As a fan, I hope the Red Sox organization is extremely prudent at the 2013 trade deadline.
With a solid first half of the season under their belts, it’s time for the Red Sox to make a run at the postseason and, if the baseball gods are good, a World Series, but Ben Cherington and company would do well to remember that the 2013 Red Sox aren’t just on the right path because they’ve been winning; they’re also on the right path because they’re poised for continued, sustainable success. Flexible(ish) payroll, some young players, a solid farm system with nearly-ready MLB talent—these are not assets to undervalue and throw away. Especially when they don’t need to.
How crazy would you think I am if I said I don’t think the Red Sox don’t need to do very much at the trade deadline, if anything at all?
In light of Clay Buchholtz’s lingering neck soreness, Jon Lester’s (under)performance, Andrew Bailey’s demotion, Alex Wilson’s horrible outings against the Angels and Mariners this week, Joel Hanrahan’s season-ending injury, and Koji Uehara’s shaky hold on the closer role, it’s pretty easy to say the Red Sox need bullpen help and depth in the starting rotation, but I don’t necessarily think that’s true—or rather, I don’t necessarily think those things need to come in the form of a farm-system-gutting trade with a predatory, out-of-contention organization.
I’ve outlined some potential solutions to the bullpen and rotation depth deficiencies for the rest of the Red Sox season. In addition to the efficacy I’m positing for each solution, keep in mind that most of them do not involve moving significant talent from the farm system, which is a merit in and of itself.
How about that Alfredo Aceves guy?
At various points over the last few seasons, he’s been a starter, a closer, a minor leaguer, and waiver-wire dross. I’m intensely curious about his standing with the coaching staff, since they obviously see something in him, but they seem to send him to the minors at the drop of a hat. I like to imagine that he’s the most insane player to set foot in the Red Sox clubhouse since Carl Everett, but that the organization has just gotten better at hiding it after last season when Aceves feuded hilariously and incessantly with then-Manager Bobby Valentine. Like maybe Boston has a 24/7 Alfredo-handling team on the payroll to follow him around, feed him snacks, and eliminate with sniper rifles all prying members of the media.
Look, I’m far too confused by Aceves’s ups and downs and his potential insanity to pass an absolute judgment on the situation right now, but as Gandalf says of Gollum, "Even the very wise cannot see all ends. My heart tells me [he] has some part to play yet, for good or ill before this is over." Maybe Aceves will be the de facto 5th starter when Allen Webster blows it again; maybe he’ll be a multi-inning reliever. I don’t know. What I do know is that having him in the minors when trash pitchers like Alex Wilson are throwing games away doesn’t make that much sense, and I also know Aceves will find his way onto the 53-man roster again, for good or ill. (Alex Wilson, by the way, deserves this abuse. He has thrown away two out of the last three games and needs a wakeup call. Maybe my disappointment and unkind words will put a fire under his toes. You’re welcome, buddy.)
Oh, as I was writing this, Allen Webster blew it against the Mariners, and Alfredo Aceves is coming in to relieve him. Whoa.
Speaking of Webster, I actually think he could be a part of the solution. What the Giants did last year with Tim Lincecum was brilliant. It’s not the same situation, obviously, but Lincecum was a potentially great but seriously underperforming starter who was given a fresh chance coming out of the bullpen. I have no doubt that Webster will eventually be a good SP, but for now, why not use him as a middle reliever? As my buddy Sam said, "I’m a big fan of the elusive relief ace who can go 2-3 innings at a time. I want someone who can go 120 innings out of the ‘pen." The Red Sox should at least consider it.
Trading for a tried-and-true reliever at the deadline is the sort of thing that’ll end up costing you precious minor league pieces, so here’s a novel idea: maybe the Red Sox just shouldn’t do it. Other than looking for internal solutions in guys like Webster or Aceves, the Sox could try trading for a beleaguered starter and convert him into an innings-eating bullpen guy/backup starter.
You’d want a buy-low guy whose team is almost begging to move him, someone for whom this season is out of character, whose record and ERA aren’t truly indicative of his potential, and who still has serviceable K/BB and K/IP ratios. AL East experience would be a plus. My vote? Shaun Marcum.
There’s also the minor league promotion. Rubby De La Rosa just delivered an insane start for Pawtucket (6.0 IP, 1H, 7K) during which he hit 99 MPH on the radar gun a few times. The Sox have been exceptionally patient with his recovery, but a few innings out of the major-league bullpen don’t seem like they’d hurt De La Rosa at this point, and he could add serious value as a mid/late reliever, or potentially even as a closer. He’s still having some control problems, but again, the Sox should consider it, and again, they should pretty much definitely get rid of Alex Wilson to make room on the roster. (Ok, I’ll stop now.)
Boston really, really needs to avoid selling the farm for Matt Garza. In fact, everybody ought to. I get that he’s been very good in the past, but for most contending teams, he’s only an upgrade on your #3 guy. Plus getting him would be renting him, which is terrible value considering the kind of talent the Cubs will demand in return for him.
Theo Epstein should gather all the GM’s from all the other clubs in a room, hang a picture of Matt Garza and his stupid goatee from the ceiling with a piece of string and a clothes pin, shout, "First guy to trade a top prospect for a half-season of Garza is a sucker!" and see what happens. Oh and all the other GM’s get to throw water balloons at the sucker! I really, really don’t want that to be my team.
What kinds of big trades could be good for the Red Sox? Well, he’s not officially on the market, but if Cliff Lee becomes available, even at a steep cost, I’d be in favor of the Sox going after him. If you can get a SP who instantly becomes your #1 and who seriously upgrades your postseason potency, you pretty much have to go for it.
Crazy idea, but if the Red Sox believe Garin Cecchini’s success is sustainable, maybe they can offer Will Middlebrooks and a prospect for Lee. Philly is probably in the market for a long-term 3B solution considering the fact that Michael Young is 36. Of course, Cliff Lee would have to waive his no-trade clause in order for a trade to happen, since he has a special provision that won’t let Philly trade him to Boston. But I can dream, right? I’d take a 3B platoon going into the playoffs if the Red Sox could have a Lee-Buchholtz-Lackey-Dempster-Lester rotation (with Doubront as the next guy in line and yes, with Lester as the 5th starter slot because I mean come on, really with the slump, Jon?).
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