The second half of the Red Sox season begins tonight, with more uncertainty than in past years—yes, even during the Bobby V. era. Here’s five questions that the Red Sox face at midseason.
1. Will they trade Jon Lester? Wow, that escalated quickly. There was plenty of commenting to the media from both Lester and the front office on contract negotiations. Contract terms were leaked that ranged from 6 years, $104 million to 7 years, $175 million. The “respect” term was bandied about, and now it looks more and more like Lester might be pitching for another team in 2015. If that’s the case, his tenure her went downhill almost as quickly as Nomar Garciaparra’s in 2004. The problem with any proposed midseason Lester trade, is that the Red Sox’ return for the ace pitcher will likely be less valuable than the first-round pick compensation the Sox will get if he leaves as a free agent in the offseason. It’s no longer about, what he’ll re-sign for, it’s about what the Sox can get when he leaves. If that’s the case, you’ll be seeing him on the Fenway mound for the next two months.
2. Can Xander Bogaerts break out of his slump? Yes. There’s simply no conceivable way to think he will keep hitting below .150 with a K/BB ratio of 8/1. His minor-league play was not a mirage. His All-Star worthy first two months did in fact occur. He will get back to it. He simply needs to learn how to adjust midseason to slumps. He can take heart in fellow rookie Jackie Bradley Jr., who has been hot the past few weeks (including the best sign of all, double-digit pitch walks!) after reaching lower depths than Bogaerts.
3. Who will get traded? Jake Peavy and Jonny Gomes are the two most obvious candidates. The two free-agents-to-be play positions where the team might face a numbers crunch, which would force them to likely go with the younger option. Some more intriguing trades could include Koji Uehara, Andrew Miller and John Lackey. All three would bring back actual useful players, but that’s because all three are above-average players who any team (including the Sox) might want to keep around.
4. Can the rookies carry the Sox to contention? If only they could play Houston all the time, right? The team hasn’t lost a game that Christian Vazquez has started, but that’s only three games so let’s not get carried away. Still, it appears Brock Holt, Bradley, Bogaerts and Vazquez will comprise 4/9ths of the starting lineup each day, with a little Mookie Betts sprinkled in. Add in Rubby De La Rosa in the rotation, and the opportunity for the rookies to carry this team will certainly be there.
5. Will Dustin Pedroia break out? WAR says he’s still a mighty valuable player (2.6 WAR to date), but you can’t deny he’s slipped. All of his offensive numbers have been in downward trend the past three years, and the aging curve for second baseman is notoriously poor. Remember when Chuck Knoblauch was considered a sure-thing Hall of Famer? Now, he’s known more as a joke. A strong second half of the season from Pedroia will give everyone a little peace of mind about his future.