The 2012 Boston Red Sox have struggled their way to a 25-24 record through 49 games, and they currently sit in last place in the American League East.
A team with a 175 million dollar payroll, Boston was expected to aggressively hunt down the AL East crown, especially after a tumultuous end to 2011. Instead, the team has conceivably wasted almost the first third of its season, struggling on the mound and publicly feuding with their new manager.
Thankfully for the club, they still have a very good chance of reaching the playoffs, and they have the assets to acquire major league-ready talent at the trade deadline.
The Red Sox will not be a seller at the trade deadline. Parsing its roster for who can become a free agent after the 2014 season, it is evident that only Kevin Youkilis and Jacoby Ellsbury stand to elicit any value on the trade market.
The club has enough resources to lock up Ellsbury long term because it has 67 million dollars coming off the books this offseason.
Trading Youkilis when his value is at an all-time low would not be a productive way of receiving bona fide prospects. Plus, Youkilis’ replacement, Will Middlebrooks, has shown that he may not be ready for full-time major league duty.
Middlebrooks’ BABIP (Batting Average of Balls in Play) and Line Drive percentage (LD%, a measure of how hard balls are hit) are well above the Major League average, showing that he is a player who is probably having a bit of fortune during his first big league dance.
Clearly, the organization does not possess tradable assets to be sellers at the deadline.
Not being a seller at the deadline does not necessarily make a team a buyer. However, the Red Sox only need starting pitching help, as the club is in the bottom quintile in the MLB starting pitching xFIP while 12th in the MLB in reliever xFIP.
Baseball Prospectus predicts that the Red Sox will capture the final AL wildcard spot this season, even after factoring in strength of schedule and expected wins. As of May 28, 2012, the club was ranked in the top five in the majors in wOBA (4), ISO (5) and offensive WAR (5), so improving the team’s starting pitching will be the key to solidifying its postseason berth.
Prior to the 2012 season, Baseball America ranked the Red Sox’s farm system as the ninth best in the majors. Its depth is its trademark, but the majority of its prospects are at least two years away from the big leagues.
The Sox are fortunate that they have the requisite assets needed to acquire beneficial pieces for a playoff run this year.
The Red Sox are the prototypical club that can accumulate immediately beneficial assets due to its expected win total, remaining schedule and large market resources. Fans should fully expect the club to be active buyers at the 2012 trade deadline.