Tomase: Three-step plan for turning Sox’ season around originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The Red Sox are in freefall, just 2-5 on a road trip that wraps up in Baltimore this weekend. Recognizing that April isn’t normally a time for massive change, here’s a realistic three-step plan for righting the ship before 8-12 turns into 10-20 and we start wondering who might get traded in July.
1. Call up Triston Casas
This is the easiest, most obvious move, by far. Bobby Dalbec isn’t getting it done as the first regular baseman, and backup Travis Shaw is 0 for the season.
Casas is only hitting .239 at Triple-A Worcester, but he has walked 14 times in 19 games, which would not only lead the Red Sox, but nearly double Kiké Hernández’s team-leading total of eight.
Casas boasts prodigious power from the left side and could replace Shaw, with Dalbec playing vs. lefties if you want to ease the youngster into action. Casas owns four homers and an .836 OPS, and he’s coming off a strong season between the Olympics, Double A, and the Arizona Fall League.
With the Red Sox offense hitting its nadir in a 1-0 loss to the Blue Jays on Thursday afternoon, it’s time for a shakeup. Dalbec went 0 for 3 while stranding a pair of runners and is hitting just .154. Manager Alex Cora can’t keep running him out there, and Franchy Cordero, who has begun playing first base at Triple A, is uninspiring. Give Casas a chance to show what he can do.
2. Promote Frank German
The Red Sox assumed the majority of Adam Ottavino’s remaining $9 million from the Yankees last year not just to bolster their bullpen, but to buy a prospect — German.
All the 24-year-old has done in relief at Double-A Portland is throwing eight two-hit innings with 15 strikeouts, zero walks, and a 0.00 ERA. His fastball has reached 99 mph and he throws a slider, too.
Promote him to Triple A now, and if his stuff continues to play, give him a shot in the big league bullpen. The Red Sox need power arms, German opened Cora’s eyes during spring training, and he has been the farm system’s best reliever so far.
The current Red Sox bullpen features too many low-leverage arms who aren’t necessarily being used that way — Phillips Valdez, Hirokazu Sawamura, Ryan Brasier, Matt Barnes. They need to get more dynamic, and they’ve already dipped into Worcester for veterans John Schreiber and Tyler Danish. Let’s see what German brings to the table.
This is the least likely item on the list, but it shouldn’t be. A former Red Sox farmhand who departed in 2013 as part of the three-way deal that brought right-hander Jake Peavy to Boston, and who was later traded by the Dodgers to the A’s for current Red Sox left-hander Rich Hill, Montas has blossomed in Oakland. He finished sixth in last year’s Cy Young voting after posting a career-high 207 strikeouts, and he’s 2-2 with a 3.28 ERA this season.
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The A’s have already sold off starters Chris Bassitt (Mets) and Sean Manaea (Padres) as part of a teardown, and Montas is the most valuable chip they have left. He remains under team control through next season, so the price to acquire the 29-year-old right-hander won’t be cheap. But at some point, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom must dig into his prospect inventory for an upgrade. If he won’t move Casas, infielders Nick Yorke and Marcelo Mayer, and right-hander Brayan Bello, fine. But if a deal can be struck with some combination of everyone else, then Bloom should strike.
Putting Montas in the rotation would allow both Garrett Whitlock and Tanner Houck to return to the bullpen, where the Red Sox desperately need late-innings help. Montas might even provide some length, since he’s averaging over six innings a start.
If Chris Sale returns in June or July, no problem. Kick someone to the bullpen and focus the rest of your attention on boosting the offense.
The Red Sox can’t fix all of their problems at once, but the sooner they start chipping away at them, the better.