2016 Predictions

After wrapping up 2015 it’s time to look ahead with a  few predictions for 2016.

  1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens will become the highest grossing movie of the modern era (so not the inflation-adjusted overall champ). This is still a 2015 leftover really, but the franchise has ascended to new heights and together with Marvel could represent an amazing run of large film franchises over the next decade.
  2. The Red Sox will win 100 games. The 2015 season may not have been successful but then offense was at the top of MLB – with very little from Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez, and Rusney Castillo – and the rotation and bullpen have been rebuilt.
  3. Google I/O 2016 features a formal announcement of the ChromeOS/Android hybrid plans. What it ends up being as a first step: Chrome extensions for the Android version of the browser.
  4. I’ll let this next one extend to CED 2017: smart anklets. Like a FitBit for your foot. Free up the wrist and offer an alternative to the “watches and wearables” model we’re in.
  5. Disney announces a fifth movie in the Indiana Jones franchise with J.J. Abrams at the helm. After doing a alternative history with Star Trek, and a continuation/handoff with Star Wars, this will be a recasting but still exist within the Indiana Jones continuity. Maybe even before Temple of Doom, which was actually a prequel. It won’t, however, be an origin story – Dr. Jones will already be Dr. Jones.
  6. Neither the Democratic or Republican presidential candidate will choose a running mate from among his or her primary rivals.

2015 in One Post. Literally.

The year of Back to the Future is over. Marty and Doc’s universe featured Hoverboards that, well, hovered, rather than the scooters that exist in our world. But Star Wars came back. And so did Mad Max and Jurassic Park. While I didn’t write as much here as I would have liked (this one post at the eleventh hour), I helped out at Banished to the Pen and The Sports Post. The Red Sox didn’t make it easy to follow baseball this year.

So to correct for that, a series of picks, in no particular order, to sum up the year twenty-fifteen…

  • #TheDress is blue and black.
  • Best board game I played this year: 7 Wonders
  • Great music: Scott Bradlee and the Postmodern Jukebox

 

    • The Red Sox had a disappointing season, but won a 19-inning marathon
    • More music: the final show of Sheezer is a good listen (if Weezer cover bands are your thing)
    • I watched the original Terminator for the first time
    • And watched the Patriots win another Super Bowl
    • Upgraded my phone to the Nexus 6P, the first Android phone that really doesn’t feel like compromising from an iPhone
    • The Toronto Blue Jays had one heck of a 7th inning
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens (it was good!)
    • Caught up on the Star Wars Minute podcast
    • And discovered Back to the Future Minute
    • I went to the NEAIR conference in Burlington, Vermont and did some unique sightseeing.

World’s tallest file cabinet

A photo posted by Mike Carlucci (@mikegcarlucci) on

  • Switched from a MacBook to a Chromebook Pixel (great hardware, keyboard.)
  • Played a lot of Rocket League
  • Sold my car and subscribed to ZipCar
  • Kept reading the Joe Sheehan Newsletter. If you like baseball, subscribe.
  • Baseball book of the year: Molly Knight’s The Best Team Money Can Buy
  • Quote of the year: “It’s true. All of it.” – Han Solo
  • Found out the the Clone Wars cartoon is everything the prequels could have been.
  • I finally won my fantasy baseball league…only took 10 years!

May 22, 2004 – Red Sox vs Blue Jays

That was then

Ten years ago today the Boston Red Sox won their second straight game against the Toronto Blue Jays. They didn’t know it at the time, but the winning streak would last five games. Well before The Trade, things were going well enough.

That game was started by Pedro Martinez, won by Anastacio Martinez, and saved by Keith Foulke.

Manny Ramirez hit a home run. David Ortiz and Mark Bellhorn scored runs. Kevin Youkilis played in his fifth major league game.

Ted Lilly struck out 10 in 5.2 innings but his bullpen failed to deliver on the “Ted Lilly always beats the Red Sox” curse.

This is now

Tonight, the Red Sox will play the Toronto Blue Jays in an attempt to prevent losing their seventh straight game.

Jon Lester, who was nearly traded prior to the 2004 season for A-Rod, will be playing the role of ace that Pedro did so well a decade ago.

David Ortiz is still on the team, the sole remaining player from the 2004 club.

Opposing the Sox will be Mark Buehrle, a veteran in his own right.

Ten years ago things went well enough for the Red Sox. Maybe tonight that echo of a boxscore will penetrate Fenway Park and end the current slump.

