Boston Red Sox: Why Team Must Gut Squad by the Trade Deadline
Stay calm, Red Sox fans. Do you want to keep this team together and hope for the best?
Or, do you want to clear some payroll for the offseason?
It is still early in this 2012 MLB regular season, so Boston has plenty of time to make a run at the postseason. However, the teams ahead of them are starting to catch fire.
Ultimately, I expect the Rays and Angels to win the wild cards while the Yankees capture the division crown. There is too much talent on these rosters, and they will continue to play well the rest of the season.
Boston, 8-2 in their past 10 games, are not out of contention—yet. It may be a little early to wave the white flag, but they need to make some changes.
With the Kevin Youkilis trade today, the team has already started making changes.
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When Terry Francona was let go, the Red Sox made a controversial decision to hire Bobby Valentine as the team's new manager.
After the team's poor start, it was unclear how long Bobby V would last in Boston. Valentine called out Youkilis in April, and that did not sit well with some players.
With the trade of Youkilis, it appears management believes in Valentine.
He made his presence felt immediately when he banned beer from the clubhouse after last season's issues. With a group of veteran players, his style of managing has been tough for some to handle.
Some of the players may not like his style, and it could rub off on some of the younger players. Rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks' performance this season allowed the Red Sox to trade Youkilis, so players need to have a good relationship with the manager if they want to stay on the team.
Last week, ESPN's Buster Olney reported there is a massive amount of tension in Boston's clubhouse.
There are a lot of good people with the Red Sox, but it's hard to imagine another group with more tension than what they have right now.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) June 18, 2012
Valentine got off to a rocky start in Boston, but it looks like the team is finally starting to pull it together. The Red Sox may have a winning record, but this team needs to be broken up.
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While the bullpen has started pitching well, the Red Sox need to make changes to the starting rotation.
The biggest reason the team has struggled this season has been because of their rotation. Their bullpen ranks 10th in the majors, but their rotation ranks 27th with a 4.82 ERA.
Boston's rotation ranks in the bottom half of the league in hits, walks, home runs allowed and innings pitched. Two of the three teams they trail for the wild cards, Los Angeles and Tampa Bay, have rotations that are ranked fifth and sixth in the majors.
Without a World Series title since 2007, the Red Sox need to shake things up. The starting rotation has been a big disappointment, and it may be time to trade away some of the established players.
Outside of Felix Doubront, nobody in the rotation has pitched the way the team had hoped.
Josh Beckett has been the team's best starter (4.14 ERA), but he had some issues earlier this season with an injury and was under scrutiny for his off-day activities. After a few problems in Boston, he may be out of town by July 31.
After Beckett, the rest of the rotation has struggled.
Jon Lester's 4.48 ERA and 4-5 record needs to improve if Boston hopes to make the postseason. Daniel Bard got off to a terrible start to the season and was demoted to the minor leagues. Even Daisuke Matsuzaka has struggled in his three starts this season.
Do not let his 8-2 record fool you, but Clay Buchholz has not pitched well this season—5.53 ERA through 14 starts. Two starts ago against Miami marked his first win of the season in which the team did not score at least seven runs.
After one month, he had a 3-1 record with an 8.69 ERA. The Red Sox have managed to score runs for him, but he cannot continue to allow runs the way he has so far this season.
Matsuzaka is in the final year of his contract, so next year's rotation may have a very different look to it if Beckett is dealt.
Shed Some Payroll
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Some of Boston's highest-paid players have been their weakest links this season.
With Youkilis being one of top paid players on the team, they managed to save some money by dealing him. They had to pay most of his remaining contract, but saved about $2 million.
First baseman Adrian Gonzalez, the highest-paid player on the team, has struggled through three months. But, he will most likely break out his hitting funk and play up to his capabilities.
Four of the team's top seven highest-paid players are members of the starting rotation. With Beckett, Matsuzaka, Lester and Buchholz making almost a combined $40 million this season, the Red Sox may look to move some of them.
Those numbers do not even include injured outfielder Carl Crawford's salary. The lack of production from their most expensive players is a problem, and they are now relying on some cheap replacements.
Perhaps one player they may look to move is David Ortiz. The 36-year-old designated hitter is having a great season, but his $14.5 million salary may have Boston wanting to get rid of him.
His contract expires after this season, so they could choose to move him to another AL team who needs a designated hitter. His .300 batting average, 18 home runs and 49 RBI would be missed, but the Red Sox rank second in the majors in runs scored and could replace him.
It would be weird seeing him in a different uniform, but it is unclear if Ortiz will be back next season. Earlier this season, he had problems with the criticism he was receiving.
According to CSNNE.com's Sean McAdam, this past week he made comments about playing in Boston after he was asked if it was fun to play for the team:.
"Not really. Too much [expletive], man. People need to leave us alone and let us play baseball. It’s starting to become the [expletive] it used to be. Playing here used to be so much fun. Now, every day is something new, not related to baseball. People need to leave us alone. Every day is something new, some drama, some more [expletive]. I’m tired of that, man. I’m here to play baseball, man."
His latest comments will make Boston consider the idea of trading Ortiz.
The team with the fourth-highest payroll in the majors needs to make roster changes, and they need to look to add pieces for the future.
Lack of Stars
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For the first time in recent memory, the Red Sox are on pace for only one starter in the Midsummer Classic.
While Boston is used to having multiple starters, designated hitter David Ortiz is the only player who leads the All-Star voting at his position. Ortiz is well-deserving after having a great first half, and he may be Boston's lone representative in Kansas City.
Second baseman Dustin Pedroia trails Yankee Robinson Cano and Ranger Ian Kinsler for the starting spot. Assuming both of those players make the AL All-Star team, Pedroia will probably be on the outside looking in.
Cleveland's Jason Kipnis is having a monster season, so there might not be enough room on the roster for Pedroia.
After trading former All-Star Kevin Youkilis, the Red Sox have few players worthy of consideration. When Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury finally get healthy, he provides the Red Sox with an All-Star caliber player.
The rotation is filled with big-name pitchers, but they have been disappointing and have been injured. Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz are currently on the disabled list, so they need to look to trade for some younger arms.
The Red Sox are getting older and having trouble staying healthy. Boston needs to consider trading away players who are injury-prone, but it will be tough moving some of the large contracts.