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Boston Red Sox Armchair GM, Trade Deadline Edition: Matt Sullivan

The Armchair Gm series returns and it's a little Ben Cherington and a little Donald Trump- Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-US PRESSWIRE
The Armchair Gm series returns and it's a little Ben Cherington and a little Donald Trump- Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-US PRESSWIRE

As we did during the pre-season, the OTM writers are once again jumping into our most comfortable (Ben) chair(-ingtons) and playing Red Sox GM as the team heads into the trade deadline. I am not going to brag about how awesome the Red Sox could be if they had followed my pre-season advice and signed Carlos Beltran, traded for Brandon McCarthy and made Daniel Bard the closer but… wait, scratch that, yes I am… That team would rule!

Moving on- the Boston Red Sox are at a strange place as they rest up over the All Star break and move toward the trade deadline. That place is 4th in the AL East, at a flat .500 winning percentage. It is not what most of us expected and it is certainly not what any Red Sox fan wanted, but no one ever expected so many injuries that they would have to acquire Scott Podsednik or call up Mauro Gomez to play third base either.

Given the number of obstacles this team has had to deal, 43-43 is not exactly a worst case scenario. Still, the 2012 Boston Red Sox are an underachieving bunch. Their Pythagorean record, based on the runs they have scored and allowed, is a much more reasonable 47-39, which would place them in a more familiar place, 2nd in the division, behind the New York Yankees. Virtually every positive you can find can be matched with an equal and opposite negative. Daniel Nava has been incredible at the plate- wonderful, but Adrian Gonzalez has been a below average hitter. Will Middlebrooks is a rising star- perfect, because we just moved a declining superstar for peanuts to make room for him. David Ortiz is playing like its 2005- Good thing he now hates it here.

Half empty- half full? Does it really matter? What we have here is a .500 glass of water. The most alarming issues for me are this team’s performance against teams over .500. Currently the Red Sox have a .431 winning percentage against winning teams. They are 9.5 games out of first place and they will need to beat out eight other teams in the mix just to reach that one game Wild Card playoff. I would not say that they cannot do it, but given the number of injuries and the serious questions about Gonzalez, Lester and the starting rotation and just the sheer volume of the competition, I don't see it happening. I am going to sell.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t the Borders "illiteracy has finally won!" shelf emptying, everything must go fire-sale the most pessimistic of fans might be calling for. I am looking to build for 2013 and for years beyond. With a number of players on short term contracts or in their final arbitration year, I believe the Red Sox have a unique chance to get some quality players without disrupting the core talent that had us believing they could compete in the first place. But first things first-

Fire Bobby Valentine

A baseball manager can’t shape the game the way a Bill Belichick or a Claude Julien can. Their influence is more subtle and their impact is far smaller. I don’t like Valentine’s seemingly random lineup constructions or his affection for the sacrifice bunt, but I can’t say these things have definitively caused the Red Sox to fall short of their Pythagorean record or caused them to go 9-12 in 1 run games or 1-5 in extra inning games. Those numbers do not speak well of his strategic abilities but they are hardly reliable. I have no idea if his management style has gotten the best out of zombie-Scott Podsednik or driven Adrian Gonzalez to post a walk rate well below league average but that is largely irrelevant. What I do know is that he is the wrong man for this organization and that isn’t going to change.

Peter Gammons recently tweeted "Bobby Valentine simply wanted Kevin Youkilis gone. Sometimes you get what you want but you get Mauro Gomez." Trading Youkilis was not a terrible decision given his performance and that of Will Middlebrooks, but running him out of town, was idiotic. Beyond that, it sets up an unsustainable dynamic. You can complain about prima donna superstars and wax poetic about the days of John McGraw and Casey Stengal all you want, but the reality is, a manager who publicly calls players out the way Valentine has done in the past has no place in the game today. With the Red Sox ability/tendency to sign top tier talent to long term contracts, the organization needs a manager who can ease declining stars into lesser roles and keep the hordes of Boston sports writers at bay. Valentine has failed at both, this year and throughout his career. He is gone, as well as assistant pitching coach Randy Niemann, first base coach Alex Ochoa and third base coach Jerry Royster, ending forever the reign of smiling ineptitude and hopefully restoring order to the clubhouse.

Bench Coach Tim Bogar becomes the interim manager and he will be able to replace the other departed coaches as he sees fit. I am certainly open to Bogar earning the full time position based on his handling of the team, but this is unlikely. If there is any advantage to firing your manager mid-season it is the ability to court new candidates as soon as the season ends. Should a revered master like Joe Torre get the urge to return I want to be first in that line. If Jim Leyland is not resigned, I want to be in on him. Everyone will be aware that the position is open and hopefully the combination of talent on the roster and in the front office entices a strong group of candidates.