Or their talented players will do what talented players do – win.

John Henry: Media Mogul

In 2006 there was some drama about the Red Sox possibly leaving “powerhouse” radio station WEEI and turning to another terrestrial radio provider for all their broadcasting needs. 98.5 The Sports Hub had yet to launch. Games were available for streaming as part of Red Sox Nation and MLB.TV, but this was before the iPhone, widely-available 3G or LTE access for smartphones, tablets, etc. so the alternatives to WEEI and traditional radio were limited. Oh, and WEEI still used 850 AM as their primary vehicle to deliver Red Sox games. Instead of shaking things up by choosing a new broadcast partner, the Red Sox instead renewed their pact with Boston’s major sports radio network. To the delight of the hosts and management, signing a record-setting deal placed the network atop a stronghold that could not be breached by any potential competition.

Now, the tables have turned. WEEI has lost its spot atop the radio rankings to The Sports Hub, many of the hosts have been let go, and John Henry owns a newspaper.

John Henry, principal owner of the Red Sox now owns his own radio station of sorts with BDC Radio. He owns Boston.com and the Globe proper (plus the Worcester Telegram & Gazette). In three years, will he still need WEEI? It’s not very difficult to imagine the Globe taking over broadcast rights, the advertising power (and dollars) that comes with Major League Baseball, and cutting the WEEI cord once and for all. The Red Sox and John Henry would control a television station (NESN), a newspaper (Boston Globe), a radio arm (BDC Radio).

Once the Red Sox contract is gone, maybe WEEI will be on the block and Henry can pick up all the antennas and equipment on the cheap. Just buy up the transmitters.

If the Commissioner’s Office and Major League Baseball Advanced Media were to relax and reform the blackout rules, it’s not hard to imagine a Henry-Red Sox media machine that could stream audio and video, have a team of writers and new media types supporting the classic announcing of Joe Castiglione on radio and Remy and Orsillo on the NESN video feed. Heck, if one man (essentially) owns the text (why say print at this point for the Globe), audio stream, and video stream, it might be the start of actually offering a choice of camera angles, announcers, live commentary and community chat during the games.

For the non-sports press I’d be worried about this sort of control, and John Henry will own the Boston Globe, not just the sports section, but from a baseball only view, I hope he uses every bit of the control and influence he can have to deliver a truly awesome experience by tying everything together.

 

Alfredo Aceves Needs A New Home

As the Red Sox disastrous 2011 season came to an end, Alfredo Aceves was one of the notable successes, besides of course the MVP-caliber performance turned in by Jacoby Ellsbury. Aceves made four starts and fifty-one appearances out of the bullpen with a combined 2.61 ERA in both roles. While his starts were nothing special (14 runs in 21 innings although 8 of those came in one start) his body of work for the season was beyond what the Red Sox could have hoped for. At the time, much was being made about the club “stealing” Aceves away from the Yankees who had released the swingman due to injury concerns before the season started.

By the end of 2012 the goodwill was gone. A 5.36 ERA 8 blown saves and fighting with the manager – even embattled Bobby Valentine – will do that. Aceves rushed to join a brawl in the WBC and then began 2013 with an ERA approaching 9. Aveces was optioned to AAA Pawtucket, but he may not be long for the Red Sox organization. If the Red Sox finally cut ties with the troubled right-hander, through trade or release, where might he find work?

Los Angeles

The Dodgers entered 2013 with one of the deepest starting rotations in baseball. Since Opening day however, that depth has been depleted. Aaron Harang was traded to the Seattle Mariners, Zack Greinke was injured in a brawl with Carlos Quentin, Chad Billingsly succumed to Tommy John surgery, Chris Capuano hurt his leg while running from the bullpen during the Greinke-Quentin melee and then aggravated the injury during his start, Stephen Fife was called up from AAA and lasted just 4.2 innings before going on the DL himself. It’s a good thing the Dodgers started with so much depth. Management is committed to winning, willing to spend (though Aceves is relatively inexpensive at about $2 million this season) and has a good working relationship with the Red Sox. Don’t expect another Allen Webster in return, but a transfer to warmer climates might help all parties.

Houston Has a Pitching Problem

No team entered the season with lower expectations than the Houston Astros. Through Sunday, Astros pitchers – starters and relievers – have combined for a 5.51 ERA. Aceves could help out of the ‘pen, spot start if needed, and generally be out of the spotlight.

