Major League Baseball’s trade deadline, like most other anxiety-breeding happenings, is a direct result of the New York Yankees. First enacted in 1920 in response to the Red Sox sale of Babe Ruth to the Yankees, the deadline attempted to keep the financially rich Yankees from simply signing all of the best players late in the season to help them in the playoffs.
Now, with the financially rich Red Sox severely trailing the Yankees heading into the second half of the season, it’s the Red Sox who may need to make some moves if they’re to compete for a playoff spot. With the non-waiver trade deadline looming on July 31, I can assure you that Ben Cherington is spending some late nights at the office.
In general, I don’t expect the Red Sox to make much of a splash prior to the deadline—frankly, the “mid-season acquisitions” of Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford and Andrew Bailey should provide a needed boost. That said, it’s still undeniable that the Red Sox are short on pitching—starting pitching specifically. John Lester has been bad, Josh Beckett hasn’t been a ton better, and despite an 8-3 record Clay Buchholz is sporting a 5.54 era. Felix Dubront has been a pleasant surprise, and I’d be in favor of moving Franklin Morales into the rotation permanently. But as much as I’d like to see the Red Sox trade Daisuke Matsuzaka or John Lackey, I think their sizable contracts will prohibit them from being moved—and I don’t think anyone in Boston’s front office has the guts to shop Lester or Beckett around.
To me, that makes it abundantly obvious that a starting pitcher isn’t going to be traded for another starter. But there are a few Red Sox who I think should brace themselves for potentially being moved before the trade deadline.
1) Nick Punto – Nick Punto is a veteran player who has been on some winning teams. At 34 years old he’s still got plenty of baseball left in him, and he could help solidify a contender’s utility infielder position or be a starter on many other teams. Coupled with Dustin Pedroia’s return, Pedro Ciriaco’s emergence (13 hits, a .419 average, and 6 RBIs in 8 games), and with Jose Iglesias waiting in the wings, let’s just say that if I was Punto I wouldn’t be purchasing any real estate in the Boston area any time soon.
2) Daniel Nava – One of the most enjoyable parts of this Red Sox season for me (I’m reaching here) has been watching the competition in the outfield. Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford are finally back, which literally makes me walk with a new skip in my step. Cody Ross, Ryan Kalish, Ryan Sweeney and Daniel Nava have done a fantastic job of filling in so far this year, but it’s a hard reality that it’s getting a bit crowded in the cramped confines of Fenway’s outfield. I think the odd man out has to be Daniel Nava, and I do think the Red Sox can get some trade value out of him. He’s just 29, is a switch hitter, and is rocking a .381 OBP so far this season. Perhaps more importantly, his scouting report still reads like WHOA. He’s the player I think is most likely to get shipped elsewhere.
3) Daniel Bard – Daniel Bard…where do I begin. The man is clearly not a starter, but his stuff is undeniably filthy. You know there are many pitching coaches out there who think they can turn this guy into the next great closer. I’m not sure of the degree to which the Red Sox front office is disenchanted with this guy at this point, but he still seems like a high-upside pick-up for someone. With the Sox bullpen being so strong through the first half of the season and Andrew Bailey returning, the Red Sox might be able to get some value for Bard. With a relatively small $1.6 million dollar contract this season, the Red Sox might just find a few fish biting the line here. And the last thing the Red Sox need at this point is another head case.
Personally, if Bard and Punto had never suited up for the Red Sox, I really wouldn’t do much besides yawn it out. I’ll be sad to see Nava go, but couldn’t be happier to have Sweeney, Ross and Kalish as additional outfield depth. So get after it, Benny Boy—find me that diamond-in-the-rough starter. You’ve got 13 days and counting…
Geoff Roberts is the Founder & Managing Editor of howiGit.com, a Boston sports blog.