This is it, Red Sox fans.
The trade deadline is three days away and although trades still happen after July 31, we'll know within the week how Red Sox GM Ben Cherington is feeling regarding the team being a buyer or a seller. Now, we've heard him say that the Sox will NEVER be TRUE sellers at the deadline, but with Jake Peavy already gone to the Giants, it remains to be seen what moves Cherington still has left.
We all know what the Red Sox have: A team that has underachieved to the point of hyperbole, a team that has lost so much this year that it almost doesn't do justice to the meaning of the word "disappointment." The offense has been horrid, the pitching has been mostly good but inconsistent as a whole, and the team is mired in last place of a division they typically have contended in. Even with signs the offense was picking up with a sweep of the Royals right out of the gate after the All-Star Break and then following it up with a 14-1 drubbing of the Blue Jays on July 21, the Sox have reverted to its light-hitting ways.
So what if the Sox become what Cherington says they will never be: True trade deadline sellers? What could the Sox get for some of their pieces? So, imagine that you're Cherington and you're in full sell-mode. Everything must go! Who would you sell? Let's start with some obvious ones:
- Koji Uehara: Hey, we all love Koji. The guy is so much fun to watch and was the absolute KEY to the Sox winning it all last year. If he doesn't solidify the closer role after Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey bit the dust with injuries, the Sox wouldn't have made it far in the playoffs, much less win it all. But the guy is 39 and definitely not in the team's long-term plans. Heck, he wasn't even the closer until midway through last season! World Series contenders would salivate at the prospect of picking up Uehara for their stretch run. As we've seen, Uehara has the goods when it comes to shutting it down in the playoffs, and for teams with closer issues he could be the missing piece they need to make a World Series push.
By my count, the Tigers — the contender with the most serious need for a closer — most recently made a move for one when they acquired Joakim Soria in a trade with the Rangers. Soria isn't the closer yet as Detroit is still giving those duties to Joe Nathan, who has struggled mightily this season but does carry with him a decent contract and money and the last thing the Tigers need is a disgruntled former closer in their bullpen. But he's on a short leash. Other than that, the main contenders who had closer issues this season, teams like the A's, the Angels, and the Orioles have either made trades to solidify their situations or have made due with replacements who have stepped up. I know the Sox already traded Peavy to the Giants (and pilfered some pretty good prospects in return), but I think that could possibly be a place for Koji to land. After Sergio Romo lost his job after an awful stretch earlier this year, Santiago Casilla has been holding down the job. How long before he loses it? Casilla hasn't exactly been automatic as a closer over the years, so maybe Uehara can find a home by the Bay.
- Andrew Miller: Pick a contender, any contender. Couldn't they all use some bullpen help? Especially 6-foot-7 lefty who is in the midst of a great season (2.45 ERA in 40.1 IP, a measly 0.94 WHIP and tiny 1.75 opponents average)? What about a team like the Brewers who is trying to stay in first place and make a playoff push? Or the Braves, who could use Miller to further solidify an already good bullpen? Or the Dodgers, whose back end of the bullpen has been struggling all season? Or the Cardinals, whose set-up man Jason Motte is coming off of Tommy John surgery? The only contender I could see not taking Miller would be the A's, whose bullpen is stacked with miniscule ERAs.
- Felix Doubront & Mike Carp: These guys have already asked to be traded, and why not? Doubront has declined from once-promising starter to unusable in the span of a couple of years. Carp is nice off the bench but what does he really give you on a day-to-day basis? Not much. It's a shame because I really thought Doubront was a very good No. 3 starter, at best, in the making last year when he showed some good flashes of potential. Now, the Sox would be smart to move him and get a mid-level prospect or a solid veteran player for him. I don't think you'll get much for Carp, maybe flip him for an outfielder who can actually hit some and call it a day.
- John Lackey: He seems like a longshot given his injury history and up-and-down career. But Lackey has pitched lights-out between last year and this year and will make the veteran minimum next year because of a special clause in his contract. The Sox are going to try and get as much value out of Lackey as possible, so maybe they keep him and see if his value jumps next year. But just a name to keep in mind.
- Jon Lester: This one has been talked so much, I don't know how much I can possibly add. I'm of the mind that if you trade Lester, you're going to get a stud in return. That much is apparent, as the Sox are rightfully asking for top dollar on the trade market for their ace who led them to a World Series title last season and is a proven winner in the postseason. Teams would throw a parade if they got Lester. It just matters what they're willing to give to get him since a move to get Lester says to your fanbase that you're all-in on this year, gunning for a championship. Lester has already said he would at least consider re-signing with Boston in the offseason if he is traded. So, if you're Ben Cherington, you trade Lester, scoop up an organization's top prospect (hopefully a power bat), then offer up big money (5 years, $125-150 mil?) in the offseason once he hits the market. This way, you have your cake and eat it, too.
If Cherington has already made up his mind that the team is going to be a seller at the trade deadline, I suggest he take a page from Danny Ainge's playbook: Stack chips. Just amass as many top prospects as you can, even if they're at one position. Look at what former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein is doing on the North Side of Chicago with the Cubs: He's stockpiling shortstop prospects, which he knows is a premium position, in order to better position his team for either another trade or see if he has a star on his hands. Starlin Castro, Javier Baez, and Addison Russell (the former A's top prospect whom Epstein got in the Jeff Samardzija trade), all shortstops and all Theo's to deal if he so chooses.
If you're the Red Sox, and this season is already a lost cause (which many fans feel it is), selling for more pieces is a smart play.