Canada

The Blue Jays have not gotten off to the type of start that many expected. A rebuilt starting rotation has Mark Buehrle (6.35 ERA), Josh Johnson (6.86), and R.A. Dickey (4.50 ERA) joining Brandon Morrow (5.27 ERA) and not retiring as many batters as expected. J.A. Happ (3.86 ERA), brought in to compete for the fifth starter spot has been the only bright spot.

It’s only the end of April, but almost every team can use extra pitching depth. With his history of starting and relieving, Alfredo Aceves has the skills to contribute to many organizations. Including the Red Sox, if he can put himself back together.

What Does the Red Sox Roster Look Like Without David Ortiz?

After the events of last August and the winter the Red Sox roster has taken on a whole new look. With a bumper crop of prospects nearing the majors and Jacoby Ellsbury entering free agency at the end of the season the lineup could undergo a number of changes in 2014 as well. For now however, the biggest issue facing John Farrell when he fills out his lineup card is the absence of David Ortiz, still recovering from the achilles injury that cost him much of the second half last season.

Leading off: Jacoby Ellsbury, Center Field

John Farrell needs Ellsbury exactly where Terry Francona needed him, at the top of the lineup. It was in Francona’s final season that Ellsbury broke out for a monster .321/.376/.552 line with 32 home runs and 39 steals. The key with Ellsbury is, of course, will he stay healthy. The speedy center fielder’s MVP caliber season as sandwiched by two injury-plagued campaigns that saw Ellsbury play a total of 92 games between them.

In the two hole: Dustin Pedroia, Second Base

Pedroia turned in his worst season with the Red Sox last year while hitting “just” .290/.347/.449 and showing the Red Sox how tremendously valuable and consistent he has been in the past. However, Pedroia battled injuries early in the season and from July 1 on hit .319/.372/.511. Healthy and hitting in Spring Training, Pedroia is ready to help bring the Red Sox back to respectability.

Batting third: Mike Napoli, First Base/DH

Napoli looked like a great bounce-back candidate when the Red Sox were first rumored to have signed him to a three-year, $39 million deal but injury scares eventually reduced that contract to just one year with a base of $5 million and a maximum of $13 million. The former Angel and Ranger followed up his .320/.414/.631 2011 campaign with a .227/.343/.469 season last year. Hopefully with his immediate health issues taken care of, Napoli can settle in at first (or DH while Big Papi is sidelined) and put up the type of performance everyone expected in 2012.

Cleanup: Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Catcher

After the first three spots in the lineup the Red Sox have a lot of options, but Salty has seen some time in the cleanup spot during Spring Training and may get the nod during the regular season as well. The catcher has put up an on-base percentage of .288 in each of the last two years but has also clubbed 41 home runs over the same time frame. He’d be the power guy holding down the fourth spot in the lineup.

Batting Fifth: Will Middlebrooks, Third Base

It’s hard to remember that Middlebrooks hasn’t even spent a full season with the Red Sox yet. The power-hitting third baseman missed the end of the season with a wrist injury but in 75 games put up a .288/.325/.509 line while hitting 15 home runs. He could make a fine cleanup hitter too and maybe while waiting for Ortiz, he’ll get that chance.

Batting Sixth: Shane Victorino, Right Field

Victorino has been with Team USA the last week or so and like many players in this lineup is looking to return to something closer to his 2011 (.279/.355/.491) than his 2012 (.255/.321/.383). While his .491 slugging in ‘11 topped his previous high by .044 and is unlikely to return, the Sox new right fielder has a career .341 OBP. Depending on how much power and patience the Hawaiian is showing, Farrell can either put him towards the top of the lineup or somewhere in the middle. With at least 34 steals in four of the last six seasons, including 39 last year, his speed can be utilized well even slotted further down as a type of “second leadoff man” for the bottom of the lineup.

Batting Seventh: Stephen Drew, Shortstop or Jonny Gomes/Daniel Nava, Left Field

Unfortunately Stephen Drew is still recovering from a concussion suffered last week and has yet to be cleared by Major League Baseball to return to action. However, given the players who should occupy spots one through six, the soonest Drew could bat would be seventh. In his last full season, 2010, Drew hit .278/.352/.458 with 15 home runs and chipped in 10 steals. Coming back from injuries, the speed probably isn’t there but given that he still hit 7 home runs in 79 games last season, Drew could be a nice source of power in the bottom third of the lineup.

