This is a perfectly terrible (and hypothetical--you'll note Nava remains on the DL) lineup:
- Pedro Ciriaco, 3B
- Daniel Nava, LF
- Ryan Lavarnway, C
- James Loney, DH
- Mauro Gomez, 1B
- Ryan Kalish, RF
- Ivan De Jesus, 2B
- Jose Igleisas, SS
- Che-Hsuan Lin, CF
1-through-9 not a single bat which has really impressed in the major leagues. Only one established major leaguer, some bats which haven't even shone through in Triple-A...It's a veritable disaster.
It also might be the best possible option for the Red Sox right now.
Two years ago I went to Camden Chat, SB Nation's resident Orioles site, and asked the Baltimore faithful whether there was a point to winning more games without truly contending. They had lost 98 the year before, coming in a relatively close second to the Washington Nationals. Washington's "reward" for such awfulness was, of course, Bryce Harper.
I feel that it's now time to ask the Red Sox--and you fans--the same question.
Now, with the Orioles, I was questioning the wisdom of signing veteran free agents to take a team from 62 wins to 70. And, these days, with two wild cards in the picture, I might be more hesitant to ask the question of any team, since it only takes so much luck to find oneself in the race. But now that we're 131 games into the season, it seems pretty fair to label the Red Sox as non-contenders, and so the question becomes is there any point to winning another game in the 2012 season?
Obviously, Red Sox fans will not want to lose games. When Bobby Valentine and Alfredo Aceves mucked up Tuesday night's so badly at the end, it was a bit of a gut punch. And yes, taking 3-of-4 from Kansas City was pretty enjoyable. But all of this comes with the underlying knowledge that none of it matters. It's all just superficial changes to a record which has already been weighed, measured, and found wanting.
The only thing the remainder of the schedule will have a concrete impact on? The draft order. The MLB draft does not get the same sort of attention as the NBA or especially NFL drafts, but it is important all the same, especially for a team that seems to have just recommitted itself to an organizational strategy of player development.
While the Red Sox are not in any position to make a real run at the top overall pick--the Houston Astros are currently further below the Red Sox then the Sox are below the MLB-leading Reds--there are important leaps that can be made. At 62-69, the Red Sox are currently in line for the 11th overall pick. Half a game back (ahead?) of them are the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies. If the Sox could leapfrog either one, they would find themselves in the top-10. An important distinction, since it would allow them to sign players offered qualifying offers while only surrendering their second-round pick.
Beyond that, though, they need to make up just three games of ground to find themselves as high as number six. And don't forget that with each jump in draft position comes a jump in draft budget as well. While last year's figures are a bit odd thanks to the one-year meshing of systems old (compensatory picks) and new (draft budgets), the #6 and #10 teams had fairly similar picks, but the team picking sixth received 20% more money with which to sign their selections. Not an insignificant jump at all.
It's a situation the Red Sox--and certainly us fans as well--are entirely unfamiliar with. It would have been hard to imagine this time last year that the Red Sox would ever be a team looking to get its prospects some playing time in the majors (another reasonably significant advantage of such a plan) and looking forward more to the draft than the playoffs come the end of August--at least not for many years. But here we are. The Sox are awful, the playoffs are gone, and all that remains is 31 games and the draft.
Realistically Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Cody Ross et. al. will need to pick up some playing time, but it does not have to be as consistent as it has been. The question is, do we think that giving up hope to end the season with even a little dignity and the real chance to play the spoiler is worth it for a better draft pick?