TAMPA -- The non-waiver trade deadline is nearly three weeks away, and in the past, the Red Sox have pulled off some of their biggest July deals at literally the last minute.
The complex three-team Manny Ramirez deal took place with seconds to spare in 2008 and recent deals involving Victor Martinez (2009) and Eric Bedard (2011) took place in the minutes before the deadline.
But this year, external forces might force the Red Sox to move sooner.
The imminent return of outfielders Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury, while welcome, will create a logjam of outfielders for the Red Sox roster, which could speed up the timetable for some deals.
Two weeks ago, the Red Sox were forced to designate Darnell McDonald when a numbers crunch hit the roster. McDonald, while a member of the Red Sox for the past two and a half seasons, had little value on the trade market.
But that won't be the case for a number of outfielders under the team's control. And already, there's a surplus on hand. While at least two of the three outfielders who could be moved still have options remaining and could be stashed at Pawtucket short-term, it behooves the club to move one (or more) sooner rather than later.
-- Scott Podsednik, who came off the disabled list last week following a groin strain, has been optioned to Pawtucket, with no available spot on the roster.
Obtained earlier this season in a minor trade with the Phillies, Podsednik showed a renewed ability to get on base in 19 games with the Sox and is capable of playing an adequate left and center field.
In a few weeks time, Podsednik succeeded in re-establishing some value and with no spot available for him upon the return of Crawford and Ellsbury, the Red Sox would be wise to get something for him while they still can.
Even if Podsednik isn't necessarily viewed as an everyday player by many clubs, his skill set (speed, on-base ability, defense) is perpetually in demand by clubs looking to improve their depth for the final two months.
-- Daniel Nava, whose play over the last two months has re-ignited his career, could be another piece in demand.
Since being promoted -- frankly out of desperation, when the Sox had seven outfielders on the DL at the same time -- Nava has shown himself to be a much-improved defender in left.
Moreover, having taken over as essentially the everyday leadoff hitter for the Sox for the past month, Nava has comiled a .388 on-base percentage.
Most scouts would argue that Nava is better suited as a depth option off the bench rather than an everyday contributor, but with so many teams on the periphery of the playoff race, there's no shortage of demand for valuable pieces like Nava.
Like Podsednik, Nava's value has never been higher, and may never be this high again. With Crawford signed to a long-term deal, Ellsbury under control through the end of 2013, Ryan Kalish ready to contribute from Pawtucket and highly-valued outfield prospects Jackie Bradley Jr. and Bryce Brentz no more than a season and a half away, Nava doesn't have a long-term spot in the Red Sox' outfield.
The time to move him is now.
-- Ryan Sweeney was, for a time earlier this season, the most dependable major league outfielder the Red Sox had. Indeed, even with return of Crawford and Ellsbury, the case can be made that Sweeney remains the team's best outfield defender, capable of playing all three outfield spots.
But with Crawford, Ellsbury and Cody Ross viewed as the starting outfield soon, Sweeney has been relegated to a back-up role and he could serve as an interesting trading chip.
It's important not to overstate Sweeney's appeal. He has next-to-no home run power -- he's without one in 192 plate appearances this season -- and his .400 slugging percentage is telling.
But Sweeney can hit for average, provide the occasional double and is a plus defender. He would excel as part of a platoon or the first outfielder off the bench for a team in contention. Sweeney is still just 27 and is under control for another season and a half.