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July 29, 2010

Future Shock

Org Watch: Red Sox, Dodgers, Mets

by Kevin Goldstein

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As we race toward the deadline, the time to make decisions becomes compressed; with that comes snap judgments, and emotion enter into the fray—leading ultimately to some big mistakes on both a small- and big-picture level. With that in mind, here are three teams that might be better off deciding that they are not, in fact, buyers:

  • The Boston Red Sox have had a ton of injuries this season; it's not time for rebuilding by any means, though, and their contract situations don't allow for it.
  • The Los Angeles Dodgers could help shore up their long-term future by using starters with expiring contracts to find answers at positions held by aging and/or unproductive veterans.
  • A second-half slump has seemingly pulled the New York Mets out of contention, but are they in the position to suddenly become sellers?

Boston Red Sox: Wait for 2011

Should they sell? They're currently 7½ games back in the AL East and 5½ back of the wild card; the New York Yankees are pulling away in the former, and the Tampa Bay Rays look solid in the latter. They have a scant 28 percent chance of reaching the playoffs via BP's postseason odds as of Wednesday morning. The Sox, Yankees and Rays will be battling atop the AL East for years— so why sell future prospects for a shot at the 2010 postseason?

What could they trade? The Red Sox have unsuccessfully been looking for a taker on Mike Lowell all year, but he remains on the payroll. The only other veterans with expiring contracts are star-level players like third baseman Adrian Beltre and catcher Victor Martinez, both of whom the team wants to re-sign—and who both play positions the Red Sox don't have 2011 fixes for in their system. This is more of a situation in which the Red Sox would be best served by standing pat and worrying about 2011.

What do they need? In any sort of minor deal, the Sox need advanced talent; the minor league system remains strong, but it also remains unbalanced -- many of their top prospects are at the lower levels. Like so many other systems, they're weak in up-the-middle players.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Harder to jump two teams than one

Should they sell? The postseason odds here are worse than Boston's—the Dodgers have a 20 percent shot of October baseball right now. The San Diego Padres are not a fluke, and the San Francisco Giants are seeing their playoff odds surge as well. It looks increasingly likely that True Blue would have to jump two teams.

What could they trade? Manny Ramirez isn't coming back in 2011 and costs way too much for a deadline deal, but what about one of those Aug. 31 trades that still has him postseason-eligible? His contract should pass through waivers fairly easily, and a desperate team that thinks a motivated Manny is a good Manny might give up a little something for the one-month rental. If the team really wanted to rebuild, Hiroki Kuroda has some no-trade protection but would be an attractive starter option for many teams, as could Vicente Padilla.

What do they need? Nearly everything. What was once a player development machine has seen the gears start to grind a bit, especially when it comes to position players. There are no legitimate catchers anywhere in the system— and they need to find some fixes at the corners for a departing Ramirez and an aging Casey Blake. Those fixes do not appear to currently be in the system; Jerry Sands has been the breakout minor leaguer of this organization in 2010, but his best position is likely first base.

New York Mets: An 'A' for effort

Should they sell? Despite having a star-studded roster, the Mets went into the break with a reputation as a plucky team that was exceeding expectations—while also being seen as a leader when it came to acquiring Chicago Cubs lefty Ted Lilly to shore up the rotation. Unfortunately, nobody told the bats that the second half of the season had begun, and a disastrous West Coast swing left their postseason chances in the single digits.

What could they trade? Not much, unfortunately. They might get something small—a better word might be "tiny"—for Jeff Francoeur if a team needs an extra outfielder, while clubs could do worse by asking about Rod Barajas to shore up their catching situation.

What do they need? The Mets desperately need a long-term answer at catcher, and they need to see if Josh Thole can be any kind of answer first as a good on-base/no power/decent defense player. Second base is another black hole production-wise, but things get more complicated in 2012 as opposed to 2011: The Mets will celebrate the departure of Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez this offseason; they'll likely also say goodbye to Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez in two years. Could Jenrry Mejia be the answer at closer? Can Double-A star Kirk Nieuwenhuis play center in the big leagues? Can Reese Havens get healthy to fill the hole at second? It's time to start answering those questions instead of dangling players like that out there for a 2010 team whose chances are so slight.

A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider Insider.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

7 comments have been left for this article.

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Premium Article Changing Speeds: Forty... (07/29)
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