As the Red Sox turned a hot May into a solid June, establishing themselves as a contender for the AL East, fans' thoughts turned away from the team's slow start and toward what the club could do to improve. Back in June, much of the talk seemed to focus on Mets shortstop Jose Reyes and why he would be a great addition in Boston.
There's no questioning Reyes' talent, but that move simply never made sense.
For one thing, there's no guarantee the Mets will even try to trade him. And if they were to move Reyes, the asking price would be astronomical. The Red Sox simply don't have the kind of financial flexibility or personnel package to make a deal like that worth their while.
As the deadline nears, rumors about Reyes have died down only to be replaced by chatter about his teammate Carlos Beltran. For the last couple of week, Beltran has been the hot topic, perhaps the premier offensive player available on the 2011 trade market.
All along, Boston has been one of the teams said to be interested in acquiring the 34-year-old right fielder. As recently as yesterday, in a tweet by ESPN's Jerry Crasnick, the Sox were purported to be one of a half dozen teams with a real shot at landing Beltran.
While acquiring Beltran does make more sense for the Sox than adding Reyes would have, it's still not the move that the club should be making.
It's true that right field has been a significant problem spot for Boston, but it's important to remember that problems are relative. Even with J.D. Drew and Mike Cameron's struggles, the Red Sox lineup has been the most potent in baseball, amassing an MLB-best 482 runs in its first 90 games.
The team has achieved gaudy totals despite its terrible April. How much offense might have been generated if Boston had had a more respectable start?
In May, the team averaged 5.4 runs per game. In June, 6.1. So far in July? 6.7.
The truth is that run production is not an issue. However much Drew and Cameron were and are dragging down the numbers is insignificant compared to what this lineup is still producing.
Would Beltran improve the lineup in the short term? Absolutely. He sports an .880 OPS with a league-leading 28 doubles, 13 homers and 58 RBI. He would be a major upgrade for most teams.
But for the Red Sox, such an upgrade would be pure luxury, not necessity.
Drew is batting only .229. He's played in only 72 games. His .646 OPS is downright horrific. In spite of all that, the Sox are still rolling. The offense can easily bear a mediocre J.D. Drew, especially if he's supplemented by the hot-hitting Josh Reddick. Ryan Kalish is currently working his way back from a labrum injury and could contribute down the stretch. Things in right field really aren't so bad for the Sox.
Adding a player who will be owed the balance of his $18.5 million salary would be foolish.
Instead, the club should be focusing its attention on pitching. Boston has been plagued by injuries once again, and with Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Daisuke Matsuzaka currently on the shelf, the rotation has been a patchwork of fill-ins.
Lester and Buchholz are due back shortly, but even as they return the pitching staff faces the challenges of an inconsistent John Lackey and a streaky Tim Wakefield. If Boston is going to spend money or trade away youth, it must be for an area of need.
Similarly, Boston could use some bullpen support. There are numerous good relievers available for trade. The Sox need not mortgage their future for the likes of Heath Bell or Joakim Soria, but they should be seeking one or two quality arms to further stabilize the pen.
As July 31st draws near, fans need to shift their focus away from flashy names like Reyes and Beltran. They need to start hoping that Theo Epstein and the rest of the Red Sox organization invests in deals that will make a substantial difference to this team as it tries to secure a playoff berth.
It's time to trade for arms and leave the addition of Beltran to someone else.