One of these days I really should go first on something like this.
Having sat here watching my colleagues go through their various plans over the last few days, I find that many of the things I would want to say have been said, and most of those that have not have been hinted at.
Still, I have a few original thoughts, and hopefully a slightly original way of saying them, so let's get on with it.
Anyone taking on the task of laying out a plan for the trade deadline on July 12 faces the issue of choosing whether to buy or sell with incomplete information. Without the benefit of the next three weeks we can't say for sure if we're buying with a sub-.500 team or selling with a team pressing for first in the AL East. Is Jacoby Ellsbury back with a vengeance, or has he invited new questions by coming up empty at the plate? Is Franklin Morales a surprising trade chip, or a one-shot wonder who's fallen back to Earth?
We're going to have to assume some middle ground here on players, or even be optimistic since, heck, I went very pessimistic on the team's finances in the offseason edition (a restriction that the Sox took to heart, to say the least). What you can't go halfway on, however, is the record. Unfortunately, I just can't see it happening. The team can go on a run over the next three weeks, to be sure, but against the competition they'll face something like 10-12 seems the most likely result.
And 53-55? That's no place to buy from in the AL East.
The good news for both myself and the Red Sox is that buying and selling may not be so far apart as all that. When other teams sell, they often go into it looking a few years into the future. The Twins, for instance, are unlikely to compete in 2013. Their agenda will likely be to gather players who will be under team control for the next six years at a relatively low price.
The Sox, on the other hand, can look to the next couple of years if they play things right, meaning that their targets can be, if not wizened veterans and players on one-year contracts, then at least strong players that might well come from other sellers.
The areas of need, then, are simple, because it doesn't matter if you're looking at 2012 or 2013. Either way this team needs starting pitchers and a shortstop.
The rotation, obviously, is not the best in the American League. While some of that can possibly be chalked up to injury and luck, the Sox definitely lack a strong front-line starter. Beyond that, the back-end is made up of promising, but perhaps imperfect young arms like Felix Doubront and Franklin Morales.
Mike Aviles, meanwhile, has dropped off from his early heights and now holds a dismal .298 wOBA despite playing in the cozy confines of Fenway Park. He's still a lefty masher, and he's done some good work in the field (albeit not always looking as focused as he could be), but that's not really much more than the likes of Jose Iglesias could offer tomorrow, and certainly not something so unbroken as to not demand fixing.
Unfortunately for the Sox, these are not commodities in ready supply. The shortstop will likely have to come in the offseason--I'd be interested in seeing if Elvis Andrus was available given the phenom that is Jurickson Profar looking completely untouchable, but that's the future. For now, the Sox are just going to have to make the best of a twice-bad situation.
Now, as to what the team can offer...well, there's not many players who aren't potentially on the block if they're selling, so...
Off Limits/Impossible To Move
And that about sums it up, I'd think. The first three are part of the solution regardless of Gonzalez' slump, while the back two aren't going anywhere. Crawford could even end up with the first three if things go well. Who's to say?
I'm sure I've forgotten something here, but that about sums it up for those who shall not be involved. Everyone else, to me, is on the block.
Still, let's eliminate some players who probably won't go for appropriate value or can't go for other reasons:
I'd almost like to add Cody Ross to that list, but he's got the possibility of bringing big things back should we find the right buyer in a selling situation.
I already summed up my feelings on Jon Lester earlier this week. David Ortiz, well, you'll simply have to allow me sentimentality here. In my perfect world Ortiz simply doesn't leave the team ever.
As for the "Three Bs," there's no part of this where selling marquee prospects who give us a very good chance at strong production for little money in two years' time comes into play. The same is more-or-less true with Lavarnway, except with the added note that I don't feel he carries the value he deserves.
Now lets move on to some actual moves.
The first part of my agenda, buy or sell, is to move Jarrod Saltalamacchia. He enjoys some serious love amongst the fanbase for his homer-hitting ways and general good-guy persona, and I'm not immune from those charms. I do like Salty, and I do wish he were the answer, but I'm not convinced. He's still swinging at everything, striking out all the time, and while the homers are always nice, he's far from the total package.
He does, however, seem to come with plenty of reputation, and frankly there are some teams with bad catching situations out there. My target, personally, would be the Washington Nationals, who have an excellent playoff-caliber pitching staff but have scored just 348 runs and have had their catching corps wrecked by injuries. Jhonatan Solano has had 32 nice plate appearances, but given the fact that he's never even performed well in the minors...long story short, Saltalamacchia would look pretty good right about now.
What do we get back for him? If we're selling, my target right now would be Zack Wheeler from the Mets.
