With baseball's trade deadline fast approaching, rumors are swirling about potential deals, as they are every year in Boston.
The Red Sox Sox currently sit 5.5 games behind Tampa Bay for the wild card spot and 7.5 behind the Yankees in the AL East.
The gap is by no means insurmountable, and the Sox would sure benefit from a big bat or depth at, well, virtually every spot on the roster.
However, GM Theo Epstein should not pull off a trade for a Jayson Werth or scour the league for a middle reliever like he seemingly does every year (see Wagner, Billy and Gagne, Eric [shudder]).
This is not the year for the Red Sox, and so Boston should instead become a seller.
Even if the Red Sox were to make it into the playoffs, the team has suffered too many injuries and just doesn't have the roster to truly contend.
If everyone got healthy fast and made it back to their top form, of course, then this is a whole different ballgame (pun intended). But what are the chances of that?
Call me a pessimist, but it's just not their year. I'm certain Epstein won't sell, simply because pressure from the fans will be too much, but it doesn't hurt to speculate.
Who to sell?
1. Jonathan Papelbon
Papelbon hasn't been in top form this entire season, but the Sox could certainly get back a few solid prospects in return for their closer of the past five years. Daniel Bard is the closer of the future, and to be honest, he might just be a better option right now.
2. Adrian Beltre
It's scary to imagine how the already-depleted Sox lineup would look without the All-Star third baseman, but Beltre's contract is up at the end of this season, and he will be receiving lucrative offers in the coming offseason. If the Sox don't think they want to get into a bidding war, they could move Beltre to a contender now in exchange for an exciting young player who could join the Major League roster for the rest of the year.
3. Ramon Ramirez/Manny Delcarmen
Neither middle relievers have had fantastic years, and both names have been popping up in trade rumors. Every season, there are teams out there looking to bolster their 'pen at the deadline.
4. Jacoby Ellsbury
The injury drama goes on, and the Sox really do not seem to pleased with how Ellsbury's season has gone. His character and desire have come into question, and in the trade market he'd command a hefty return. With Ryan Kalish tearing up AAA, the Sox may turn to him as the center fielder of the future, and part ways with the once-untouchable Ellsbury.
Who to target?
If the Sox decide to sell, there are several areas where they could benefit from a youth movement.
The Red Sox have long sought a young catcher of the future, but haven't made any deals. With the acquisition of a catcher who could start on opening day of next year, the Sox could look at moving Victor Martinez to first full time (thus getting more offensive production and elongating his career) and moving Youkilis back to third (let's assume Beltre was traded or signed elsewhere).
With the injuries suffered by the Sox outfield this year, their lack of depth at the position has been exposed. While Darnell McDonald and Daniel Nava have filled in admirably, they are only short-term stopgaps. Mike Cameron is 56, I mean 37, and is by no means a long-term member of the ball club.
The ERAs of Hideki Okajima, Manny Delcarmen, and Ramon Ramirez are 5.81, 5.00, and 4.69, respectively. Bard (1.86) has been the only reliable arm in the pen and is pegged to be the closer of the future. When he makes that move, there will be space to be filled by a set up man or lefty specialist.
I don't know enough about the minor leagues to follow names to target, but it is my conviction that the Sox have no realistic shot at a 2010 title. Instead, they should look to the future, and build a solid, youthful team for years to come.