A month ago, the Red Sox and Yankees were tied for last place in the A.L East. One massive winning streak built around an amazing run by one great pitcher (C.C. Sabathia) and four average pitchers on a hot streak, the Yankees have taken control of the division. The Red Sox? Well, after getting completely man-handled by a pitcher coming into the game with a Daniel Bard like 9.37 ERA (Jair Jurrjens) last night, the basement is once again their home. Forget the fractured clubhouse talk, the non-stop ripping of Bobby V., and the injury excuses, the Red Sox have some moves to make before the trading deadline. Realistically, they need to make a lot of moves. As I put on my General Manager cap, here's how I toss a Molotov Cocktail into this stinking mess called the 2012 Boston Red Sox:
Mike Aviles/Nick Punto: I start with these two bozos, because I doubt the Red Sox get ANYTHING back in any kind of deal for them. Best bet is to swallow the cash, release them both, and bring up Jose Iglesias from AAA. Just as an FYI, that Jed Lowrie guy that the Sox couldn't wait to give away last off-season, remember him? The guy the Sox threw away for Mark Melancon and his 15.43 ERA? The guy making barely over $1 million? He's in Houston batting .269 with a .354 OBP, .498 slugging percentage (.852 OPS) and 13 home runs. Mike Aviles and his .285 OBP and .710 OPS for the same money as Lowrie looks so appealing.
Kevin Youkilis: No surprise here. The Red Sox should have traded the (Jewish) Greek God of Walks in the off-season when his value wasn't next to nothing like it is now after ineffectiveness and injury. Most likely, they can get weak prospects or a salary dump starting pitcher back (Maybe a high-priced veteran like Ryan Dempster if Theo Epstein wants Youk back). The Red Sox are over a barrel here, because everyone knows Will Middlebrooks has a strangle-hold on third base.
Jacoby Ellsbury: While on the topic of trades that should have taken place last off-season, Ellsbury was coming off an MVP season with two full years of control ahead of him. His value was sky-high. As the greatest General Manager ever, Branch Rickey, famously stated over 50 years ago: "I'd rather trade a player a year early than a year too late." Ellsbury will hit the open-market in 1.5 years and be patrolling center-field at Yankee Stadium while making over $20 million per year for the next eight years or so. The Red Sox were in a position to get a LOT back for Ellsbury. Letting him play out his service time and walk should not be an option. Once Ellsbury FINALLY gets back on the field, get him out on the trade market. He can still bring back something of value. Really, the best bet is he has a HUGE second-half and can bring back a top prospect or two in the off-season.
David Ortiz: I know, I know. He has been the ONLY consistent hitter this season. But this season is over. Focus on 2013, and where is Ortiz? If the Sox are gonna pay $15 million to have a DH, they can unload him and save some cash to redistribute for youth. I don't see Ortiz getting what he wants from Boston in the off-season. Remember, Jed Lowrie and the Houston Astros are coming the American League and inter-league games will become the norm. The market size for Ortiz (especially where he has dropped some weight and shown he can still play first base) has effectively doubled. Trade now or pay later. Ryan Lavarnway can DH right now and eventually be the second-sting catcher in a pinch.
Daniel Nava/Cody Ross/Mike Sweeney/Darnell McDonald: I like these guys. I really do, and I know there is not a lot of cash outlay here. They have done the job in a pinch this season and looked impressive. Yes, I am going to say it again: TRADE HIGH! Whatever can come back from a team desperate to make a playoff run is worth it right now. These guys are not the future in Fenway. They need to be cleared out so Ryan Kalish, Che-Hsuan Lin, and Lars Anderson can be in the outfield and show if they are worth keeping around long-term or tossed in as part of a deal for more parts.
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Notice there are no pitchers listed yet. I HATE the idea of trading away pitching. Pitching is to be hoarded, not traded. But at this time, there are some potential ways to shake things up:
STARTING ROTATION: Personally, I have a thing about trading away left-handed starting pitchers who throw 95 MPH. However, since Daisuke Matsuzaka, Josh Beckett, and John Lackey are basically untradeable, it comes down to Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz and Lester currently has the opportunity to get more back in return. Buchholz is younger and, if healthy, still has the hope of being a true #1 starter. I don't WANT to trade Lester, but having him continue to be infected by the Texas Twosome of Beckett and Lackey and their lack of work ethic and bad attitude is not fair to him as a pitcher. Wait, I take it all back. Unload Matsuzaka for a bag of balls and unload Beckett for whatever comes back in return. Release Lackey and eat the salary. Try cleaning-up the bad influences first before giving up on Lester and Buchholz and let them team with Felix Doubront for a young core of starters.
BULLPEN: Now that the dalliance with starting is over at long last, perhaps Daniel Bard will get comfortable in the bullpen again. The Red Sox bullpen has over-achieved already and the return of Andrew Bailey and Daniel Bard at the back-end frees up a few choice pieces. Franklin Morales, Matt Albers, and Alfredo Aceves will never have a higher value than right now. Unload the trio of over-achievers before a couple of 1/3 innings pitched, six runs allowed kill any trade value. A young arm or two with issues and some upside is better than any marginal major league/AAAA chump at this point.
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This team is not going to be rebuilt on the fly. This team needs a major shake-up sooner rather than later. This is not the New England Patriots taking a team that was a defensive stop/hail mary pass away from a Super Bowl Championship re-loading in the off-season. This team has not made the playoffs since being swept in the ALDS in 2009. They have not been realistically close to winning it all since 2008. By August 1, this team should look young, exciting, and future-looking. It won't, I know, but it should. Let's hope the Axis of Evil in the Ownership Booth rubber-stamp Ben Cherington's potential house-cleaning, but I a not holding my breath waiting for it to happen.
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