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As the 2012 Major League Baseball trade deadline approaches, the Red Sox have precious few days to determine one thing: who they are.
Are they a team that can contend for a World Series? Are they a team that will contend for one of two Wild Card spots? Or, are they a team that will remain around .500 and miss the playoffs for the third consecutive year?
During the first half of this season, the team has been nothing short of an enigma. One week, they play like a team with something to prove and nothing to lose. The next, they play like the team we saw last September. Because of the consistent inconsistency of this Red Sox team, they continue to be a mediocre team by every definition of the word.
Given what happened last September, and was has transpired thus far in the first half of 2012, we have been given a large enough sample size to determine that this team is no better than its record since September: 50-63. A fourth or fifth place team. A team without an identity.
So as this deadline approaches, the team should without question look to make significant moves with nothing but the future in mind. It would take nothing short of a miracle for this team to compete with New York and Tampa Bay, let alone Texas and Anaheim.
They do, however, have assets they can use to better their future. Ben Cherrington, as a disciple of Theo Epstein, would more than likely be in favor of such a philosophy. The problem will be convincing Larry Luchinno and the rest of Red Sox management that the long term well-being of this baseball team is more important than NESN’s 2012 television ratings.
To begin, we need look no further than the starting pitching. The same starting pitching that was abysmal at the end of last season. The same starting pitching that drank beer and ate fried chicken during games. The same starting pitching that has been nothing more than an utter disappointment all season long.
Jon Lester, his powerful left arm, and his relatively inexpensive contract would make him an attractive acquisition for a team in the playoff hunt that needs a pitcher to put them over the edge. Lester has not been able to develop into the ace we thought he once would be, and while his value is still high as a number two or three starter, there’s no better time to move him. To a lot of teams, Lester is likely worth major league talent, as well as multiple prospects.
Ideally, Lester would be the one to stay, given the reasons cited above. Where the shakeup would be most effective is with the “Leader” of the rotation, Josh Beckett. He’s lost significant speed on his fastball, he hasn’t performed well in September and October since 2007, and he is, by all accounts, the ring leader of an irresponsible starting rotation that can’t get out of its own way. In return for Beckett, the Red Sox need not ask for much. Losing Beckett would be addition by subtraction.
Then there’s Jacoby Ellsbury. He is the Red Sox most valuable asset. He is coming off an MVP caliber season, and he has more than a year left on his contract. If he plays well upon his return this weekend, the Red Sox should look to capitalize on Ellsbury’s worth. He would be the only player the Red Sox have that could land them a top-of-the-rotation pitcher, something they haven’t had in five years.
The Red Sox will never be able to return to the dominance they experienced in the mid 2000’s unless they decide to move on from the players that are currently holding them back, regardless of their talent or potential. The problem is, their ownership group would rather be dominant in the office, and not on the diamond.