With the trade deadline approaching, speculation about potential blockbuster deals is on the rise.
The Sox seem to be in a position to be a buyer. They're only two games out of first place in the AL Central despite inconsistent play for much of the year.
However, I don't see the Sox making a significant deal to improve their team before the deadline.
There are a few reasons for this. Part of it is the current makeup of the team and part of it is the available players and the likely asking prices for them.
I'll start with the makeup of the current Sox team. Despite hovering around the .500 mark for most of the year, the team has few glaring holes at the moment.
At the beginning of the season, I would have definitely considered second base, third base, and center field to be positions where they could use a proven major league player. However, they seem to have dealt with all of those issues.
Gordon Beckham has been a huge boost to the lineup, replacing the struggling Josh Fields. He's currently hitting .304 with an on base percentage of .371. Those numbers are even more impressive considering that he had only two hits in his first 28 major league games.
Chris Getz has also reduced the need for them to upgrade at his position. While he started poorly, he's hitting .359 thus far in July. Even if he doesn't keep that up, the team can probably live with his overall numbers of .263/.323/.375, considering that he's a bottom of the order hitter that plays a premium position.
Though it's less than ideal, Scott Podsednik has solved their centerfield issue as well. He's not a good defender at that position, but they have to keep his bat in the lineup after the return of Carlos Quentin.
At least on paper, the Sox appear to have a lineup without a glaring hole. That doesn't mean that their offense is perfect, but it would be difficult to find significant upgrades to the lineup on the open market.
The bullpen is also a strength with five relievers that are performing well, and the rotation has been pretty solid most of the year.
The only thing I can really see that I would like to see the Sox improve is the fifth spot in their rotation. Clayton Richard has been inconsistent and another proven starter would be a major boost.
However, this brings me to the second major reason that I have a hard time seeing the Sox making a major move.
Dependable starting pitching is the hardest asset to acquire and the price is usually sky-high at the trading deadline. This year appears to be no different.
All of the talk thus far has involved Roy Halladay. While he's an excellent pitcher that would be a huge boost to any staff, Toronto doesn't seem to want to move him for anything less than an elite package of talent.
The rumors thus far suggest that it would take Gordon Beckham, John Danks, or Gavin Floyd to acquire Halladay, which simply makes no sense from the Sox perspective. Acquiring Roy is a win-now move and all of those players are currently heavy contributors to the Sox.
If they could acquire him for a package of minor leaguers and/or more marginal contributors like Aaron Poreda, Clayton Richard, Tyler Flowers, Jordan Danks, Dan Hudson, Dexter Carter, and/or Dayan Viciedo that would make far more sense for the Sox. However, it doesn't appear that Toronto would be interested in such a deal, and that's still a lot of talent to give up.
The potential for the Sox acquiring a different elite starter seems similarly bleak. There's no guarantee that guys like Roy Oswalt, Cliff Lee, Brandon Webb, Dan Haren, or Zach Duke are even available, and even if they are they will probably hear similar demands from their respective teams.
If a deal does happen, it would likely be some package involving the previously mentioned prospects for a legit starting pitcher. My personal guess is that the odds of that happening are below 10 percent.
The bottom line is I don't see the Sox and general manager Kenny Williams giving up significant parts of their future and adding a large amount of salary unless they think it will help them contend for the next four to five years.
Right now, the team is starting to add talented young players to a veteran core that is allowing them to be competitive. This will likely continue over the next several years as some of their veterans get older and have their contracts expire. I don't think the Sox will sacrifice long-term contention and financial flexibility for an improved chance to contend this year.
However, predicting what Williams will do has often been difficult in the past, and you can never be certain what tricks he has up his sleeve.
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