The Boston Red Sox, in desperate need for pitching help, did nothing on deadline day and that decision may come back to haunt them
The Boston Red Sox have a pitching problem, and the only help that they’ve received this season didn’t give them much of it on Thursday.
Andrew Cashner gave up seven earned runs in 5.2 innings as the Red Sox lost to the Tampa Bay Rays 9-4 at Fenway Park. Cashner, acquired from the Baltimore Orioles on July 13, has now given up 19 earned runs in 23.1 innings over four starts with Boston, good for a 7.33 ERA.
Cashner’s poor start on Thursday continues an alarming trend for the defending World Series champions. Boston ranked 27th in the league in team ERA in July. The pitchers they counted on to win the championship a year ago have started to let them down. Chris Sale gave up six runs to the New York Yankees in his last start on Sunday and had a 5.86 ERA in five starts in July. David Price has lost his last four starts while giving up 14 earned runs in 19.1 innings.
The team’s struggles were perfectly captured by Rick Porcello on Wednesday when the former Cy Young Award winner broke two televisions in the dugout after giving up a first-inning run to Tampa Bay. Porcello had an ERA near eight in July despite a 4-1 record.
But when the trade deadline came on Wednesday, the Red Sox stood pat. Meanwhile, other teams in the American League added much-needed help. The Houston Astros got Zack Greinke and Aaron Sanchez. The Oakland Athletics traded for Tanner Roark from Cincinnati. The Red Sox, though, did nothing to help their pitching. President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski later defended the club’s lack of action on deadline day.
“The reality is, I know some guys haven’t performed but where are we going to get starting pitchers that are more talented than the group we have,” Dombrowski said on Wednesday. “They’re very talented. We just need to pitch better in some cases.”
The starting rotation isn’t the only area the Red Sox could’ve used a new addition. The club has failed to find a replacement for Craig Kimbrel in the closer role all season. The Red Sox have the third-fewest saves in baseball and no reliever has more than seven. Reliable closers like the Tigers’ Shane Greene and the Pirates’ Felipe Vazquez were available at the deadline but the Red Sox didn’t make a deal for either. Greene instead went to the Atlanta Braves, while Vazquez is staying in Pittsburgh.
The teams that did make moves proved that the price wasn’t too high. The Astros got Greinke without giving up either of their top two prospects. Sanchez was acquired for an outfielder, Derek Fisher, hitting .201 in his Major League career. The Braves gave up two minor leaguers for Greene, neither of whom is ranked in the top-100 prospects by MLB Pipeline.
Whatever the price was, the Red Sox thought it was too much. Their place in the standings played a role. The Red Sox are on a four-game losing streak after getting swept by Tampa Bay and are 10.5 games back of the Yankees in the AL East. They trail the Rays for the second Wild Card spot by 3.5 games. Dombrowski and the Red Sox front office didn’t want to blow up the organization just to risk it all on a single-game, winner-take-all scenario.
The Red Sox pitchers, moreover, are being picked up by their batters. The Red Sox scored 173 runs in July, 29 more than any other team. Rafael Devers leads baseball with 34 RBI in the past month. Devers and reigning MVP Mookie Betts are first and second in runs scored in that span. Even with their pitching woes, the Red Sox still went 15-10 in July including taking three of four from the Yankees last week, scoring 38 runs in those three games.
The Yankees also failed to make a deal on deadline day, and both AL East rivals saw the Astros only get better. There are still two months left in the regular season, but the AL pennant race may have been decided on July 31.