Buyers or sellers? Sox still aren't sure

Buyers or sellers? Sox still aren't sure
July 30, 2012, 9:04 pm
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BOSTON -- Last week, general manager Ben Cherington vowed to re-assess the Red Sox' standing after their road trip before determining how aggressive the organization would be in its approach to the non-waiver trade deadline.

But like everything else associated with the 2012 Red Sox, there are no simple answers.

The team's 3-3 swing through Texas and New York, which concluded with two final-at-bat wins at Yankee Stadium, may have given the Sox hope the season can be salvaged.

Indeed, internally, the Sox believe the team can still rally and play over .600 ball for the final two months and vault into a playoff spot.

That sentiment is shared by others. Last week, New York Post baseball columnist Joel Sherman cited three American League East executives who believe the Red Sox have the best chance of any team in the division to catch the New York Yankees.

But potential and ability are one thing, and execution is another. And 102 games into the season, the Red Sox sit at .500, with a half-dozen teams in front of them in the wild-card race.

If Josh Becket and Jon Lester can each pitch as well as they did in their most recent starts -- and to be sure, neither was great, but each was good enough to give the Red Sox a chance to win -- then maybe the Sox can catch fire in the final two months and make good on that unrealized promise.

According to some who have talked to Red Sox executives, one thing is clear after the weekend in New York: The team is not in full-sell mode.

For instance, if they could trade Josh Beckett for a return of players that set them up for 2013 and beyond, they'd be willing to do so. But they're not willing to take much of Beckett's money to facilitate such a deal.

If Beckett is dealt, it will be because the Sox can improve, and not to unload Beckett at any cost.

The team's attitude toward a number of role players, however, has crystalized somewhat. While a week ago, the Sox seemed reluctant to move players such as catcher Kelly Shoppach, outfielders Ryan Sweeney and Daniel Nava and starter Aaron Cook, there is now a belief the Sox would trade any or all of the role players if the return is enticing enough.

There's no evidence to suggest the Sox have lowered their asking price on these players, though. In fact, a National League source indicated that the New York Mets, who have long had an interest in Shoppach, have decided the Sox are asking too much and are focusing their search elsewhere.

Cook had teams interested back on May 1, when his opt-out clause forced the Sox to add him to their 25-man roster, and his recent run of starts had only amped up interest. But his most recent outing, in which he was pounded for six runs on seven hits over four innings against the Yankees in New York last Friday, may have leveled interest somewhat.

Sweeney and Nava have some value, too, are bench players, though the one Red Sox outfielder attracting the most interest is Cody Ross. Ross can't be classified as an untouchable, but given his modest salary (3 million), right-handed power (.523 slugging percentage) and strong makeup make a deal almost out of the question.