Batting Eighth: Jonny Gomes/Daniel Nava, Left Field or Lyle Overbay, First Base

The left field platoon of Gomes and Nava will probably fall in the seventh or eighth spot of the lineup. Both players have their flaws and strengths and simply having major league bats in eight lineup spots shouldn’t be understated. Depending on Ortiz, Nava’s experimentation with first base, and Lyle Overbay, it’s possible that Gomes and Nava are both in the lineup at times, and could be flipped based on Farrell’s tactical thoughts.

Batting Ninth: Jose Iglesias, Shortstop or Lyle Overbay, First Base

If Drew isn’t ready to go at short, Iglesias will likely begin the season in the majors and would be the most obvious candidate to hit ninth. With the roster not fully formed yet, this is actually the trickiest spot to fill during the Ortiz absence, which says a lot. The team has come a long way since the end of 2012 and even the remains of Lyle Overbay, coming off a .259/.331/.397 2012 is still not terrible to hid at the bottom of the roster.

The biggest lesson here: the Red Sox are the most underrated they have been in a decade. While a few players need to show that 2012 isn’t their new level of performance, some simply by avoiding injury in 2013, there is a lot of potential talent here. Even without David Ortiz this is not the lineup that limped through August and September. With a bit of luck, this lineup should more than hold its own, putting the pressure on the rotation.

Cross posted to Sports of Boston

Red Sox & Dan Haren

There’s no way to put it nicely: The Red Sox pitching needs help. Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester both improved as the season went on and we saw a breakout year from Felix Doubront, but even with John Lackey penciled in as his 2010 self the rotation is still full of question marks. According to Nick Cafardo, the team is interested in Angels’ starter Dan Haren. It looks like Ben Cherington is actively trying to shore up a major weakness from the past season. Available on a one-year deal, potentially for a small price in trade, Haren may well be the best option for the Red Sox to acquire for 2013.

Why Would the Angels Trade This Guy?

From 2005 to 2011, as a full-time member of the starting rotations in Oakland, Arizona, and Anaheim, Dan Haren was durable and at times, dominant. The right-hander averaged 226 innings per season with nearly 200 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.12. While his 3.49 ERA over that time is not eye-popping, it was good enough to net 101 wins in his 237 starts. Haren is known for his control: in parts of ten big league seasons he has a K:BB of 4.01.

To put it another way, Haren has three balks and seventy-seven wild pitchers in the Majors. The Red Sox staff issued eleven balks and threw forty-two wild pitches this season. Obviously Franklin Morales is unlikely to have five balks called against him ever again, but the Red Sox starters had trouble getting out of their own way at times during the 2012 season.

For the Angels though, it comes down to money. Their spending spree on Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson last offseason is not going to be a yearly event. In addition, the team is still saddled with Vernon Wells.

Is It Good for the Red Sox?

The Red Sox are usually among the leaders in team payroll every season and 2013 is likely to be no different. Because the team freed up so much payroll when Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Carl Crawford were traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, one-year financial commitments that would normally be a burden of sorts even to a large market team become freebies. And why shouldn’t they? The Red Sox will not be lowering revenue expectations with a lower payroll. Taking on the full $15.5 million obligation for next year is merely spending money that the team can allocate as they choose on short-term deals while looking to the future for the impact pieces to sign long-term, like Will Middlebrooks or even Jacoby Ellsbury.

There is a caveat: Haren is coming off the worst season of his career. His ERA rose to 4.33, his WHIP and walk rate climbed, and he was plagued with back problems which limited him to 176 innings, the only time Haren failed to reach 200 innings while pitching a full season. But a potential number two starter for one season is tempting. If Haren isn’t healthy he’s only signed for one season.

If the Angels are not interested in keeping Haren around for next season, the cost in trade will be minimal, like the recently completed trade of Ervin Santana to the Kansas City Royals. The return in that case was minor league lefty Brandon Sisk. Sisk is 27 year old relief pitcher who may help out in the bullpen. If multiple teams are bidding on Haren, the cost may be higher in terms of prospects, but don’t expect any of the big names on the farm to head to LA.

—-

So, the Angels didn’t trade Haren to anyone. But if his medical records look good, the Sox will probably at least knock on his preverbal door.

