Touching All the Bases

Sunday Mail: Trying To Figure Out Whether The Streaky Red Sox Should Be Buyers Or Sellers


In their last 22 games, the Red Sox are 7-15 -- with a seven-game winning streak in the middle of it all.

Makes no sense to me, either, but when I sent out the Twitter S.O.S. for Sunday Mail questions last night, the bizarre state of the Sox is pretty much all anyone wanted to discuss.

(Blaming Stephen Drew for latest losing streak was also a popular subject, but I'm filing that one under Premature Gloating Over A Preconceived Notion.)

So with 101 games remaining and a 10-game hole in the American League East, let's consider the state of the Sox, and perhaps find some answers and catharsis along the way. On to ...

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It's getting late early -- man, such a beautiful and probably accidental turn of phrase by Yogi Berra, and one that totally applies to the current Sox. Well done, Steve.

As far as an answer -- I'd say about another month, I guess, though obviously Ben Cherington always has the present and the future in mind. Gotta give them a real chance to get their act together a couple of weeks before the trading deadline before going into sell mode.

Let Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino, so essential last season, return and find their bearings. Give Daniel Nava at-bats to see if there is any hope of finding his form. Hope Dustin Pedroia's power comes around, Xander Bogaerts's keeps ascending, Jackie Bradley Jr. figures something out at the plate, maybe Mookie Betts comes up for a jolt ... I mean, there really isn't much they can do but be patient until somewhere around the midway point and hope established players start performing to their ability.

Hey, this team could take off if everyone who slumped at the same time starts playing well at the same time. On June 21 last season, the Dodgers were 30-42 and 9.5 out in the NL West. They went 62-28 the rest of the way and won the division by 11 games. Such a tear isn't unprecedented, though it would help to have a healthy Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig join the Sox right about now.

Maybe it's too much to ask for everything to click at once, but it's not late yet -- they are just six games out of the first wild card and five out of the second. Patience might be running out, but we're not on empty yet.

Another thought along a similar line ...

First, I'll tell you what I don't want them to do now in an attempt to stay in contention this summer. I don't want them to give up a single prospect of consequence for anyone -- especially one of the overpaid and declining Dodgers outfielders.

If Cherington decides a C-level prospect -- say, Bryce Brentz -- for someone like Chris Denorfia is worthwhile swap, I'm all for it. But I'm against any deal that costs them a real prospect to put duct tape on this roster, especially since it might prohibit them from having the most prospective young talent possible when an opportunity arises to make a major trade for a potential cornerstone player.

Conversely, if they do fall out of it over the next month -- and doesn't it feel in the middle of one of these streaks that they'll never win again? -- I wouldn't mind seeing them deal a few secondary pieces for more organizational depth, even if it leads to prospect redundancy.

If they want to deal Jonny Gomes for a Double A lottery ticket so he can go take credit for a culture change elsewhere, I'm for that. Victorino, providing he plays well once he returns, might have some appeal to a contender even with a year left on his deal. Spare bullpen parts could move, someone like Burke Badenhop or Craig Breslow.

But I'll tell you, Steve, I wouldn't trade Jon Lester unless the prospect haul was irresistible -- I want him re-signed, still, because I think there are indications that he's going to be a fine pitcher in his mid-30s even as the velocity declines. That combination of quality and durability is rare.

And I don't understand the notion that trading John Lackey -- who is basically the quasi-ace that he was with the Angels -- is a smart thing to do just because he's a bargain next year. What's wrong with having him as your bargain, especially since the Sox will be aiming to be contenders again next year?

The thinking on that one eludes me. Not that that's a surprise, right?

troutmikefinn6814.JPGSuch a tough question, because it seems like anything is possible with him right now. He's 21 freakin' years old, looks like he can handle a premium defensive position (he should be playing shortstop against lefties now), has helped you win a World Series already, has poise to match his talent, and has put up an .840 OPS after a slow start.

I don't know what the kid's ceiling is, but it's certainly not in sight right now. He's going to be a superstar, and he's going to be one soon.

So who would I trade him for? I worry about these back issues with Mike Trout, but you'd have to do that -- he's a generational superstar already, our Willie Mays at age 22. Bogaerts is 15 days older than Bryce Harper, and while maybe there's some Harper fatigue now, you'd have to consider that. You'd probably have to do it, though I'm not sure I could do it.

I would not trade him for Manny Machado. Machado is a far better defender and always will be, but he's overrated as a hitter. Last year, he walked 29 times against 113 strikeouts, with a .283/.314/.432 slash line.

I don't think there is anyone else I would take for Bogaerts, including Byron Buxton or George Springer.

Let's see, there's Dominique Easley, Darrelle Revis, Chandler Jones, Vince Wilfork, Dont'e Hightower, Jerod Mayo, and Devin McCourty, right? Oh, and Will Smith makes eight -- he went three picks ahead of Wilfork in '04. Had to look that one up.

Yeah, Patrick, I'd agree that this defense has a chance to be the best they've had in years -- it's an interesting mix of players coming into their own (Jones, hopefully Jamie Collins and Logan Ryan), dependable veterans, and a couple of legit stars (Revis).

To me, though, it doesn't come close to '03 or especially '04, when Richard Seymour, Willie McGinest, Ty Law, Mike Vrabel, Rodney Harrison, Tedy Bruschi, Rosey Colvin, Roman Phifer, Ted Johnson, and Asante Samuel were here, as well as Wilfork and Earthwind Moreland.

I'm not sure we recognized then just how stacked that defense was. The farther we get away from his playing days, the more I believe McGinest was one of the most unique and unsung talents of his era.

Yes, actually. It's like Fox's whole point of hiring Reynolds was to say, "You thought McCarver was out of touch? Well, wait until you hear this guy ..." Not sure if it would have been feasible with his current contracts (NESN, TBS), but Fox should have gone all-out to hire Eck. He would have been perfect. Might have even made you guys like Joe Buck.

Fifteen years ago, sure. But he's in a different stratosphere now. There's a better chance of him buying the stations now than hosting a show on either of them. His career has taken him well past the point (not to mention to the opposite coast) to where he'd sit in a studio for four hours a day to listen to a co-host say, "You're absolutely right, Bill."

Back when he was building his name at Digital Cities as the Boston Sports Guy and his early days at ESPN before he moved out to LA, he did go on Sean McDonough's show on 1510 from time to time, and while he wasn't polished, it was really enjoyable, especially when the other guests were young guys like Michael Smith and Mike Giardi.

It was refreshingly different from what WEEI was offering at the time at the height of its middle-aged arrogance.

Until next week, the mailbox is closed. Exit music, please.

Eddie Vedder and Ernie Banks. Pretty good duo right there.