Well, it’s that time of year. Trade Deadline Week. One of the most hectic, weird, and mostly unpleasant times of the sports year. The Red Sox, after making a nice run two weeks ago, have fallen down once again, sitting 9 games under .500. What was the sad possibility gnawing at the back of our heads is now the simple truth: the season is over, it’s all about April 2015 now.
But this isn’t like 2012, when Bobby Valentine had doused us in bad vibes, and there seemed to be no hope on the horizon. Indeed, the pieces are there for the Red Sox to make another playoff run as soon as next season. However, there are still a few players on this Red Sox team who can be useful to would-be playoff contenders and might net the team pieces for the future. For the sake of this article, I won’t touch players like Edward Mujica, Stephen Drew, or David Ross, who haven’t performed well enough to bring back much of use, and actually present more value to the Red Sox than any other team (especially Ross). And if you’re wondering why Jon Lester isn’t on this list, it’s because I just wrote 2,000 words about him over here.
This won’t be pretty. Here we go:
Very few sports have bummed me out as much as Mike Carp requesting a trade from the Boston Red Sox, even if it’s a completely understandable thing for him to ask for. Mike Carp, to me, represented everything that was great about the 2013 Red Sox. Coming off of a huge injury, Carp was desperate for a chance to prove himself, and prove himself he did. Carp was an integral part of a tremendous Red Sox bench, hitting .296/.362/.523 in 59 games, coming through often in the clutch, and playing suitable defense at both first and left field, not to mention a really fantastic beard (which I ranked as the fourth best on the team, and that may have been too low).
This season, however, everything that went right for Carp last year, went wrong this one. The 28-year old lost a month to a fractured foot, and hasn’t been able to leave his mark when on the field, only hitting .215/.337/.304, all of which can mostly be attributed to his complete lack of playing time. It makes sense that Mike Carp should be traded, but it still hurts that he asked for it. Just another twist of the knife that the glory days of the Soggy Bottom Boys is long gone, and that this season really may be lost.
But while I’m sad to see Mike Carp go, I won’t blink twice when Felix Doubront is inevitably shown the door. The young left-hander has repeatedly expressed his distaste for pitching out of the bullpen, insisting that he’s proven he should be a starter, and that his talents are wasted as a reliever. My question is: what exactly has he proved? Sure Doubront showed signs of turning things around last season, and that 11-6 record/4.32 ERA isn’t bad by any means, but he completely fell apart from fatigue down the stretch, and was pushed into the bullpen (where he excelled in the playoffs, by the way). This year, after being given a rotation spot, Doubront strugled immediately, with a 5.22 ERA and a 1.483 WHIP in 10 starts. It’d be one thing if Doubront wasn’t given a chance, but he was, and he failed, losing his spot almost immediately to Brandon Workman and Rubby De La Rosa. But either way, the point is moot.
Both players are young, cheap, and useful enough to find a trade partner in the next three days, and the Red Sox might even get an interesting lower-level prospect or a solid backup piece as they focus on next April. Carp and Doubront, meanwhile, will get the chance to put their money where their mouths are and excel in an increased role.
Trade Him: Koji Uehara
I cannot emphasize how much I’ve loved Koji’s time in Boston. I wrote my first ever article for this website dedicated entirely to his various hugs with Jarrod Saltalamacchia. I love his post-game rituals with David Ortiz and Mike Napoli. I’m seriously hoping the Uehara family stays near Boston, so that we can develop Kaz Uehara to be the next great closer, the sooner the better. Not to mention just how unbelievable his 2013 season was: 74 innings, 21 saves, a 1.09 ERA, 101 K, and 9 walks. That’s right, 9 walks.
So why trade him? Well at 39, his time in the major leagues may be numbered. To be clear, not because his talent appears to be diminishing: with his command and movement, he’s not exactly putting a ton of wear on his arm. But if he is only going to be “Koji” for a few more seasons, he deserves to do it on a contender. Having a closer like Koji on the Red Sox this fall is like Kevin Garnett on those mid-00s Timberwolves teams: it’s useless, and everyone’s sad about it. Let him take another team to the World Series and infect another fanbase with the Cult of Koji.
