Life clings to the Boston Red Sox like a disease.
At 30-36 and eight games behind the first-place Toronto Blue Jays, they are unlikely to make the playoffs this season. Yet they keep winning just often enough to keep them on the periphery of relevancy at 4.5 games back of a wild-card spot, and this is a team with enough natural talent to make a run.
That puts general manager Ben Cherington and the rest of the front office in a precarious situation, as they must decide within the next few weeks whether the Sox should become buyers or sellers as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline nears.
Either way, standing pat is an unappealing option. This team isn't good enough to win it all as currently constructed, but the Sox shouldn't just sit on their valuable trade chips if they decide to regroup for 2015, either.
On Wednesday, I took a look at three players the Red Sox could look to acquire in a trade to attempt to bolster their outfield for a playoff run. Today, I'll assume Boston goes in the opposite direction and discuss four players it would be wise to sell.
Jonny Gomes, OF
Gomes is a popular figure in Red Sox Nation and is routinely lauded for his intangibles, so trading him may strike a nerve with a portion of the fanbase. But pretty much every move strikes a nerve with some portion of the fanbase, and shedding Gomes would make a ton of sense if the Red Sox decide that they need to rebuild.
Gomes has had his fair share of timely hits for Boston, but he was worth just 1.0 fWAR last season, according to FanGraphs, and has generated just 0.1 fWAR in 2014. He really shouldn’t be allowed to face right-handed pitching (.167/.244/.292 in 2014) and he's a free agent after the season, meaning Boston loses no long-term value by dealing him.
The best argument to be made against dealing Gomes is that the return he'd bring is so marginal, there's no real point to shipping him off if it will hurt your clubhouse. But I'd argue that even if Boston just receives cash considerations, a relief-pitcher reclamation project or a D-level prospect, trading Gomes is a good idea because it will open up at-bats for other, more important long-term players.
If the Sox are out of it, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Daniel Nava should play pretty much every day so that the Red Sox can better assess what to expect from those two moving forward. Brock Holt also deserves regular playing time, and the Sox might even want to let top prospect Mookie Betts get his feet wet by season's end.
It's easier to find playing time for these guys if Gomes is off the roster.
A.J. Pierzynski, C
Whereas I expect the notion of trading Gomes to be unpopular, I have a feeling no one would take issue with dealing Pierzynski, who's yet to endear himself to any fanbase in the country. Despite his quirks and reputation, Pierzynski is having a good season at the plate, hitting .279/.308/.400 with four homers and 27 RBI.
We all know about Pierzynski's defensive limitations, but there's never enough catching to go around the majors, and he'd be quite likely to catch the eye of a contender who needs help behind the plate. Pierzynski was always designed to be a stopgap option for the Red Sox anyway, and I don't expect them to re-sign him for 2015 or beyond.
As is the case with Gomes, the return the Red Sox would receive for Pierzynski would likely be quite modest. I can see it being a touch better than what they'd get for the outfielder, but we're still talking about a low-level prospect or someone who's flunked their first few tests in the majors. Thirty-seven-year-old catchers just don't have a ton of value.
But like with Gomes, Pierzynski leaving would open up playing time for other players, and in this case I'm referring specifically to Christian Vazquez. A defensive whiz who's holding his own in Triple-A, getting Vazquez 200-plus MLB plate appearances this season would be a great idea, as the Sox could opt to use Vazquez as their primary backup next season if they like what they see.
On that note, it would also make sense for Boston to trade David Ross instead of Pierzynski, but I'm not sure who would want the 37-year-old Ross at this point.
Jake Peavy, SP
A season ago, the Red Sox made the biggest move of any team at the trading deadline by trading Jose Iglesias and two lower-level prospects for Peavy in a three-team deal involving the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers, bolstering their rotation for a playoff run. As we know now, it was a trade that paid huge dividends, as Peavy helped to further stabilize a pitching staff that would ultimately lead the Sox to a championship.
If Boston decides it can't recover in 2014, it would make sense to let Peavy be someone else's big prize at the deadline this year. Peavy is a free agent after the season, and the Red Sox have a glut of pitching talent in the high minors. A reunion appears unlikely, so Boston would be smart to get some value for Peavy while it still can.
Make no mistake about it—the package the Sox would receive for Peavy this time around wouldn't come close to matching the talent they gave up a year ago. Peavy now only has three months of control left on his deal, and he's been serviceable but not outstanding this season. I'd expect a C-level prospect, a reliever or a utility player as a fair return.
But if Peavy's absence means that Brandon Workman, Rubby De La Rosa or even Henry Owens is afforded more MLB time this season, that's for the best. You can never have too much pitching, but the Sox could bolster their ranks with a cheaper alternative next season or could simply hand the reins to one of their many young arms.
Getting what they can for Peavy now makes all the sense in the world if the Sox decide to throw in the towel.
Koji Uehara, RP
I know, I know, this would be an incredibly painful deal for Red Sox Nation. Uehara has been historically good since joining the Sox last season, throwing 102 innings, allowing a 0.97 ERA and posting a K/BB ratio of more than 10-to-1 during that time. He's the best relief pitcher in the AL, and he's a fan favorite.
But even mediocre closers tend to fetch handsome rewards on the trade market, and there's a chance that someone could cough up an excellent prospect even for just a half-season of Uehara. I'm all for trying to extend him for next season, but if that doesn't happen, trading him is a great way to recoup excess value for Cherington's shrewdest acquisition to date.
For all his talent, Uehara is a 39-year-old free agent-to-be with a history of shoulder issues. The Red Sox should absolutely look to bring him back to close in 2015, even if he spends July, August and September with another organization, but they'd be silly to hold on to him if they're out of the race.
Trading away Uehara would be a painful reminder of how badly this season has gone awry. But if the Sox do indeed decide to sell, though, letting him throw another 30-plus innings in Boston is a waste of an insanely valuable asset.