Red Sox stuck in limbo at trade deadline

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Red Sox stuck in limbo at trade deadline

At a game over .500, nine games out of first place and four games behind the second wild-card leader, the Red Sox found themselves in limbo on the day of the non-waiver trading deadline.

They're not fully engaged in the playoff race, but neither are they completely out of it, and their actions -- or lack of same -- toward the deadline.

The Red Sox made just one deal involving personnel on their 25- man roster, and it was essentially a swap of journeyman relievers -- with a 36-year-old outfielder thrown in for good measure.

As deadline deals go, it didn't exactly rival the four-team blockbuster that sent Nomar Garciaparra out of town and sent the Red Sox to their first championship in 86 years.

Fans wanted more, of course, a dramatic move in one direction or the other. Some wished for a massive sell-off; others wanted a trade of impact.

The Red Sox delivered none of the above.

They weren't seller or buyers. They were more like interested bystanders.

If they had been, say, eight or 10 games below .500, then they could have done what the Philadelphia Phillies did -- throw up the "For Sale'' sign and make the best deals they could for some established veterans, stockpiling prospects to fight another day.

The Phils auctioned off outfielder Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence in part because they were really, truly out of contention.

Conversely, if the team had been eight or 10 games over, the Sox would have been motivated to obtain a difference maker. Maybe then, the Sox would have been convinced to package two of the three Killer B's -- Matt Barnes, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. -- to trade for Josh Johnson or someone else who could make a difference this year and several seasons beyond.

For the best example of that approach, think of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who, in the last week, landed Hanley Ramirez, Brandon League and Victorino.

But the Red Sox weren't in it, or out of it. They just were.

You could see the seeds for this approach being planted two weeks ago, when Cherington, the day before the second of the half of the season, noted that, in Boston, giving up on a season simply isn't permissible.

And it's here that "The Monster'' of which Theo Epstein spoke, is in play. Because there are tickets to be sold, sponsorships to be negotiated and TV ratings to bolster, starting over isn't an option.

Yet they haven't been good enough or consistent enough to warrant a big acquisition.

Limbo can be uncomfortable.

Larry Lucchino revealed a week ago that the Sox had "empowered'' general manager Ben Cherington to do something "bold,'' thereby whetting the appetites for those who hoped for either a fire sale or blockbuster acquisition.

"It was an unfamiliar position,'' said Cherrington. "You're trying to balance the desire to make the team better and give the guys in the clubhouse every chance, (vs) the reality of where we are. You need to do the math and the cluster of teams ahead of you and what you need to actually pass all of them. We have to weigh that against the desire to make the team better.

"It was an additional layer in the decision-making process, as opposed to the past, when we've sort of been more clearly buyers.''

Acknowledging Lucchino's permission to be bold, Cherington didn't "find anything bold that made sense to us.''

Cherington, in his first year as GM but a veteran of many deadlines as Theo Epstein's assistant, labeled this July experienced "uncharted waters. It gives you more clarity when you're on side or the other.''

And so, they stood (almost) pat, which is a gamble in itself, considering that the inaction is, in effect, a show of faith in team's underachieving roster.

"We're happy with the guys we have here,'' said Cherington. "It's really a reflection more on them. We believe in the group. We feel we like we have as good a chance as any of the teams in this cluster of teams fighting for a wild card and win a lot of games the next two months.''

That, in point of fact, may be the boldest move of all at the deadline, for Cherington and his assistants are banking on a bunch that have done little to inspire anyone through the first two-thirds of the season.

Red Sox do not need Sonny Gray, and they know it

Red Sox do not need Sonny Gray, and they know it

BOSTON — Sonny Gray is not what the Red Sox need.

As of Monday, the power rankings of their trade targets should go as such: 1. Third baseman 2. Reliever 3. Back-end starter.

When he was addressing the addition of Doug Fister three days ago, Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski noted that a premier starter is not what he lacks.

“Unlike maybe some other clubs, I don't believe that we need to add a top-of-the-rotation-type starter,” Dombrowski said. “We have [Chris] Sale. I think David Price continues to make strides to come back. His stuff is good he's just got to get back. [Drew] Pomeranz has thrown well for us. [Eduardo] Rodriguez has thrown well. We know Rick Porcello is a good pitcher.

“So we're not, maybe other clubs are looking for that No. 1, No. 2 type starter. That's not really important for us. I think it's more important to be in a position where we add depth for us, somebody that can help us win major league games if needed.”

Yahoo’s Jeff Passan on Monday reported that the Red Sox “have quietly sent some of their most respected evaluators to his last two starts. This could fall under standard due diligence, but one source familiar with their intentions said the Red Sox are keen for Gray – and when president Dave Dombrowski targets a player, the price for other teams jumps accordingly.” 

Due diligence is indeed all the Red Sox are up to, a baseball source with knowledge of the team’s thinking told CSNNE.com on Monday.

The Red Sox’ trade chips are limited, if they don’t want to drastically diminish their farm system. Gray is very close with David Price, but Gray's 4.45 ERA isn’t inspiring. He has a 3.60 FIP — fielding independent pitching — and has great talent. But again, he doesn’t play the hot corner.

Offense on a whole is a greater need. The Sox entered Monday with the third lowest slugging percentage in the AL. Hanley Ramirez is now battling some left knee pain as well as his shoulder issue, after he took a pitch off the knee Sunday.

It’s warmed up, but the Sox power bats have not also warmed up.

“I wouldn’t hinge this all on just temperature,” manager John Farrell said Monday. “And I don’t know that we use that as an excuse prior. . . Over the last three or four weeks, it’s kind of stagnated a little bit. I think the biggest thing for us as a group is to still maintain a consistent approach at the plate. When we think about getting too much muscle in a swing, eventually the strike zone expands, you don’t get the pitch that you’re looking for. We can’t afford to maybe go away from that approach for the sake of maybe trying to drive the ball with greater consistency.”

Tzu-Wei Lin was starting for the Sox on Monday, yet another in the third-base carousel. Jhonny Peralta and Pablo Sandoval (rehab assignment) are going to alternate time at third base starting Tuesday with Triple-A Pawtucket. 

That’s where they need help.

The bullpen can’t be overlooked either. Carson Smith started a throwing program again Monday, but it’s unclear when he’ll be able to return, or at what effectiveness.

Carrabis: Red Sox coaches were upset at John Farrell's usage of Craig Kimbrel

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