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
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
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.
This package is basically suits some of
For all of that,
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
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.
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
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
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
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-
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