BALTIMORE -- As the Red Sox limp to the finish line, each additional loss only adds to their embarrassment.
Following their 9-1 drubbing at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles Friday night, the Sox inched closer to the real possibility that they will record a 90-loss season for the first time since 1966.
But all is not -- you should pardon the expression -- lost. Because each loss also makes it more and more likely that the Red Sox will earn themselves a "protected'' pick in next June's amateur draft.
Under terms of the new collective bargaining agreement, a protected pick means a team doesn't have to forfeit its first-round pick should it sign a top free agent this off-season.
Ordinarily, the teams with the worst 10 records in Major League Baseball would qualify for protected pick status. But because the Pittsburgh Pirates failed to sign their first-round pick in last June's draft, they will get an extra compensation next June, knocking the team with the 10th worst record out of the protected class.
That means that the bottom nine teams will qualify. After Friday's loss, the Sox have 88 losses with five games to play. Six teams -- Cleveland, Minnesota, Miami, the Chicago Cubs, Houston, and Colorado -- all have 90 or more losses.
The teams the Sox must worry about are the Toronto Blue Jays, who have 88 losses as well, and the Kansas City Royals, who are right behind with 87 losses.
However, unless the Sox go on some completely unexpected hot streak in their final five games -- doubtful, since Friday's setback was their seventh in their last eight tries -- the Sox likely can't be caught from behind and forced out of the bottom nine finishers.
The Red Sox haven't had a Top 10 draft pick in the first-year player draft since they chose outfielder Trot Nixon seventh overall in the 1993 draft.
It's highly unlikely that the Sox will be involved for either of the top two free agents -- pitcher Zack Greinke or outfielder Josh Hamilton -- but there could be interest in other free agents who reject qualifying offers from their present teams, thus making them subject to compensation.