Felix Doubront. Lefty. Nice pitcher. Liable to be attacked by car doors.
For the 13th time in 22 games this month, the Red Sox scored three runs or fewer on Monday night, a 12-3 loss in Seattle that was more indicative of John Lackey’s inability (3 2/3 innings, seven earned runs) to control the Mariners than it was the Boston bats’ failure against Felix Hernandez. But the Red Sox’ offense remains undeniably awful, and despite losing the first four games of a seven-game West Coast swing, followed by a weekend in the Bronx, they somehow linger only 7 1/2 games behind the Blue Jays in the American League East, six games out of a wild card spot, possessing arguably the strongest starting staff and bullpen in the American League.
It’s only a little more than five weeks before the trading deadline, 38 days until Ben Cherington and the Red Sox front office decide whether to sell on the season, or attempt to complement their strong arms with a bat of similar description.
That’s where Doubront comes in.
Would anybody really miss Doubront if Cherington shipped him out of town tomorrow? Would anybody really even notice?
Sure, the 26-year-old is a fine pitcher, a nice guy to have in the rotation, one that the Red Sox can boast has the enviable luxury of being overcrowded with the onset of Brandon Workman and Rubby De La Rosa to go along with the mainstays of Jon Lester, Lackey, and Jake Peavy, who looks for his elusive second win of the season Tuesday night at Safeco Field.
Clay Buchholz also looms among the crickets in the distance.
But Doubront makes only $586,000, and is arbitration eligible next season. He won’t be a free agent until 2018, which gives any team that trades for him plenty of control over the next few seasons. The not-so-great news is that the lefty has been unpredictable this season, which is to mean nothing has really changed as far as his Red Sox resume is concerned. He’s only 2-4 on the year with a 5.19 ERA, and was only borderline so-so in his first start off the disabled list Friday night in Oakland (4 2/3, two hits, four walks, three earned runs). The promise though is that he has that “stuff” that baseball scouts love so much. Remember when AJ Burnett was all the rage because of his “stuff”?
“He’s attractive because the price is right, he’s a proven major league lefthanded pitcher, and he’s got very good stuff,” (see?) an AL general manager told the Globe’s Nick Cafardo. “The Red Sox are in one of those unique situations where they have extra pitching. Jake Peavy is another guy who might have some value for them.”
Peavy is a free agent at the end of the season, so the Red Sox could find a buyer for his second-half services, but at a reduced price. Doubront could fetch a higher price tag for a competitive team looking for a young arm that can help them this season, one willing to give up enough with the realization that it will retain the pitcher for another four years.
Really, if the Red Sox want to salvage anything this season, finding the right dance partner for Doubront might be their only option. Dealing free-agent-to-be Lester or Lackey, at bargain basement price for 2015 (if he doesn’t follow through on his retirement threats), would only occur should the Red Sox fall (further) off the map between now and the end of July. Nobody wants Buchholz unless you pay someone to take him, and even then, who wants the headache?
Cafardo points out that the St. Louis Cardinals, 4 ½ games behind the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central, are down a pair of starters and have right-handed hitting outfielders. Want to make a run at 34-year-old Matt Holliday, with five home runs this season and two more years on his contract at $17 million per? The Cardinals would probably like to talk.
Matt Kemp plus $107 million? Not happening. Josh Hamilton? Right.
One name to keep an eye on could be San Diego’s Seth Smith. The 31-year-old left-handed-hitting outfielder is hitting .290 with eight home runs and a .921 OPS (sixth best in the National League) in his walk season with the 33-44 Padres. Then again, maybe that would have been easier for Cherington to pull off before old friend Josh Byrnes got the axe from the team on Sunday. Another could be Texas’ Alex Rios. The 33-year-old would add an .814 OPS (only David Ortiz and Mike Napoli boast higher marks on Boston), but his power numbers have disappeared since being traded to the Rangers last year (nine home runs in 122 games). Rios does have a $13.5 million team option for 2015.
Both players would likely take more than Doubront though. Despite his promise, this isn’t Bruce Hurst the Red Sox have as a chip here. Doubront’s most comparable on Baseball Reference is Chris Narveson. THE Chris Narveson of the Nakult Swallows of Japan’s Central League.
Packing Peavy and Doubront together might be interesting, a sort of “Now-and-Later” return for any interested teams, though Boston might yield more in separate deals. Either way, they’re clearly the two most obvious candidates in the Red Sox’ trade book, both valuable, and both thoroughly dispensable, making room for De La Rosa and Workman, who both have proved more that they deserve to stay more than Doubront or Buchholz can even muster to remember.
Au revoir, Felix. Don’t let the car door hit you on the way…well, never mind.