The Red Sox Need A New Drew

Nothing has gone according to plan for the Boston Red Sox in 2012 while everything that could possibly help the Baltimore Orioles has gone so perfectly it’s hard to believe. That’s baseball. For a team like the Pirates, despair can run rampant. For the Washington Nationals (and the Rays before them) good drafts built the rotation, providing the pitchers – Zimmermann and Strasberg –   and the prospects to acquire Gio Gonzalez. But that wasn’t all: the Nationals had to buy some if their respectability by signing Jayson Werth to a seven-year $126-million dollar deal.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “the Red Sox just got out of two contracts like that” and I agree. The freedom from the Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford signings should not be given up quickly, even for a team with enough money to afford “mistakes.” Rather, think back to the 2010 season and Adrian Beltre.

What’s the History?

For better or worse, Adrian Beltre will always be remembered for his amazing 2004 season: .334/.388/.629 with 48 home runs is pretty hard to forget. However, Beltre, doing what any smart player who has a career year right before hitting free agency will do, parlayed his success into five years and $64 million dollars with the Seattle Mariners. (At the time, that was a lot of money. Trust me.)

Of course, Seattle would turn out not to be a good fit for Beltre and a series of down-years and injuries left him licking his wounds by the time his contract expired. The slick-fielding third baseman hit a combined .266/.317/.436 with a total of 103 home runs, never hitting more than 26 in a season. By contrast, in parts of seven seasons with the Dodgers, including his amazing 2004, Beltre hit a more respectable, but not superstar, .274/.332/.463 with 147 home runs. Essentially, without that magical 2004, Beltre wouldn’t have been a disappointment. At the time though, Beltre was coming off his age 25 season, and players that age can take big steps forward.

Beltre would turn 31 in April of 2010 after signing a one-year deal with the Red Sox that would pay him $9 million dollars that January. Against all (or most) odds, Beltre thrived. He lead the league with 49 doubles, boosted his slash line to .321/.365/.553 (all career highs outside of 2004) and launched 28 home runs, the most he hit since leaving Los Angeles.

E6

Shortstop has been a revolving door during the John Henry era. Whether trades, fill-ins, free agents, or prospects – no one has managed to hold and keep the job. This may not be a problem. Some positions, like second base with Dustin Pedroia, have been filled from the farm. Cody Ross, who may be extended, was signed as a free agent to take a share of the outfield corners.

With the Dodgers taking over a quarter billion dollars in future financial obligations off the Red Sox hands, Boston has money to spend – especially on short-term contracts, the kind Theo Epstein and Ben Cherington are famous for. The next one-year deal should be given to Stephen Drew, formerly of the Arizona Diamondbacks and now on the Oakland A’s.

Stephen is the younger brother of former Red Sox right-fielder J.D. Drew and plays shortstop. Like his brother, Drew came up through the minors with potential for both power and speed. And sure enough, Drew showed he was capable of putting up double digits in steal and home runs, while chipping in quite well with doubles power too.

But, like his brother, only to a greater extreme, Drew’s career was derailed by injuries. After his banner 2010 season, Drew the Younger has battled one injury after the next. On July 20th, 2011, Drew broke his ankle while sliding into home plate. His season, not off to a great start, was over. Drew then had offseason surgery for a sports hernia. This brought about additional delays in his rehab and recovery. When Drew finally returned to the Diamondbacks on June 27th of this season, things didn’t go well.

Drew hit just .193/.290./311 in 40 games for Arizona. It seemed like things couldn’t go much worse for the shortstop. With a $10 million dollar mutual option for 2013 and a buyout of $1.35 million, the D-backs were faced with a conundrum: their former up-and-comer or remain on the hook for at least the buyout. The surprising Oakland A’s took them up on it and acquired the potential upgrade over Cliff Pennington from the Diamondbacks in August.

Since his Oakland A’s debut on August 21, Drew has hit .271/.340/.421 with 5 home runs and the A’s have almost secured a playoff spot.

Where the Sox Come In

The Red Sox are rebuilding. They’ve missed the playoffs three straight years. Jose Iglesias has yet to step up and claim the shortstop position. Why not take a shot on Drew? The Oakland A’s are not known for high-priced players and Drew’s $10 million, along with $8.5 for Yoenis Cespedes and $7 million for Coco Crisp, could be more than the team is willing to spend.

Mike Aviles has hit just .251/.283/.383 this season. While the Red Sox should have a strong offense again next season once Will Middlebrooks and David Ortiz are back in the fold, there is no reason not to look at upgrading. When you consider the amount of payroll flexibility the Sox have these days, snagging Drew on a bounce-back deal could be Beltre 2.0. The risk, of course, is that Drew’s bounceback has shown enough to warrant a long-term deal, which even three years may be too much of a risk, given his performance and injury history.

