When Do the Red Sox Become Sellers?

After Sunday’s action, the Red Sox sit 9 games back of 1st in both the AL East and AL Wild Card, and what’s more, they’re 5th in the East and 13th out of 15 teams in the American League.  When you actually process and comprehend that last sentence, it becomes clear that the Red Sox seriously have to consider being sellers at the deadline.

It’s easy, and pretty understandable, to look at what happened in 2013 and think that this core can compete this year, or at least next year, just by simply getting a little bit more luck.  Last year, a few good things went their way, and what’s to say that this group couldn’t make the playoffs again if those same things bounce Boston’s way, right?

Well, that’s the thing.  Last year, there weren’t just a few things that went right — just about everything went right.  Besides the Buchholz injury and some early season bruises to others, just about everything turned out great for the Sox.  Ortiz, Pedroia, and Ellsbury, who is no longer here, all went HAM, and Jonny Gomes, Mike Napoli, Daniel Nava, Shane Victorino, Stephen Drew, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia all had the best seasons that we realistically could have expected, and those are just the hitters.  Ellsbury and Salty aren’t here, and Stephen Drew, Daniel Nava, and Jonny Gomes are guys that the Red Sox should want to upgrade from, anyway.

On the mound, the Sox should resign Lester, because his price tag for an extension shouldn’t be too insane, and Lester also seems to pitch well for John Farrell.  But Lackey and Peavy?  Sell them to the highest bidder.

John Lackey will make only $500k next year because of a cool stipulation that Theo Epstein put in his contract in 2010 that Lackey would have a team option in 2015 for just half a million bucks if he missed a season due to an elbow injury.  Because of that cost next year, which is insane for a pitcher who would easily earn over $15 million on a 1 year deal next season on the open market, the Red Sox could get a relative treasure chest by trading him.  This is a perfect example of a time when a GM should view his player as an asset.  Lackey and his low salary are an asset to the Red Sox next season if they hope to contend, but he’s even more of an asset to a small market team who needs pitching.  That other team will likely sell itself on not just his low salary, but also the fact that he is a proven playoff performer, the type of thing that a team just making the playoffs for the first time would love to have for the end of 2014 and all of 2015.  Wouldn’t a team like the Orioles, who have only 1 pitcher — the amazing Bud Norris, who has thrown more than 50 innings this year with an ERA under 4.00, love to have Lackey?  Or if the Sox are afraid of trading in the division, what about Pittsburgh?  They need pitching and then some.  Milwaukee?  Maybe even Washington, who isn’t a small market but would love a playoff performer, or Oakland, if Billy Beane feels that they still lack pitching.

As for Peavy, he’s going to be a 33 year old free agent, and he’s pitching to a 4.64 ERA and 1.44 WHIP this year.  That’s exactly the kind of guy that you trade come July 31.  The Sox will already have Lester, assuming he resigns, Felix Doubront, Brandon Workman, Clay Buchholz If He Is Healthy, Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, Henry Owens, Anthony Raunado, Brian Johnson, and Matt Barnes as pitching options next year.  A few of those guys are unlikely to make the show by next year, of course, but the point is that trading Peavy before the Sox could resign and probably overpay him isn’t exactly a huge loss.

I’d like to see the Sox trade AJ Pierzynski, and that would be true even if they didn’t have Blake Swihart or Christian Vazquez.  But even if catcher is weak around the league, I don’t see a replacement-level catcher getting a ton in a trade.  It would kill me to see Gomes and Napoli after how awesome they were for the clubhouse last year, but the Sox might get their best value ever on them.  I’d probably keep them and head into 2015 with both of the chief bearded brothers, but I would totally understand selling on them.

That leaves one final guy who the Red Sox should absolutely look to trade, as much pain as it would cause: Koji Uehara.  Everybody in Boston loves Koji, and we might love his son even more.  But he’s also a 39 year old closer for whom it would be just about impossible to pitch as well in 2015 as he did in 2013 and is pitching in 2014, much less improve on those microscopic ERA and FIP numbers.  After last October, some contender will pony up the money for Koji, and the Red Sox should jump at the chance.

But this all assumes that the Red Sox would sell, and I’m not saying that they should start the firesale today.  My thoughts on the timetable for if and when the Sox should become sellers is simple: Wait a few weeks, like everybody else is saying anyway.  Very few teams are gonna trade substantially more for one of these guys than they would before the deadline itself.  Wait until about July 25, and then start selling high if things don’t improve.

So why did I write an almost 1000 word column saying how the Red Sox should become sellers if I’m not even saying that they should right now?  Well, because I don’t think that things are going to improve too much for the Sox between now and then.  They’re 13th of 15 in the AL for a reason.

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