the rotation.
Sale has been amazing, and is on track to have the best season by a Sox starter in decades. Samardzija has come on strong after a so-so start, thanks in part (I think) to better defensive play. Quintana continues his unflashy excellence. Rodon, walk issues aside, has the stuff of a #1 guy in the majors; his slider is beautiful when it catches the plate. And Danks… well he’s given a few nice starts. And the bullpen has been so much better than last year.
-- Another enjoyable thing about the Sox this year? Geovany Soto. Every game he plays is a much watch because of his (probable) yips. I’m mesmerized by this.
-- So are the Sox buyers or sellers?
Even with this recent hot streak, the Sox need to go 38-26 to reach 86 wins (entering the game Wed. July 29th), which is probably the bare minimum it will take to get the second wild card. It’s feasible that they play .594 baseball from here on out, but it’s not exactly likely considering how bad the bottom of the order is.
The Sox, if they hold on to Samardzija, have the pitching to be in games. It’s been the offense that’s been the problem, #shocking!. What’s different about the current winning streak than the one before the All-Star break is that the offense has been really good the last week or so. These are positives.
But even after passing the Tigers last night in the standings, four teams stand in between the Sox and the second wild card slot: the Twins, Orioles, Rays, and Jays. While passing the Twins and Rays do not appear to be heavy lifts; catching, passing, and holding off the Jays and, to a certain extent, the O’s is a much tougher task.
The Jays have more talent that the Sox. The Tulo trade only made them better. They’re going to find a starter by Friday (maybe even Samardzija). They’ll be tough to pass and hold off. And the Sox are a bad weekend away from slipping behind the Tigers and Rangers again.
Hoping that the Angels or Astros crash is probably wishful thinking. Either team would have to play below .500 ball the rest of the way to fall out of the wild card race. I could see it happening with Houston, but they’re probably a safe bet to win 88 games and make the wild card, even if they play so-so from here on out.
Back to the Sox… I see them as sellers since they still need to play really well to be a serious wild card contender. BUT I wouldn’t mind seeing the Sox make a move that could help this year and beyond.
The Sox have glaring holes at second, short, and rightfield. We should probably add DH and third, but Saladino, in a small sample size, has done enough for them to look to those other positions first. They’re not going to find a shortstop at this juncture. I’m not sure who’s out there to help at second. So that leaves right field.
If the Rockies are going to unload CarGo, the Sox should kick the tires. He’s owed $43.5 million (roughly) over the the rest of this season and the next two. He’s an injury risk. And he was really bad this year until about a month ago (though Melky can relate). But he’s been on fire recently and has a darn good track record prior to his heavily injury filled 2014.
That said, I don’t think the price for GarGo will be all that high considering the money he’s owed, his poor 2014 and start to 2015, and his injury issues (he was great in 2013, but only played 110 games and missed most of last season). If the Sox take on most of his salary, they can probably get him for a lot less than people assume. I’m talking maybe Avi Garcia, Trayce Thompson, and a mid-level pitching prospect. And even that might be an overpay considering the money owed.
The Sox already have $89 million committed to payroll in 2016, and they’ll need at least one starting pitcher, a catcher, and a shortstop (though they may try to fill this internally). CarGo at $17 million would push the Sox committed salary to $106 million, which then means Danks is (most likely) still in the rotation and Erik Johnson (or someone else in the minors) rounds out the starting staff (unless ownership okays them spending $120 million plus next year). They can make CarGo work, but it limits the off season at the same time.
It’s possible the Sox send someone (Danks? LaRoche?) to Denver to offset some of CarGo’s cost; Rockies still save about $20-25 million and the Sox are only on the hook for $20 million more in guaranteed money. However, any cost savings to the Sox means they’re giving up better prospects; the deal quickly becomes Spencer Adams, Garcia* and Thompson/Hawkins for CarGo.
*If the Sox trade for an outfielder, I feel that Avi Garcia pretty much has to going the other way. Avi’s only 24 but he's a minus defender, and he probably needs a new start with another organization at this point (as pointed out by Jim Margalus I think). He’s probably not an everyday major leaguer, but maybe someone else can talk themselves into fixing him.
CarGo is probably worth two wins over Garcia, maybe three if he keeps up this tear he’s on. His bat slides in perfectly at the cleanup spot (I’m assuming Abreu’s hitting third, if he’s hitting second, CarGo bats third). And while the Sox would still have a problem at the bottom of the order, CarGo’s bat and glove would be a major improvement for the Sox.
With the current roster, I see the Sox winning anywhere form 77 to 87 games right now (yes, that big of a spread). CarGo won't make a difference if the Sox are around .500; but if they push the 85 win needle, he could be the difference in the wild card race.
Another option is Carlos Gomez, but he’s going to cost more since his contract is much more reasonable and he’s been an elite player in 2013 and 2014. He’s been fine this year and would be an upgrade for the Sox, though I’m not sure who plays right if they trade for Gomez. Eaton’s arm would be an issue there. So pass on Gomez as far as an in-season trade.
-- But again, I more see the Sox as sellers than buyers. However, moving Samardzija may be difficult with Dave Price now on the market and Cole Hamels still floating around.
The Sox are in a nice position with Samardzija. Since they'll get draft compensation for him, any team that wants him needs to 'beat' the value of the pick. If no one can, the Sox can play the last two months of the year with the best starting rotation in the majors and who knows, maybe the offense keeps this up.
But if another GM wants to move a top, say, 75 prospect for Samardzija, the Sox should probably jump on that. The odds are against them making the playoffs after all. And with the core the Sox have, a good winter could put them in a great position for 2016. Adding another prospect will only help in that process.