By Joe Barron
Often times baseball fans and historians are stuck in a numbers game, forgetting about the myth and subtle nuances of the game. Tales of perseverance and grit. On the eve of what could be one of the most memorable trade deadlines in years, I read a 2009 Forbes article by Monte Burke, chronicling some of the greatest comebacks within the last 10 (now 15) years. No team has ever come back from as big a deficit as the Red Sox are in right now (48-59), but what better team to try? How would you do it?
The Sox have expressed interest in Miami OF, Christian Yelich, who is tearing up July. This month he is hitting .323 with 2 HR 11 RBI and an OBP of .398. In away games this season, Yelich is hitting .292 as well as an impressive 33 R and .377 OBP. Yelich is 22 years old and has also stolen 13 bases this season.
It's been reported that Miami is interested in starting pitching as well as veteran players with World Series experience with a potential playoff push in their eyes. 2003 World Series Champion and Miami Manager Mike Redmond should certainly remember the amazing comebacks his Marlins made that season and is riding high after an emotional win on Tuesday night against Steve Strasburg.
What if the Sox again traded another disgruntled, but highly regarded shortstop, offering Xander Bogaerts, Clay Buchholz, and Daniel Nava for Christian Yelich? Would Miami accept?
If you're Miami, you'd be gaining 3 starting players all with post-season experience. Nava, who has had an excellent two months both hitting and defensively since returning to the Sox could fill the gap left by Yelich in LF. Bogaerts (still carrying the label as a top prospect) could occupy his desired position of SS, sliding Hechavarria to 2B. Buchholz would round out the Miami starting rotation, slinging to his old buddy Salty. Redmond, a former catcher by trade, should appreciate the chemistry the two had during the 2013 season. The Marlins would also still retain their heavy hitter, Stanton.
The Red Sox would still be making a quality investment in a young, multi-tooled outfielder, freeing up salary for next season, and would retain Jon Lester until the end of the season with the potential to resign an extension at the end of the season. Lackey's very affordable contract next season and current level of pitching and experience is of huge value, especially with young starting pitchers like De La Rosa and Workman learning their roles. The Red Sox might not have enough pop to make an epic comeback, but they still would be making a solid investment for the future, while retaining their most important foundational pieces and keeping the fans interested.
A Sox lineup could then look something like this:
1. Brock Holt 3B LHB
2. Shane Victorino RF RHB
3. Dustin Pedroia 2B RHB
4. David Ortiz DH LHB
5. Mike Napoli 1B RHB
6. Christian Yelich LF LHB
7. Jackie Bradley Jr. CF LHB
8. Christian Vazquez C RHB
9. Stephen Drew SS LHB
Gomes could also continue to platoon against LHP.
Unfortunately, you're still stuck with Stephen Drew at SS, who still hasn't shown his hitting abilities, but luckily his contract is only for this season. If Troy Tulowitzki is available through a waiver deal once healthy, I would highly consider trying to swap Drew and prospects to lock up Tulowitzki. Those prospects could come from a combination of players the Sox already have in the system as well as potentially dealing Andrew Miller to a team in contention in need of a solid lefty out of the bullpen. Colorado would be off the books for Tulo's contract, have a shortstop to finish the season, and have made a nice return on their own disgruntled shortstop. Tulowitzki would sure up shortstop for the Red Sox future as well as insurance and protection for Ortiz's bat, you'd still have many great young players on the team, and a lot more interest about the team and a rise in ticket sales and morale in the city of Boston even if they don't quite make the playoffs.
Another interesting play maker to watch is Phillie's OF Ben Revere who has 28 steals and has only been caught 4 times.
Here are a few other interesting musings:
-The 2003 Twins made the playoffs with a 90-72 record, with a first half losing record of 44-49 and second half record: 46-23. They traded Bobby Kielty for Shannon Stewart at the trade deadline. Stewart was tremendous in Minnesota's success that season, finishing fourth in MVP voting that season. Kielty was on the 2007 World Series Red Sox, hitting a pinch hit home run in the World Series. Other familiar names on that team included Torii Hunter and A.J. Pierzynski. One familiar name who was released by the Twins before the start of the 2003 season is David Ortiz.
-The team that won the 2003 World Series and shocked the New York Yankees, the Marlins, went 91-71 during the regular season. Familiar names included Josh Beckett, Alex Gonzalez, Mike Lowell, and even Ugueth Urbina (who was acquired in a deadline deal with Adrian Gonzalez). The Red Sox had also bought the contract of Kevin Millar that season.
-The Marlins are the only team to win two World Series Championships as a wild card.
-The 2004 Red Sox made a shocking trade before the deadline and eventually won 22/25 games to end the 2004 season. They also went on to make history.
Stranger things have happened before.
If all else fails, maybe Ben can trade Felix Doubront for a bag of Skittles and this Blue Jay fan's t-shirt.