With the petty bickering squashed, I am shopping for players in high minors and looking to move those players who have little time left on there contracts. First up is-

Cody Ross for Brad Lincoln

Ross has been fantastic for the Red Sox thus far and I would certainly be sorry to see him go, but there is a chance he could be the top outfield bat to be made available at the deadline and that is too good an opportunity to pass up. His price tag is low as well ($3M pro-rated) so he could easily appeal to anyone looking to make a run this season. He is a fit for the Reds, the Pirates, the Indians and the Tigers, who are all looking at Carlos Quentin right now. Ross could pass Quentin in value thanks to his vastly superior defensive abilities.

Carlos Beltran, the top 1-year bat rental last year, bought the Mets top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler from the Giants at the deadline last year, but that was under the old CBA and Beltran is clearly a better player than Ross. Wheeler is also still a year or more away and that is not the ideal scenario for the Red Sox who need to be looking toward 2013 as much as possible. So I am trying for Pittsburgh’s Brad Lincoln with the Tigers’ Jacob Turner as another possible fit.

Lincoln is a 27 year old righty under team control until 2018. He has struggled to stick in majors since his first call up in 2010. However, he has added more than two miles an hour to his fastball this season and that has brought plus strikeout ability to a player that already had great control. He would absolutely compete for a spot in the rotation in 2013 and even if he fails to become a mid-rotation starter, he should be able to succeed in the bullpen as a late inning reliever.

Clay Buchholz, Ryan Kalish, Mike Aviles, and Garin Cecchini for Justin Upton, PTBL

Like the Red Sox, the Arizona Diamondbacks are in a strange middle ground where they still hope to compete in the near future but their current position in the standings makes winning in 2012 a long shot. They have also endured a rash of injuries and underperformance from a key player, namely Justin Upton. Upton is owed $38.5M through 2015 and with a weighted Runs Created Plus of just 97 this year. Arizona has indicated that they may be willing to move him even if they do hope to compete.

This package is basically suits some of Arizona’s immediate needs and also helps them to build toward the future. Buchholz is signed through 2016 and owed $26.4M for that time. Kalish is still pre-arbitration and Aviles has a year remaining in arbitration. Cecchini is an exciting young player but he is also miles away from the major leagues. Aviles addresses Arizona’s number one weakness on offense- short stop and gives them an alternative to Ryan Roberts when Stephen Drew returns. Kalish would essentially replace Upton on the field and, of course, Clay Buchholz would upgrade their rotation which has sued several lesser options like Joe Sunders and Wade Miley too often this season. A lesser pitching prospect like Noe Rameriz could also be included here in place of Cecchini or Kalish, but I think this is close.

For all of that, Boston gets a potential super star that has suddenly lost his power hitting ability. Upton has just 12 doubles and 7 home runs on the year after hitting 39 doubles and 31 home runs last season. Everything else about his game remains strong, he walks 10% of the time but he also strikes out 22% of the time. As a right handed hitter with good speed and defense, he makes an excellent fit for Fenway and the Red Sox, but he is still a substantial risk. Boston takes on an extra $12M or so over the next three years, but very little gets added to this year’s luxury tax (approx $1.1M).

This deal could easily be a huge win or a huge loss years from now. Buchholz could remain healthy and finally put everything together. Kalish could be the equal of Upton at a fraction of the cost. So many things could make or break this, but I think betting on the most talent, most proven player of the group is a good idea. Upton is just 24 and though he is not as inexpensive as a Kalish, he is signed to a very reasonable deal.

Andrew Bailey, Kelly Shoppach, and Andrew Miller for Matt Harvey and Justin Turner

The New York Mets are probably the most surprising contenders this season. Behind the awesome power that is R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball, the revitalized Johan Santana and a young, almost entirely home grown group of position player that fight for every pitch, the Mets are 46-40, just 4.5 games behind the best team in baseball, the Washington Nationals, and just half a game back in the Wild Card race. And they are doing all of that with the worst bullpen in the game.

By comparison, Boston has an embarrassment of riches in the relief department. Make-shift closer Alfredo Aceves has been fantastic, Vicente Padilla owns the eighth inning and Scott Atchison has emerged as a workhorse capable of filling the swing role Aceves played last year. With all of the that going for us, we are the prefect trading partner for the Mets, a team that happens to have three high level arms in Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Jeurys Familia (or four if you count lefty Jenrry Mejia). Of those, I think Wheeler will be untouchable and while I prefer Harvey over Familia, either would be possible. Justin Turner replaces Aviles who I have traded already and keeps Nick Punto (DFA?) from ever having to play.

