Here we are at the 2012 All-Star break. Befitting a team that habitually wins four in a row before dropping five of seven, the Red Sox sit at .500 (43–43).
Let’s face it: There was ample reason to believe that 2012 would be a transition year. And those inklings have come to fruition.
While there is still two-and-a-half months of regular season baseball to be played, Boston doesn’t have the look of a contender.
They shouldn’t be looking to acquire players between now and the July 31 trade deadline. They should be sellers.
It would be painful, in some cases, to part ways with key players from the past four to five years (Kevin Youkilis’ departure was proof of that). But if Boston wants to position itself to contend in 2013 and beyond, it’s necessary.
Swallow your pride and your sense of nostalgia, Sox fans. Here are five players they should consider unloading in the next three weeks.
The most obvious candidate to be dealt.
His “pitch when I want to” personality—and his role in "Beergate" last September—has made him damaged goods in Boston. He wants out just as much as the Sox and their fans want him out.
His lackluster first half (4–7, 4.43 ERA) aside, Beckett would fetch a bounty of players in any deal. He still reaches the high-90s with his fastball and can buckle batters’ knees with his curveball.
Plus he is a proven postseason commodity to the tune of a 7–3 record, 3.07 ERA and MVP honors for the 2004 World Series and 2007 ALCS.
Contending teams in either league would love a cocky fireballer in advance of the postseason. Boston can provide one—and get a bevy of prospects and/or emerging star players in return.
Lost amidst the all-star caliber first half of Jarrod Saltalamacchia has been the solid backup work that journeyman Shoppach has done in his return to Boston.
In limited playing time (33 games), Shoppach has hit a solid .269 with four HR, 12 RBI and a .358 OBP.
All while helping the pitching staff to a 3.76 ERA in his 251.1 innings caught and throwing out 30 percent of would-be base stealers.
In addition, his two-homer performance in Game 1 of the ALDS against the Texas Rangers last year demonstrated his ability to perform in pressure situations.
As good as he’s been in limited playing time with Boston, his talents would be best utilized for a team in need of a full-time backstop.
Cook has turned into a solid minor league signee for Boston.
After a laceration to his knee forced him to the DL early in the season, he’s picked things up in his two most recent starts. In 15 innings pitched, he’s surrendered three earned runs on 11 hits and just one walk allowed.
At 33 years old, Cook is not a viable option for the Sox beyond 2012. And if Boston falls further out of contention after the All-Star break, there’s no point keeping him around for the rest of this year.
But his experience (10-plus major league seasons) and reputation for pounding the strike zone would serve another team well in the short term. Cook can be used as a spot starter or in long relief.
In return he could yield a prospect that the Sox could nurture. It’s not much, but for a farm system that’s underperformed as of late, it’s something.
The 31-year-old Aviles has hit just .260 in 2012 but has shown good pop (nine HR and 44 RBI) and a feisty attitude that teammates and fans love.
Every contender needs a complementary player like Aviles. He’s hardly an OBP machine, but his power from the bottom of the lineup—and potentially as a pinch-hitter—would serve a team well.
And if the Red Sox are out of the running when the August dog days roll around, it would be the right time to get Jose Iglesias’ feet wet at shortstop.
The slick-fielding, 22-year-old Cuban has performed admirably at Pawtucket (.260 BA, 15 RBI and eight SB). Only good could come from giving him some time at the big league level in a low-pressure situation.
Aviles may be the present, but Iglesias represents the future. No point in letting the latter linger if the former is a lost cause.
This would, easily, be the hardest trade the Sox would have to make.
You can’t blame Ortiz for sounding off on the lack of a new deal. Particularly when two of Boston’s highest-paid players (John Lackey and Carl Crawford) haven’t played in 2012 and another (Adrian Gonzalez) has underperformed.
Those three contracts—and the lack of progress in his own negotiations—will only make Ortiz more stubborn in his pursuit of a long-term deal that will take him into his 40s.
Big Papi is swinging the bat like a slugger five years younger. He’s Boston’s lone All-Star and his trade value will never be higher. Think of the budding stars or stud prospects the Red Sox could get for one of the few proven DHs in the game today.
Which isn’t to stay that Boston wants to get rid or Ortiz. Or that Ortiz wants to leave. But from a business perspective, it’s not a far-fetched idea.