Soon to be in Triple-A, Wheeler is an exciting young right-handed starter who has become a bit less vital to the team's future thanks to the performances of Niese and Gee. If all goes well, he could fight for a rotation spot in 2013, or make his debut mid-season, hopefully to help anchor the rotation in the future.
The Sox could even try to go all-out here and attempt to land Matt Harvey in the same breath. At the moment, the Mets are struggling to stay healthy, and while Harvey has promise he hasn't been without his flaws at Triple-A. If they were to send someone like Felix Doubront (who would likely be a lot better in a park like they have) and a mid-level prospect or maybe even another reliever their way, they could possibly pick up both. Start low on the deal, and depending on how willing they are to go in on, say, Saltalamacchia and Albers, consider upping the return, possibly even throwing in a mid-level prospect just to get Wheeler.
The other effect of sending Salty to New York is that it opens the door for Ryan Lavarnway, who the Sox could really use a couple of months to evaluate if nothing else. I personally think he's the future for this team behind the plate, but if that's not the case it would be best to find out now, before the likes of Miguel Montero show up on the market. Two months isn't a great sample size, but it's something.
Next on the agenda for me is to find a destination for Jacoby Ellsbury, because I don't think he's a long-term member of the Red Sox, and it doesn't behoove the team to sacrifice what could be a great deal of value for one year's worth of Ellsbury and a couple of draft picks, even in this new draft climate. Instead, I want Justin Upton.
The Diamondbacks say they're not sellers. That they want to win now. Here's there chance to prove it. Juston Upton is dealing with a down year, Jacoby Ellsbury just hasn't played. If he can prove himself in the next few weeks, then it's something of a diminished version of the preseason trade. Upton gets his change of scenery and the Sox can shut him down for a while if they're concerned about is thumb, while the Diamondbacks get a fully-healed Ellsbury for the next year-and-a-half along with a possible future replacement in Bryce Brentz and a guy who can help keep Ryan Roberts out of their lineup.
In Upton, the Sox get a long-term player with the sort of talent a team like the Red Sox would kill to get this young. If all goes well, the Sox could have a mainstay in right field for years and years to come.
That's it for specific trades from me. Still, I've got a few changes to make...
Engage The Cardinals For Prospects
The Cardinals also find themselves in dire need of relief pitching. My two targets with them would be Double-A players Kolten Wong and Trevor Rosenthal. Wong is a second baseman who I'd like to look at as a shortstop. It's far from an ideal arrangement, but his defense--originally questioned--has only seemed to get better with time (though you wouldn't know it from the Futures Game). And given his bat and the lack of other complete options the Sox have, it's a chance worth taking in my mind. Rosenthal is a big fastball-slider arm who has slowly been gaining steam during his career and struck out 133 in 120 innings last year. Aaron Cook could be involved here, too, as the Cardinals wouldn't mind adding an arm to a rotation which has seen mixed results.
Actively Shop Franklin Morales
Try and keep him out of Fenway and see if anyone is interested in paying a high price. I like Morales more than Doubront because I think he's got better swing-and-miss potential and he had the higher acclaim in the past before Colorado ruined him. Still, if the Sox can find someone who is desperate for SP now and is willing to overpay based on the potential he's shown, it's certainly worth considering.
Make Andrew Bailey the Closer once he returns
Alfredo Aceves has decent peripherals, and I still think if he can keep up the whole 95 MPH fastball thing he should try sticking to one-inning outings for a while longer, the late inning screw-ups are demoralizing. I like the revitalized Melancon in the setup role, as it were, and hopefully Bard will be able to add his name in sometime in the near future, but for now there's no reason to be trying to get Ace in there as much as possible. He just hasn't been good enough.
Trade Daisuke Matsuzaka for anything you can get. If nothing, put him on the 60-Day DL or release him.
And this should be done sooner, rather than later. I'm tired of playing this "will he, won't he, and then he doesn't" game with Matsuzaka, and frankly it doesn't send a bad message to dump a guy like this early while keeping someone else on the 40-man, be it a Mauro Gomez or a Darnell McDonald. If we're selling, there's no reason to keep Daisuke around. At best he takes starts from players who could use experience like Morales and Doubront, should either still be with the team.
Fire Bobby Valentine
Please bring our long national nightmare to an end. Let's see how long-time managerial prospect Tim Bogar does at the helm for a while. Let's stop forcing fans to watch him smile away while his team surrenders yet another multi-run first. Let's stop the sacrifice bunting and kooky lineups and bizarre bullpen maneuvers. Let's end the era that never should have started, and see if maybe it even gives a bit of a breather to a strained clubhouse.