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The July 31st trade deadline should have been an opportunity for the seemingly paralyzed Red Sox to decide what direction the franchise is heading, both in this year and the ones to come. Two weeks later, however, that has still yet to happen. After essentially staying the same (not including the 100 pounds saved by swapping Matt Albers for Craig Breslow), the Red Sox swiftly proceeded by playing uninspired, half hearted, sub-.400 baseball.
I suppose when you’re busy maintaining the facade of a sellout streak, it’s hard to admit defeat. But the fact remains that the Red Sox are not a team built to contend this year or next. July 31st could have been a time for Boston to make its first steps in changing that, but instead the deadline merely came and went.
As anyone who’s been watching (or not watching the Red Sox) knows, this team never really had a chance. But let’s say that they did. They’ve remained around five games behind the second Wild Card. The teams ahead of Boston have included hypothetically inferior franchises such as Baltimore and Oakland. Sure it was slim, but there was still a small, fighting chance that the 2012 Red Sox could have redeemed themselves.
So maybe, maybe the players of the Boston Red Sox could have looked around at the real contenders like Tampa, Detroit, and Los Angeles/Anaheim/wherever the Angels play and decided they could hang around with the big boys. Maybe they could have convinced themselves that they could make up for the embarrassing 2011 campaign. Maybe they could have gotten riled up and went on a 12-1 tear, a turning point that would be lauded in the commemorative World Series DVD this December. Maybe Josh Beckett could have declared himself the King of the North, raised his beer and fried chicken banners, and led New England’s rebellion against Major League Baseball and the United States (or maybe that was just a forced reference to Game of Thrones).
But because this is the Red Sox, they did no such things and crawled back into a lifeless oblivion with a whimper.
Although a fire sale would have been disappointing, it would not necessarily have marked a lengthy rebuilding period. The Red Sox have the payroll and resources which could have provided them with the rare luxury of rebuilding on the fly.
Anyone who is not a franchise cornerstone (Salty, Aviles, Ross, Shoppach, Ciriaco, the entire bullpen, etc.) could have been flipped to desperate teams for prospects in those classic, head scratching, trade deadline deals. None of those guys are irreplaceable. Because I wouldn’t advocate selling-low, the key pieces who clearly aren’t working (Ellsbury, Pedroia, Lester, Beckett, Buccholz, etc.) could have boosted their value in the final two months of the season to be dumped in the winter.
This would have accomplished two things:
The Red Sox are not a pathetic franchise like the Marlins or Astros. A fire sale does not guarantee a decade of mediocrity. The Red Sox could have re-added as much salary as they desired this offseason (although perhaps given all the lessons they should have learned, been a tad more cautious).
It has been established that the best way to get players is to develop them yourself because it’s exponentially cheaper. With a newly improved farm system, Boston could have done just that. Otherwise, they could have promptly traded the new prospects for immediate help. Either way, the Red Sox would have been better off.
Whether they wanted to buy or sell, the Red Sox should have kept the eye on the prize—an elite starting pitcher. A guy on the Justin Verlander/CC Sabathia/Felix Hernandez level. Not a 1A like Cole Hamels, but a legit, marquee Ace. If the Red Sox were serious about contending this year, they would have acquired that guy before August 1st of 2012. If the Red Sox are serious about contending next year, they’ll acquire that guy before March 1st of 2013.
Of course that would be sensible, so look forward to the Red Sox doing this instead: