Boston Red Sox: Should They Release Josh Beckett?

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Boston Red Sox: Should They Release Josh Beckett?
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After another poor showing, Josh Beckett has never been under more scrutiny in Boston.

With the results growing increasingly dismal with each start and anti-Josh Beckett sentiment in Boston reaching new heights, the question must be asked: would it be best if the Boston Red Sox severed ties with the beleaguered right-hander?

This question is vastly complicated for baseball, financial and emotional reasons, and no solution is going to be perfect. However, the pitcher’s actions both on and off the field have forced the Sox to choose from several decisions that would have seemed unthinkable a year ago.

Josh Beckett is not a bad baseball player. He owns 130 career wins, a 3.91 career ERA and averages 8.4 strikeouts per nine innings. He won 20 games and finished second in Cy Young voting in 2007. He posted the best ERA of his entire career (2.89) just last season.

These are the numbers of someone who, while perhaps not an ace, can be a reliable No. 2 starter in any MLB rotation.

But something has happened to Beckett in the last calendar year that has rendered him something else entirely. Since this time last August, he has a 4.99 ERA in 164.0 innings pitched. Perhaps more significantly, the Sox are 11-16 in his 27 starts. His ERA in the first inning in 2012 now stands at 10.42.

He also has been the center of controversy off the field in that same time period, first with the infamous fried chicken and beer incident of 2011 and followed by “Golfgate” this year.

This off-field drama coupled with Beckett’s generally surly demeanor has caused Sox fans to turn on him. He was loudly booed in the outing immediately following the golf incident, and after he was whacked around for eight earned runs in 5.0 innings at home against Texas on Wednesday, the Fenway Crowd again loudly voiced their displeasure with the pitcher’s effort.

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Despite the fact that Beckett has actually been better than Jon Lester this year, he has rightfully earned substantially more of the fans’ ire. Whereas Lester owned up to his struggles and vowed to improve, Beckett has remained defiant, often refusing to speak with the media after his starts.

It is not controversial to say that for both the player and team’s sake, Beckett needs a change of scenery. The question becomes the best way to make it happen.

Trading Beckett, at this point, seems out of the question. He has practically no value right now; what team would want a struggling, 32-year-old pitcher who has never had consecutive seasons of 30-plus starts and is owed $15.75 million in each of the next two seasons?

Perhaps the Sox could move him to a contender like the Dodgers for pennies on the dollar, but would the Dodgers even consider giving up a marginal prospect for him?

As the Sox have assuredly already done, they can place him on waivers and hope someone will claim him, thus taking him off their hands and assuming the rest of his contract. They did this same thing with Manny Ramirez in 2003 to no avail, and it is unrealistic to expect someone to simply take Beckett off their hands without the Sox pitching in for some of his massive contract.

They could put him on the DL, citing the back issues that caused him to miss his last start. Stashing Beckett there for the rest of the season would do nothing to enhance his trade value, but with the way he’s been pitching lately (7.39 ERA in his last six starts) keeping him off the mound would be a classic case of addition by subtraction.

However, it seems unlikely Beckett would accept a DL stint, as he told ESPN Boston after Wednesday’s calamity against the Rangers that he “felt healthy” during the game.

Lastly—and most drastically—the Sox could simply release him and eat the remaining money on his contract. The Red Sox are no strangers to paying players to go elsewhere, as they did with Edgar Renteria and Julio Lugo, among others. Money never has been the issue with the Red Sox, and it should not be considered one here.

This decision is instead simply about what is best for this baseball team. Beckett has become a distraction with his play on the field and his antics off it. With his WAR having sunk to a dismal 0.3 on the season (barely above replacement level), he has become a drain on the pitching staff.

For a team consumed with public perception, the Red Sox need to realize that keeping a player like Beckett around only feeds the fans’ perception that this team is being ruined by overpaid, under-performing players. He needs to go, and he needs to go now.

If there are no takers in a trade and Beckett is unwilling to hide on the DL for the rest of the year, the Sox need to swallow their pride and release him.

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