Authored by Andrew Perna - 18th July, 2012 - 4:37 pm
The hot stove is burning red-hot with trade rumors as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches, but that should not take away from the action on the field. An overwhelming majority of the reports we hear over the next two weeks will turn out to be false, but that does not take away from the fun of this time of year with a few players changing addresses and teams fighting for playoff position.
Can the Red Sox recover in time?
The Red Sox entered action on Wednesday more than 10 games back in the American League East and rumors have begun popping up that they might be shopping expensive left fielder Carl Crawford. The addition of an extra Wild Card slot in each league has complicated the trade market. Boston is just one game back for a playoff spot with eight teams within two contests of each other.
The hard part for Ben Cherington is that the Red Sox are just starting to approach reasonable health as the trade deadline approaches. This month alone, Boston has (or will) welcome back Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buchholz and Dustin Pedroia. There is little time for the front office to assess where they stand before July 31 comes and goes.
It is highly unlikely that the Red Sox will catch the rival Yankees for first place in the division, but grabbing a Wild Card berth is definitely within reach. Boston has the second-best run differential (+49) among the teams currently involved in the Wild Card race (second to the Angels, +54) and a healthy roster could allow them to grab hold of a spot well before the last few weeks of the season.
On June 18, the Red Sox were four games back. They actually started showing some signs of life before Crawford and Ellsbury returned to help bolster a lineup that at times looked like it belonged in Pawtucket.
Only the Rangers have scored more runs than the Red Sox in 2012, while they own the fourth-highest OPS (.769) and eighth-best home run total (105) in all of baseball.
The problem for Boston all season has been pitching. They possess a team ERA of 4.16 (20th), but two factors indicate that the staff will improve in the second half. If Cherington decides to buy at the deadline, we almost certainly see a pitcher added and it seems unlikely that Josh Beckett (5-7, 4.44 ERA) and Jon Lester (5-7, 4.80) will continue to struggle.
The Red Sox will be a team no one wants to face in a one-game playoff this October.
What is wrong with the Marlins?
The Marlins changed their name, opened a new ballpark and added Jose Reyes, Heath Bell, Mark Buehrle and Carlos Zambrano prior to the 2012 season, but they have been the biggest disappointment in baseball.
Miami even added Carlos Lee in a trade with Houston earlier this month, but they still trail Washington by nine games in the National League East. They are more than five games back of a Wild Card berth.
Under Ozzie Guillen, the team struggled in all facets.
The have a .698 OPS (23rd), have scored fewer runs than only four teams, and slugged just 84 home runs (20th, nearly half as many as the Yankees).
Buehrle and Co. have not pitched well either. They have a 4.12 ERA (19th), more strikeouts than only four teams and opposing hitters have a .263 batting average against the staff. Miami also ranks in the bottom third of baseball in terms of fielding percentage (.982) with 62 errors in 90 games.
The Marlins will not be able to plug all the necessary holes with a single trade ahead of the trade deadline. They need a bat, some pitching depth and more in order to contend in the National League this fall.
How should the Phillies handle Hamels?
Philadelphia is 13 games behind Washington in the NL East and almost just as far back in the Wild Card race (9.5 games entering Wednesday). They have actually lost ground in both races since Chase Utley and Ryan Howard returned.
Because of that, many insist that the Phillies should trade Cole Hamels this month in order to ensure they get some talent back in return for the left-hander. Hamels, who was the MVP of the 2008 World Series, can become a free agent after the season.
A first-round pick of the Phillies in 2002, the San Diego native will turn 29-years-old this December just around the time he could be fielding $100 million-plus free agent offers. Given his age and the importance of a dominant pitcher in the game today, Philadelphia should retain Hamels in hopes of either reaching an agreement on an extension before the season ends or re-signing him this winter.
Roy Halladay is seven years older and his contract status will soon come into question, making it even more vital that the Phillies lock up Hamels over the long-term as the anchor of a rotation that could soon be influx.
With that said, the thought-process behind dealing Hamels is obvious.
The Phillies have an aging lineup with Utley and Howard anchoring the batting order. The left-hander would only represent a rental if an agreement on an extension is not assured, but he could still bring back a nice haul of young prospects to help the team climb back to the top of the National League.