Cross-posted at Sports of Boston

Red Sox Acquire Danny Valencia

On Sunday the Twins made an unusual move: they traded their between-stars “third baseman of the future” Danny Valencia to the Red Sox for prospect Jeremias Pineda. Valencia, a once promising young player at the hot corner, has seen his stock fall. Actually, that’s being too kind: it’s plummeted. How did the third place finisher for AL Rookie of the Year in 2010 end up as Ben Cherington’s first scrapheap project?

History

Valencia was taken in the 19th round of the 2006 draft out of the University of Miami. The expectations of him as a prospect were modest, but as Valencia progressed through the Twins’ minor-league affiliates, he continued to succeed. After hitting a combined .285/.337.466 between Double and Triple A in 2009, Baseball Prospectus labelled him as “solid across the board” even though he had initially been viewed “as no more than an organizational player.” The hits just kept coming for Valencia and in 2010 he got his shot as the Major League job.

For one season, Valencia more than held his own. He would hit .311/.351/.448 for the Twins that year and pushed aside the more defensively focused Nick Punto on his way to a third place finish in AL Rookie of the Year voting. Excellent hitting combined with solid defense allowed Valencia to hold down the starting job and enter 2011 as a bona fide Major Leaguer.

Wheels In Motion

Unfortunately the fairytale ends here. In 2011 Valencia would run into the ceiling that was predicted when he was drafted. His numbers would collapse to a much less impressive .246/.294/.383 for his sophomore season and would reach a floor of .198/.212/.310 in 2012 before he was returned to the minor leagues after his acquisition by the Red Sox. It all fell apart rather fast for the one-time underdog.

2010 Valencia was aided by a sky-high batting average on balls in play of .345 and while he put up at similar number (.355) in Triple A in 2010 before being promoted, his 2009 BABIP at that level was just .306, while at Double A the mark was .318. When the Major League number returned to something more in line with his career, combined with just 40 walks on the season, Valencia simply didn’t reach base enough. While he still hit 28 doubles and 15 home runs in 2011, by the time of his trade in 2012 his slugging (.310) was lower than his rookie batting average (.311).  Valencia’s hitting, while never amazing outside of 2010, was no longer enough to succeed in the Majors without those extra balls falling in for hits.

What’s Next?

He has yet to make his PawSox debut, but Valencia has probably joined the team by now. He won’t see much time with Boston now that the Will Middlebrooks era has begun, but if he can get his bat back on track, maybe take some grounders at first base, he could have a future on the bench. Or, you never, know, he could become a valuable trade chip for a team looking for a stopgap at third base who is still somewhat young and cheap.

(Cross-posted at Sports of Boston)

Red Sox Trade Deadline 2012: Blow It Up!

July 31st has been an important day several times in the history of the John Henry era Red Sox. Nomar Garciaparra was traded in 2004, leading of course to the magical World Series run. The following year, Jonathan Papelbon made his debut while Manny Ramirez failed to start, although he pinch hit after the deadline had come and gone, signaling that he had reached the first of many accords with the Red Sox. Manny would find himself the focus of the trading deadline in 2008 when he journeyed to the West Coast and Jason Bay took over left field duties. Victor Martinez would be the 2009 acquisition, signaling the beginning of the end for Jason Varitek, whose role would continue to diminish over the following two seasons.

The takeaway: the Red Sox have been buyers and sellers – at the same time – when the trade deadline rolls around, looking to make a deal that give each side something of value, not simply dumping salary or taking on a bad contract from another club. With the four o’clock deadline rushing towards us, Ben Charington’s club is at the bottom of the AL East, the back of the pack for the Wild Card spots. Fans are disappointed that the club has missed the playoffs the past two years, but they understand that 2012 is most likely a lost year. The Sox GM can take this time to make the Red Sox his team, not Theo Epstein’s, rebuild, and plan for 2013 without substantially hurting what are already long odds of a postseason berth two months from now.

The Keepers

Despite rumors about Carl Crawford and the Marlins last week, the troubled left fielder isn’t going anywhere. Ditto Adrian Gonzalez. [Man, the Dodgers blew that logic out of the water} Moving either player would require the Red Sox eating a lot of cash or taking on another big contract. Despite the frustrations each player has had during the past season and a half, both are likely better bets to perform well over their remaining tenure than most of the bad contracts out there. David Ortiz won’t be going anywhere either, although if he were not on the DL, he would be an interesting piece to move. Dustin Pedroia is probably as safe as any player.

