Seven weeks to go to the trade deadline, and Peter Abraham gets right to the point, wondering whether the Sox might become sellers this year. He looks at the roster player by player:
Kevin Youkilis, Kelly Shoppach, Mike Aviles, Ryan Sweeney, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Cody Ross and Nick Punto are veteran position players who could bolster a contender.
Alfredo Aceves, Matt Albers, Franklin Morales, Vicente Padilla, Andrew Miller, Scott Atchison and Mark Melancon are relievers who could contribute to a team in a pennant race. Heck, maybe even Daisuke Matsuzaka has a sliver of value.
Of the aforementioned 15 players, is there one the Red Sox could not absolutely, positively live without?
And while it may be heretical to suggest, should even core players like David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz be considered completely off limits?
There are essentially two questions we're dealing with:
1. Does this team have a chance at making a run?
2. If not, who do we unload?
Let's tackle number 1 first. As I mentioned this weekend, I do think they can make a run. I know they're playing badly now, but they're only 6.5 back. They gave away more games than that in one month last year. All they have to do is gain a game or two a month the rest of the way.
And some things are looking up: Matsuzaka is an improvement over Bard. Buchholz seems to have returned to above-average quality. Most of the bats (sans Adrian Gonzalez) are producing. And don't forget about the injuries -- we still expect Cody Ross, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carl Crawford to make appearances at some point.
When all three are back -- not to mention closer Andrew Bailey, who should be an improvement over Alfredo Aceves -- this team shifts from aimless .500-level team to a legit contender. That's a lot of talent on the shelf. Pair that with slight improvements from Gonzalez, Jon Lester, and Dustin Pedroia -- which I think is reasonable to expect based on past performance -- and you have a really solid team.
Which leads us to the second question.
2. Let's say I'm wrong. Let's say Crawford is delayed again. Ellsbury returns, but isn't the same. Pedroia gives in to his injury and hits the DL. Lester continues to be subpar, and by late July we're ten games out. NESN ratings are down, the sellout streak is even more of a joke than it is now, and the team is completely listless.
Who's not moving? Abraham is right about Lackey and Crawford being impossible to move due to salary. He puts Gonzalez in that group, but Adrian is still a tremendous player, he's just struggling. Beckett has 10/5 (and is still good), and Middlebrooks and Doubront are building blocks.
Pedroia should be untouchable without question. David Ortiz is an icon -- end of story. Last in this list, for me, is Jacoby Ellsbury, but only because his value is low. We saw a version of this happen with the Lowrie/Melancon trade -- don't trade a guy whose value is low because of injuries. Let him reestablish himself and then look into it in the offseason, if you want.
The group I would move is basically everyone else. The hardest decision is Salty, but with Ryan Lavarnway on the way, he might represent good value that we could move and not see a dropoff at the position. Contenders or not, Youk is probably gone. And guys like Aviles, Punto, and Sweeney are a dime a dozen.
What we have to remember is this: Even if we're sellers this year, it doesn't mean we're not contenders next year. You don't move the Pedroias and Gonzalezes just because you're not going to be make the playoffs this year. You move the expendable guys. The building blocks should stay. Don't let your temporary dissatisfaction with this team lead you down a road where you're suggesting we unload good assets when they could be part of the solution next year.