The Mets get two high leverage relievers (including the lefty they desperately need) and a superior back up catcher in Shoppach. Obviously, this assumes that Bailey will be pitching by the trade deadline, but the principle is the main thing here. If not Bailey, it could be some combination of Junichi Tazawa, Clayton Mortensen or Vicente Padilla. We have the arms they need and the hope is that we can create package that will bring the best talent back.

All in on Jurickson Profar

Even before Jurickson Profar blew me away at the Futures Game, I had the idea that the Red Sox should pursue him. Profar is among the top 10 prospects on basically every expert’s list and tearing up AA right now, hitting .292/.370/.476 in the Texas League. He is just 19, he plays an excellent shortstop and hits from both sides of the plate. While 2014 is the most reasonable ETA, he could be major league ready next year. He is also in the Texas Rangers’ farm system and with Elvis Andrus at short already, they have no need to rush him.

It is highly unlikely that Profar will be dealt. Even Elvis Andrus won’t block him if he continues to progress the way many expect. However, the Rangers are well on their way to a third AL West title and with Josh Hamilton entering free agency this off-season, the time to win is now. If I am selling, I am going to ask about Profar first and often. With Roy Oswalt not pitching so well, would Texas consider Josh Beckett (who may wave his no trade for a chance to bring a World Series to Texas)? Would Jacoby Ellsbury give them leverage in the Hamilton negotiations as well as replace David Murphy? It is hard to imagine Boston having any way of acquiring Jurickson Profar, but if it could be done, I’d get it done.

David Ortiz and Jacoby Ellsbury?

If the Red Sox were to sell, they would have no better trading chip than David Ortiz. The 36 year old DH is not cheap, but he has been incredible productive and his recent comments concerning his contract do lead me to believe that he could wave his 5-10 rights to go to a contender. However, David Ortiz is not just any player. He is an icon in Boston and trading him is not an easy thing to do or one that can be taken lightly. There is also the question of whether or not he can play first base.

The return for David Ortiz would need to be comparable to what Beltran brought for me to even consider this and even then it would be a tough call. Under this new CBA, he will net a draft pick if he refuses to sign for the new arbitration salary and leaves town. While is production remains elite, at 36 years old, the chances that he will be able to sustain that over several years are slim.

Jacoby Ellsbury is also likely untradeable right now. If he returns healthy he will net more this off-season than he will now. Plus, if he is still the player he was in 2011, why would we consider trading him?

I would shop both players, but I really doubt that either would bring enough value back to make it worth trading them. I am not saying it would take a Profar, but not every system’s number one prospect would be fair value.

This is the issue with selling on this team. Many players, like Daisuke Matsuzaka, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez would be next to impossible to move given their contracts. Josh Beckett and David Ortiz have 5-10 rights. While I suggest trading Clay Buchholz above, he and Jon Lester are signed to deals that make it difficult for them to be replaced without spending a great deal more or waiting out development for several years. A large number of the players on this team are not easily moved, so I am concentrating on the ones who are and who can fill other teams’ biggest needs.

The trades are just examples. I cannot say with any certainty that they would work out, but they illustrate the process I would use in rebuilding and retooling this team. We have a core of talent that, if healthy and producing as expected, can compete for the American League East title and the World Series, but we also have serious problems to address. By deciding to sell, I am forgoing chasing any one year rental player and focusing on young near- MLB ready players like Matt Harvey and Brad Lincoln to bolster our starting rotation and aggressively pursuing any player who provides long term value, like a Justin Upton.

The another theme that is worth pointing out is the trades I would make would be three to one, four to one deals in many cases. The Red Sox have dealt with a large number of injuries and as a result they have acquired more player than they otherwise would have. This means that they can address multiple needs for their buyers and increase the quality of the players they get back. Players like Vicente Padilla, Brent Lillibridge, Ryan Sweeney and Kelly Shoppach are not going to net more than a middling prospect or a utility player, but if they are willing to trade multiple players and mix prospects and role players together then the returns should improve. It is typically the buying team that sends multiple players, but given our unique circumstances I think this strategy would be worth a try.

The team that results is not going to be completely unrecognizable. Gonzalez, Pedroia, Middlebrooks and Salty will still anchor the line up. Carl Crawford has not been shipped to Japan for yellow fin jalapeño rolls and Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Felix Doubront will still factor into the rotation. However, the talent joining them will be younger and hopefully, healthier. Arms like Lincoln and Harvey will slide in ahead of Barnes, Owens and Ranaudo and put pressure on them to stake their claims. Hopefully, this team is back in the division race in 2013 and leading it by a mile by 2014.