The Red Sox are probably one loss away from panicked cries that they need to become sellers at the trade deadline.
But there are two problems with that:
1. The Red Sox have sold an awful lot of expensive tickets for their remaining 31 home games. Giving up would not play well with the customers.
2. Who, exactly, do they have to sell?
The first issue can be dealt with. The tickets are already sold and half the people walking in the park on a given day are there for the experience, not the pennant race.
The second issue is much more tricky. Let’s try and group the players:
The untouchables (5): Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard. No way, no how. This is the core of the team.
Too expensive to trade (2): Josh Beckett, John Lackey. Both of these guys have new contracts that make them virtually untradeable.
No-trade clause (1): Daisuke Matsuzaka. He would have to agree to it. Scott Boras would want him paid for it and he has roughly $23 million left on his deal. Not impossible, but pretty close.
Too hurt to trade (3): Mike Cameron, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jason Varitek. Teams are looking for players who can help them right away. Cameron has another year on his deal and will need surgery after the season. Ellsbury and Varitek are on the disabled list and not coming off any time soon.
Cameron and/or Ellsbury could go in the winter, but not now.
Little or no trade value (9): Tim Wakefield, Bill Hall, Jeremy Hermida, Kevin Cash, Darnell McDonald, Eric Patterson, Dusty Brown, Mike Lowell, Jed Lowrie. Wakefield is not going anywhere. The other eight are bench guys who wouldn’t bring back much more than a middling prospect at this point. And, no, packaging five of them together would not bring back one good prospect.
Bullpen swap shop (4): Ramon Ramirez, Hideki Okajima, Manny Delcarmen, Scott Atchison. There are a bunch of these types on the market. If the Sox traded any or all of them, it wouldn’t be a big deal and they wouldn’t get much back. But at least it would give somebody else a shot.
Make an offer, but it better be a good one (6): J.D. Drew, David Ortiz, Jonathan Papelbon, Marco Scutaro, Adrian Beltre, Victor Martinez. Dealing away any of those guys would be tantamount to giving up. But the upside is you could probably get a decent return in terms of prospects.
Drew has approximately $19 million left on his deal, which makes him a hard sell. I also don’t know that ownership would allow Ortiz to be traded away given their affection for him. Beltre and Martinez look more like players you would want to keep for next season, not trade away.
It would take guts to trade away any of that group. But Theo Epstein is the same guy who traded Nomar Garciaparra and Manny Ramirez in July, so anything is possible.
Disclaimer: I don’t think they should sell. They’re 4.5 games out of a playoff spot with 67 games left. But it’s never to early to consider it.