It is never too early to start talking about the trade deadline, especially when we can talk about would-be contenders that might unexpectedly end up being sellers rather than buyers at the deadline. Over the next few weeks, we'll be taking a look at many of these such teams, and there is a surprisingly large amount, and what exactly they might be looking to sell if they don't turn around their season in a hurry.
With the way they started the season, the Red Sox looked like they were destined to be sellers come late-July, but they've managed to claw their way back to hovering around the .500 mark. That is progress, but they aren't out of the woods yet, especially in the ultra-competitive AL East. Despite being 5.5 games out of the division lead right now, Boston knows they are two bad weeks from being out of the playoff race altogether. If that happens, they are going to have to take a long hard look at blowing things up.
So, what can the Red Sox potentially offer to the rest of the league?
Big Chips: Kevin Youkilis
The emergence of rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks has created a logjam at the corners in Boston that has forced them to shift Gold Glove first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to right field just to accomodate everyone. Youkilis may not be putting up the kind of numbers he used, thanks to a variety of health problems, but he still has enough big name appeal for another team to gamble that he can recapture his old form, if he hasn't already done so by the time the trading deadline rolls around. Youk has club option for next season that the team is unlikely to pick up, so they would be wise to divest themselves of him now.
Money Moves: Josh Beckett
Beckett hasn't been horrible this season, but he hasn't been worth the $17 million salary he'll earn this year and the next two seasons. Considering that financial commitment and that Josh has become the poster boy for the maligned "beer and fried chicken" Sox. That's too much money and too much distraction even for a team like Boston to want to hold on to. If some contender came calling with few modest prospects and a willingness to take on Beckett's remaining contract in hopes that he can channel some of his post-season magic again, it is hard to imagine Ben Cherington saying no.
Solid Pieces: Cody Ross
The Red Sox have had to dig deep just to be able to find three starting outfielders at times this season, one reason for that is the recent injury to Cody Ross. Seen as a platoon addition when first signed, Ross got off to a red-hot start and has to have some GMs out there remembering the tear that he went on in the 2010 World Series run with the Giants. If he can get healthy before the trade deadline, Boston stands a chance to be able to flip the impending free agent for a modest return.
X-Factor: Clay Buchholz
One thing that Boston really can't afford to give up it is starting pitching, but they might want to seriously consider moving Clay Buchholz. He still possesses a world of potential, but his performance this year is in the toilet. His velocity has declined for the second straight season and his walk rate has ballooned to nearly 5 per nine innings. The thing though is that he is still only 27 years old, so one bomb of a season likely won't scare many teams off, assuming his medicals check out OK. From Boston's perspective, they could consider moving Buchholz now in case this season is a sign of things to come for Clay. They would be trading him at a point where his value is at its lowest, but they would also be getting out from under the next three years and $26.2 million of his contract should he never bounceback.
Warm Bodies: Kelly Shoppach
Starting catchers are dropping like flies all over the league, which actually makes it a minor miracle that Shoppach hasn't been traded already. He's a quality back-up and fringe starter, but the Red Sox don't need him with emerging as a quality backstop and Ryan Lavarnway available to come up from the minors and take over the back-up role. Moving the veteran Shoppach seems like an easy and painless way for the Red Sox to add a middle-of-the-road prospect or two.
But what they'll probably do is... trade hitting but hold on to pitching, or nothing at all. With a new GM, it is hard to predict what his modus operandi will be, so there is a chance that if Boston goes in the tank again that Ben Cherington decides to be too proud and trades nobody. However, if he is as smart as we were all led to believer, he'll at least move out some of his surplus hitting, specifically Youkilis since it just seems like both sides seem re-signed to him leaving soon anyway. Maybe they will move Shoppach too, but it could be a hard sell to get Boston to deal away any pitchign since their utter lack of starting or relief pitching depth is what has held the team back in recent seasons.
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