The Boston Red Sox's 2014 season is not going as planned.
World Series winners in 2013, they brought back the majority of their roster in hopes of making another postseason run. However, Boston currently sits in last place in the AL East at 47-55. The July 31 MLB trade deadline is now less than a week away.
Will the Red Sox deal for a star or two and try to make one final playoff push? Or might they go the opposite route and shed players for prospects with the intention of building for the future?
Here are three bold predictions as to what lies ahead for Boston at the trade deadline.
The Red Sox Won't Be Buyers...Or Sellers
When a team is eight games under .500 with just 60 left to play, dealing away prospects in an attempt to win now is probably a bad idea. At this point nobody expects Boston to be a "buyer" in the traditional sense.
But the argument for being a "seller" doesn't really apply to the Red Sox either.
Boston is not a team in need of a major rebuild—there's no reason to believe it can't be back atop the division next season. The pitching staff has the second-most quality starts in the American League (59), and the offense is only one year removed from leading the majors in runs scored. Not to mention the fact that just two seasons ago the Red Sox finished 69-93 but were still able to bounce back and win a championship the following year.
[Jake] Peavy almost certainly will be dealt, with one source insisting that the San Francisco Giants are in the forefront of potential suitors. The Kansas City Royals are considering Jonny Gomes to satisfy their need for a right-handed outfield bat. [Red Sox manager John] Farrell noted Thursday that while Will Middlebrooks is making obvious progress in [Triple-A] Pawtucket, he won't be back until the Sox make some roster adjustments, which could involve moving shortstop Stephen Drew.
Does trading away Peavy, Gomes and Drew constitute "selling" if Boston is likely to play just as well without them? Peavy has only one victory in 20 starts this season. Gomes is fifth on the outfield depth chart behind Shane Victorino, Daniel Nava, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Brock Holt. And Drew is batting just .170 in 34 games since being re-signed.
The Red Sox may deal several players currently on the roster, but they can also do so without hurting whatever slim playoff chances they might still have.
A Trade Will Bring a Future Star to Boston...But He's Already in Pawtucket
With many of the Red Sox's potential trade candidates being average to below-average players, chances are Boston won't get a great deal of value in return. However, there is a distinct possibility that big league roster spots may become available for some of the organization's top young talent in Triple-A.
The departure of Gomes would most likely lead to a second call-up for Mookie Betts, perhaps for good this time. Boston's No. 1 overall prospect, according to SoxProspects.com, has a .312 batting average and a .400 on-base percentage in Pawtucket this season.
Should Peavy be dealt, Brandon Workman (who's already made eight starts for the Red Sox in 2014) is the presumed choice to take his place in the rotation. According to Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe, Felix Doubront is another option to be shipped out of town. Doubront lost his starting spot in June and has an 8.44 ERA out of the bullpen in July. If both Peavy and Doubront are traded, it could pave the way for the major league debut of Anthony Ranaudo.
Ranaudo has been nothing short of spectacular for the Paw Sox this season. The 6'7" 24-year-old is 11-4 with a 2.54 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP. He's also held opposing hitters to a minuscule .208 batting average. Via Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald, Ranaudo recently said:
But at the end of the day it's all about performance and taking the ball every fifth day and going out there and trying to go as deep as you can with your team and get the team in a position to win. I think that's what I'm trying to do right now and I think I'm in a pretty good routine.
Hopefully I can keep this going, stay healthy, stay on the field and if an opportunity arises on the major league level, that would be great.
Both Betts and Ranaudo could give Red Sox fans a glimpse of their bright future in August and September.
Boston Will Fix Its Offensively Challenged Outfield...By Doing Nothing
The Red Sox began the year with five outfielders: Victorino, Gomes, Nava, Bradley Jr. and Grady Sizemore (who's since been cut). Seventy games into the season, those five players were batting a combined .219 (161-for-734). Boston's outfield earned itself a reputation for being unable to hit, and rightfully so.
Things have changed.
Holt made his first career start in the outfield earlier this year, and he has a .317 batting averaging while playing left field, center field and right field.
Nava was sent down to Pawtucket after struggling mightily in April. Since being recalled in late May he's batting .314 with a .391 OBP. Nava's return coincided with an extended stint on the DL for Victorino. Now Victorino is healthy again, and he's 8-for-19 (.421) in his last five games back in the Red Sox lineup.
Bradley Jr. is hitting just .229 for the season, but that's markedly better than the .202 number he posted through June 18. Over Boston's last 29 contests the rookie is batting .298.
Boston's outfield was a major concern for much of the season, but the recent play of Holt, Nava, Victorino and Bradley Jr. suggests that it's no longer an area in which Boston should look to upgrade.
Writes Cafardo: "The trick now is to ride this out. The Red Sox are both developing young talent at the major league level and also trying to win." It's a fairly accurate summary of Boston's 2014 trade deadline situation.
Statistics courtesy of RedSox.com