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Deciphering Red Sox' trade deadline strategy no easy task

Rob Bradford
June 17, 2018 - 11:08 pm

Sunday offered a reminder that there aren't going to be a lot of easy answers when it comes to deciphering the Red Sox' approach heading into the non-waiver trade deadline.

You had Eduardo Rodriguez continuing to keep pace with a rotation that doesn't appear to have any weak links. Rafael Devers is starting to display the kind of consistent power of a year ago, blasting a three-run homer. Jackie Bradley Jr. also reemerged, notching his own homer. Brock Holt remained at .300 with a hit, while Matt Barnes rebounded with an impressive one inning of relief.

This has been the Red Sox' way. Just when you start thinking holes have been identified along comes a game like the Sox' 9-3 win over the Mariners. (For a complete recap, click here.)

This is setting up to be a tricky situation for Dave Dombrowski.

The Red Sox' two chief competitors for American League supremacy at the moment, the Yankees and Astros, have very clear paths to plugging their respective holes. 

New York will undoubtedly go after a top-of-the-rotation starter. Cole Hamels. J.A. Happ. Tyson Ross. Get used to the Yankees being linked to those names, because somebody is undoubtedly coming to a Yankees team which is currently (remarkably) devoid of a legitimate No. 2 starting pitcher.

The Astros? They will be diving into the relief market, with Kansas City's Kelvin Herrera representing the potential game-changer.

So, what about the Red Sox?

At first blush the obvious target for Dombrowski might be the same kind of arm he's secured the last two seasons,. something along the lines of Brad Ziegler and Addison Reed. And to the Sox' chief decision-maker's credit, he had to give up very little in order to secure what were both valued commodities.

And while Joe Kelly has been about as good as any set-up man, with Matt Barnes (Friday night's outing aside) not far behind, the bullpen has that feel that it could use another closer-level arm out there. But there is a very real path to the reality that no move is made here.

There can be doubts about Tyler Thornburg's return to his Milwaukee form, or Drew Pomeranz's potential viability as a reliever. But Dombrowski also knows there is a chance both of these guys -- along with names like Robby Scott, Brandon Workman, Bobby Poyner and even Ty Buttrey -- could emerge to be the kind of late-season internal additions Jonathan Papelbon and Daniel Bard once were. Heck, let's even throw in recent draft pick Durbin Feltman into the mix. (Everyone else is.)

Dombrowski knows that unlike the last couple of years, he may have legitimate options at this spot. And he also understands there is six-plus weeks to figure out what is what.

Other than the bullpen, it's difficult to pin down a spot of obvious need. There will be no trade for Manny Machado. Alex Cora and Co. are comfortable riding out Devers' ups and downs until there the performance finally stays at an elevated territory. As long as everyone continues to hit, they are willing to ride the Bradley Jr. roller coaster, with the hope that swings like the one he put on Sunday are going to appear more times than not. The starting rotation certainly isn't an area of need at the moment (which is a luxury only maybe Houston can claim). And the combination of Eduardo Nunez and Holt seem perfectly satisfactory until they figure out Dustin Pedroia's timetable.

Could they upgrade over Blake Swihart? Sure. Go ahead. Knock yourself out. But that's it.

Things can obviously change, but as we sit here there are no easy answers when it comes upgrading this group. Then again, that's what we said in 2004 and next thing we knew Nomar Garciaparra was watching the Red Sox' World Series title from Chicago.

The Red Sox are now 14-1 in the last 15 games Christian Vazquez has started at catcher.

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