The Parts

Should the Red Sox explore buying and selling in the remaining hours, Cody Ross and Mike Aviles are obvious names to move. Ross is having a great year while hitting .260/.331/.523 with 16 home runs, but as a free agent at the end of the year, and a crowded Red Sox outfield, his future with the team is limited. Ross might be able to bring back another piece, maybe a back end starter who is also approaching free agency and could shore up the rotation, or simply a prospect along the lines of Clayton Mortenson, who has lost some luster but might be able to right the ship.

Aviles has struggled since a fast start to the season; he’s hit just .241/.259/.354 since May 1st. While the shortstop has 11 home runs on the season, eight of those came in April and May. With Pedro Ciriaco, Nick Punto (also tradable), and Jose Iglesias, the Sox could probably get by with a more defense-oriented player since Aviles hasn’t been hitting well for a few months. Again, the return wouldn’t be great, but another team might have a need and could take a flyer on the former Royal. After all, in his transition to the Red Sox, Aviles thrived, maybe a change of scenery once in awhile is all he needs to get things working again.

The bullpen is full of extra pieces that could be desirable to other teams: Andrew Miller, Matt Albers, and Vicente Padilla could be replaced by the Sox with Mortenson, Andrew Bailey, and Daisuke Matsuzaka (or Aaron Cook).

Kelly Shoppach is another extra piece. The catcher is having a fine season in limited at bats, .261/.346/.504, but could be an upgrade for another team. If the front office considers Ryan Lavarneway capable of stepping in to handle backup catching duties, trading Shoppach could be a nice favor to the player (who doesn’t want to end up on a contender?), let the Sox get a long look at a guy on the farm, and not risk a large drop off is production.

These are minor moves that could let the Red Sox turn over a good portion of the roster, cut some payroll by promoting minor leaguers, and generally shake up the team. With the ground they need to make up, Matt Albers is not the answer. The problem has been and remains the starting rotation.

The Crazy Possibilities

Josh Beckett. Jon Lester. Jacoby Ellsbury. All three have become the subject of trade rumors, especially Beckett. While Gordon Edes is reporting that Beckett is not on the move, until 4 PM nothing is certain.

Reports have linked Beckett to the Rangers, Dodgers, and Braves, but so far nothing has come together. While there were rumors of a deal with the Rangers this afternoon, the idea died off quickly. Given the nearly $40 million remaining on Beckett’s contract, the Sox would likely have to eat a significant amount of salary to move their Texan this summer. Should Beckett finish strong, maybe a deal could be worked out in the winter. Because Beckett has 10/5 rights, he can’t be traded without his permission, although if he wants out as much as the fans would like to see him gone, getting that permission may not be an issue. Like the Manny Ramirez situation, the Red Sox may not have a trading partner for Beckett until the waning minutes of the three o’clock hour.

Lester faces a different problem than Beckett: he has been really bad this year. While his start against the Yankees on Saturday was encouraging, the guy who was so good from 2008 to 2011 hasn’t been taking the mound this year. The lefty is owed $11,625,000 in 2013 but his contract includes a $13 million team option for 2014. Should the Red Sox trade Lester, the receiving team would only be on the hook for $13 million plus the remainder of what he is owed this season, minus whatever cash Boston sends along. If Lester remounds, that 2014 option looks like a pretty good deal.

Unsurprisingly, Edes also reported that the Sox have no plans to trade Jacoby Ellsbury, although there have been calls from other teams about his availability. Ellsbury is probably the most valuable major leaguer the Red Sox have to trade. The center fielder is coming off an MVP-caliber season, has looked healthy since since return, and is under team control for 2013 before hitting free agency. Unlike Beckett and Lester there is no large contract hanging like an albatross around his trade value.

While he is the least likely of the potential trade candidates, Ellsbury would also fetch the most in return. In a dream scenario, the Sox could extract a package similar to what the Braves paid for Mark Teixeira: a couple of top prospects. Like Teixeira, the receiving team would have a full year of control beyond this season rather than a rental. With B.J. Upton and Michael Bourn – both center fielders – hitting free agency this fall, Ellsbury could be a very attractive trade chip this winter as well.

(cross-posted from Sports of Boston)