And, of course, the Red Sox might actually get an unexpectedly large haul for an almost-40 year old closer. He’s as close to automatic as you get in the major leagues, and there are plenty of teams who need a dependable 9th/8th inning option for a deep playoff run. It’ll be really sad to see Koji go, but it’ll be the right thing to do.
(Psych, I’m so scared that Koji’s about to fall apart, his ERA’s skyrocketed to 1.54, I’ve been having Eric Gagne nightmares, help, help, help)
Keep Him: Andrew Miller The other reason, of course, that Koji Uehara could be traded, is that the Red Sox have to possible closers waiting in the wings. One is Junichi Tazawa. The 28 year old Nippon native has been as dependable as they come for two years now, and has been long-groomed to take over for Koji. With a 9.4 K/9 and a 3.07 ERA (2.47 if you take out Saturday’s 3 ER flare-up against the Rays), Taz has shown that he has the stuff to take the mantle.
The other, of course, is Andrew Miller, who is set to become a free agent this offseason. Because the Red Sox have been so bad this year, and because he pitches behind Koji, Miller sometimes goes overlooked (which is kinda funny as he’s 6-7 and has elite beard potential). But make no mistake, playoff contenders have taken notice of the mammoth left-hander, mostly because he’s been one of the premiere relievers in baseball.
The former bust has been absolutely lights-out this year, sporting a 2.52 ERA, an unbelievable 14.64 K/9, and a 0.94 WHIP, all career-bests. He’s even been as dominant as Koji this year (Hitting against Koji: .179/.207/.315, Hitting against Miller: .177/.258/.257). Demand will assuredly be high for Miller, so why not trade him? Because closers are hard to come by, and closers who can succeed in Boston are even harder. Miller has had a career renaissance in his four years in Boston, and has fit in well with the clubhouse culture.
With Koji hypothetically gone, Miller and Taz could go head-to-head for the closer job, with the other immediately settling in as one of the league’s best setup men. He’s got abominably nasty stuff, he’s still young, and I would guess he’s inclined to return. He’ll be pricy to re-sign, but it would be huge for a team with an aging bullpen certain to lose a few pieces.
A few points:
1. It’s hard to calculate how much of Jonny Gomes’ market value is attributed to his being a terrific teammate, an all-out competitor, and a “winner”. The problem is, none of those things are easily backed by stats.
2. While Jonny Gomes has actually had a much better hitting month of July (.270/.333/.378), he’s had a super-bizarre fielding month. There’ve been odd miscues, dropped balls, miscommunications with infielders. He’s always been an, ahem, exciting defensive player, but it’s hard to know how much longer he can be an adequate fielder.
3. Despite 2, and because of 1, Gomes will attract a lot of interest from young playoff contenders looking for one more good-mojo piece for a World Series run. Two oft-mentioned teams have been the Kansas City Royals and Baltimore Orioles, which make a lot of sense. He might even net an interesting prospect in return.
Still, I’d say keep Gomes, but with a caveat: John Farrell has to be smart about using him. Along with being a great clubhouse guy and having truly tremendous facial hair, Gomes absolutely mashes lefties. And this year has been no different, as he’s amassed a .318/.414/.455 line in 110 AB. But Gomes has absolutely no business going up against righties: the left-fielder is hitting a paltry .151/.236/.258 line against them. What’s even more frustrating is that he’s had 93 AB against righties! Why? How? Gomes has fantastic value as a platoon partner with a left-handed outfielder, but very little as a full-time player.
The question then becomes what the Red Sox can get in return for Gomes, and how they feel about Daniel Nava as a long-term option in left. A platoon of Nava and Gomes would be more than adequate in the outfield next season (again, if used appropriately). But if the Red Sox would rather upgrade for a full-time left-fielder, or are overwhelmed by an offer for Gomes, it would make sense to trade him.
Which is why I say treep him (sounds better than krade).
But what do you think? Any players you think the Red Sox should definitely keep? Anyone you think they should sell off? Or, is there anyone in particular you think the team should go and get for next year? Let us know in the comments, or find me on twitter @iSportsPeters.