It's time to make a deal.
If rock bottom wasn't the way you might have seen fit to describe these bumbling, unraveling Red Sox a few days ago, a sweep at the hands of the last-place Seattle Mariners should do the trick.
Now, 6½ games behind the Yankees in the AL East, Boston is closer to third place (just two games ahead of Toronto) than first. If it happens -- and based on a pathetic 8-18 record this month, remains a definite possibility -- a third-place finish would be the Red Sox' first since 1997.
The Red Sox aren't going to be playing in five weeks. And with that in mind, just four days remain for Theo Epstein to sell off some of the pieces.
With the Aug. 31 waiver trading deadline fast approaching, and Epstein criticism still at an all-time high for failing to pull the trigger on a July 31 deal, it's a true signal of how far this team has fallen that the Red Sox are more likely to be sellers than buyers one month later. Yesterday's lineup in the 6-3 loss to Seattle featured just five players from the one on Opening Day. How bad is it? The Kansas City Royals have a better record for the month than the $130 million Red Sox.
If we're looking to 2007 anyhow, why not start now by folding?
It was a minor news story last week when word eked out that David Wells had cleared waivers, opening the door for a trade with any club. The lefty has pitched well in his last two starts, allowing four runs over a total of 14 1/3 innings, and could provide a contending team with a solid presence in the rotation down the stretch and, more importantly, a bona fide seasoned performer when then air gets crisp and the leaves begin their metamorphosis. The man is 8-8 in October in his career with a 3.15 ERA, the memory of his solid start last fall in Chicago the only positive Boston had to take away from its last playoff run.
The Red Sox might not be able to hold out for too much for a guy like Wells, 43 and perhaps on the verge of retirement. But in the end, isn't something better than nothing? You think Omar Minaya isn't salivating over the thought of putting Wells in the rotation with Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine for October? Could a guy like Wells secure the West for Los Angeles? Even the cost-friendly Twins would be able to find a way to afford Wells's performance-based salary with the availability of Francisco Liriano up in the air.
Keeping Wells in Boston isn't really doing anyone any good. Even if he doesn't decide to retire, the option of him staying in Boston might not be all that bright. It wasn't long ago that Wells was demanding to be traded, remember, a request the team did not fulfill for need of his services. Of course, it was a presence they hardly felt as Wells went down with a knee injury that had sidelined him most of the year.
Besides, have you seen some of the other names of pitchers that have cleared waivers? Names like Shawn Chacon, Jae Seo, Sidney Ponson, and Bruce Chen. Wells is a relative Bob Gibson compared to those schlubs. And knowing that he is the best available option out there, perhaps Epstein and the baseball ops folks might be able to squeeze a little more out of someone by kicking off a bidding war. Bottom line is, Wells could be the difference for a team that needs a No. 3 starter, and whoever lands him might be seen instantly as the favorite for the trophy.
Not that Wells is the only option to go, just the most attractive for other teams to go after. It is assumed that Mark Loretta, a free agent at the end of the season, has cleared waivers, since the Sox offered him to Detroit last week for pitching help. The A's have light-hitting Mark Ellis playing second, and could be in the market for an upgrade, perhaps. Mike Lowell's $9 million price tag makes him nearly impossible to move, but it's a contract the Sox would leap at the chance to rid themselves of. Guys like Javy Lopez, Julian Tavarez, and Mike Timlin aren't going to help anyone.
But Wells is the most likely, and logical, player to be gone by the time Thursday rolls around in that he provides one hopeful contender with the solid prospect of heading into October dangerously armed. In return, Wells gets one more shot at a title before heading off into the sunset, and the Red Sox get a little bonus for their effort, a player who could turn out to be no more than a spare part, but has the potential to be Jeff Bagwell, a mid-level prospect the Red Sox included in the Larry Anderson waiver deal 15 years ago.
The Red Sox are going nowhere. Which is why they should move Wells somewhere. He's slated to start Thursday, for the moment, against Toronto in what turns out to be a showdown for second place. But by the time that game rolls around, Wells might be preparing to start in a different city entirely, for a club with aspirations of winning the World Series.
That place certainly isn't in Boston.