The trade deadline usually splits teams into two groups: buyers and sellers. The buyers are teams that are still in contention and need that final piece to solidify their roster down the stretch (think Yankees and Dodgers.) The sellers thought their season would turn out differently but eventually have to cope with the reality that they won’t make the playoffs so they try to shed themselves of players/money while building for the future (Phillies and Marlins.)
Every year there are a few teams stuck in the middle of these two designations and you’ll be able to read hundreds of articles from “baseball experts” and sports betting websites explaining how staying put is not the best strategy for a team at the deadline.
For example, the Nationals are looking at an innings pitched limit for Stephen Strasburg and the offensive output available from Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse is not where it should be. The Nats could have (and probably should have) made a trade to take care of these needs.
On the other side of the coin lies the Cincinnati Reds. They have very few holes and just added a minor piece by acquiring Jonathan Broxton. Their relief corps is already phenomenal so they made a minor deal to add an extra arm.
Where does this leave the Boston Red Sox? By most accounts, even with an extra wild card spot available, a .500 team at the trade deadline will be preparing to dismantle their team 99 times out of 100. The Sox spit in the face of statistics by refusing to wave the white flag and by keeping all of their big-name superstars despite rumors flying about Josh Beckett and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
Case for Dismantlement/Rebuilding:
PRO: Rebuilding for the future by getting younger guys in return.
CON: Unfortunately the market was a bit over-saturated at the deadline (Hunter Pence and Zack Greinke are much better pieces than Beckett or Salty) so there would be diminished returns.
PRO: Shipping away some of the top-heavy deals would save the team money in the long run.
CON: Management would like to continue their sellout streak and it would be tough to do so with a starting lineup of Nick Punto, Drake Britton, and Mauro Gomez. These names don’t pack in the crowds like David Ortiz or Jon Lester do.
CON: Ortiz and Beckett have 10/5 protection. This means that since they have been in the league for 10 years and with their current team for 5 years, they can veto any trade they want.
Case for a Late Push:
PRO: Anything is possible when it comes to baseball. We had a first row seat last year as the Red Sox unraveled in September and we all remember the Rockies 2009 playoff push when they became unbeatable for the last month of the year.
CON: When the season is over, the team will have to confront the same situation with Ortiz that they did last year (it wasn’t fun.) This year the only real power hitter he will have to contest with in free agency is Josh Hamilton and their deals won’t even come close to comparing. Someone will overpay for Ortiz and it could very well be us (again.)
PRO: The team will probably continue selling out games with a mediocre product as long as guys like Jacoby Ellsbury and Big Papi are on the roster. This means $$$.
CON: Our farm system is struggling to produce big league talent. They have three players listed in Baseball America’s top 50 midseason prospects list and none are projected to make an impact until 2014 at the earliest. Restocking is definitely in order.
Did the Sox make the right move?
As you can see with our poorly written PRO/CON list, any move you make is going to have downsides. My personal opinion is that the team should have been dismantled. Next year doesn’t look like it has a big turnaround lurking so we have to prepare for a 2014 team that will likely be without a starting CF and DH. A team that will be counting on John Lackey (2 years removed from Tommy John surgery), Carl Crawford (1 year removed from Tommy John surgery), and Adrian Gonzalez (don’t be shocked if he has some shoulder surgery because this drop in power is insanity) to provide wins.
Trading Lars Anderson to Cleveland made perfect sense. Lars was trapped behind Gonzo (maybe even Lavarnway) and his blue chip potential never really panned out. Getting knuckleballer Steven Wright was mostly just an added bonus as Anderson needed to go.
I’m still scratching my head a bit over the team trading Matt Albers/Scott Podsednik for Craig Breslow. Breslow made a pretty good case to the Sox in 2008 and they decided to DFA him anyway. Since then he has had a pretty solid career as a reliever while Albers and Podsednik are both having great years with pretty high trade value. There is solid reasoning behind adding another lefty arm in the pen but it seems silly to trade for someone that the team released a few years ago especially when they could have just signed him in the offseason to a free agent deal.
These are both minor moves that won’t have much of an effect on the team’s performance in 2012 and won’t help much for 2013 either. Keep in mind that we’re just speculating and there could have been zero market out there for Salty/Shoppach/Ortiz/Beckett/Lester/Ellsbury/Crawford but in this case, I agree with the “experts” in that standing still was the not the right move to make.