(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Red Sox - Yankees is always a big to-do. A rivalry steeped in decades of enmity between both teams, fanbases, and cities, propped up with regularity onto the national stage for everyone's...well, let's just say enjoyment to be nice.
This series lacks some of the "oomph" of most of their late-July matchups, however. The Yankees have run away with the AL East, leading the division by a whopping 7.5 games despite a recent slide and holding a commanding 10-game lead over the Sox.
For their part, the Red Sox need this series win if they are to have any hope of staying alive headed into the trade deadline. And if they were coming into this at a few games over .500 having just gone 4-2 against the Jays and Rangers, or even just 3-3, then there may be some serious energy, excitement, and trepidation surrounding the event.
But we know that's not the case. Instead they've gone 1-5 despite some tremendously lucky breaks, leaving a positive outcome that much harder to imagine.
If, indeed, the Sox do not come away with the big series win/sweep that they need here, we're looking at a team that could--frankly should--be sellers to some extent. And if they end up in that position, tonight's game could have some reasonable influence on the value of one of their trade chips: Aaron Cook.
Cook will take the mound tonight for the seventh time in a Red Sox uniform. In his limited opportunities, however, Cook has put on a show, putting up surprisingly good results ever since his injury-ruined debut against Baltimore.
Since his return, he's thrown 33.1 innings in five starts, allowing just eight earned runs. For those not interested in doing the math, that's a 2.18 ERA. He's done so in such textbook sinkerballer fashion that one might go so far as to call him a caricature. In recording those 100 outs, only eight plate appearances have not ended with the ball in play: three strikeouts, two walks, and three homers. He has been a zero true outcome player, turning the game over to his defense, and particularly the infield; Cook has maintained a 1.70 GB:FB ratio in that span.
He's not going to light the world on fire anywhere he goes, but he can provide teams with ever-valuable pitching depth. Especially for those clubs with good infield defense, he represents stability: someone who will go out there and not make an absolute mess of things by his own actions.
Texas, for instance, would make all the sense in the world. Their ballpark's bandbox qualities are diminished by Cook's ground ball tendencies. Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Ian Kinsler, and Mitch Moreland (on his way back from injury) represent an exceptional defensive infield when they're not being shuffled around for the likes of Michael Young and Mike Napoli. Meanwhile, their rotation has taken a fair few hits, and has the ever-risky Roy Oswalt('s back) presenting a liability.
If Cook should go, he certainly won't come at much of a premium. The Sox would likely only stand to grab a low-level, high-risk type at best. Still, if the Sox end up on the outside of the playoff race looking in, then Cook's presence in the rotation only serves to keep the high-upside Franklin Morales out, and it hardly makes sense to not get what they can out of an impending FA.
All this can change in a hurry, of course. A terrible outing tonight against the Yankees, and any teams that may have been glancing in his direction could suddenly turn their attentions elsewhere. A decent outing against a very strong lineup, however, and he probably ends up on a fair few teams' agendas. He doesn't represent a big name, or a huge impact trade, but he does represent solid bang for a contender's buck. And with so many contenders trying to avoid one-game playoffs without bankrupting their farm systems, Cook could be a tempting target.