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Sunday, July 8, 2012

Ben Cherington Will Define His Tenure as Red Sox GM at 2012 Trade De adline

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 25:  Newly named Executiv...
The stance taken by Red Sox GM Ben Cherington at 2012's non-waiver trade deadline will have a big impact on the rest of his tenure.  (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
Typically there are two stances a baseball team can take at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. The general manager is faced with the decision of whether his team is in contention and therefore buyers, or if they're planning on an early vacation, chances are certain players can be had for the right price.

The 2012 deadline has become a bit more complicated due to the addition of a second wild card in each league, meaning far more teams can realistically consider themselves in the race for the playoffs. More teams in contention equals more buyers. This new format could work in the Red Sox favor this season.

After splitting a day/night double header with the Yankees on Saturday, the Red Sox are now just one game over .500 and 8.5 games out in the AL East with one to play before the All Star break. It's a hard thing to admit if you're a fan, but this team, the way it stands, is going nowhere in a hurry.

The offense has been explosive at times, but very unstable partly due to injuries and mostly due to overpaid non-contributors. Pitching has been solid at times, against sub-par teams, but as Gordon Edes pointed out this morning, the team is 10-19 in games started by Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz. There's no chance for a run if this continues and it does figure to do so.

The bullpen has been a "silver lining" since a disastrous April, but that's all it is, one mostly-consistent piece of an otherwise terribly inconsistent team. Relief corps are a big part of a championship team, but you can't get there by depending solely on them. The starters have to get you there and the offense has to do its thing against the better pitchers in the league. That hasn't been the case.

The buyer/seller debate is meaningless for this team. Whether Ben Cherington thinks they're in contention or not, moves need to be made and not the Michael Bowden-Marlon Byrd type. The fact that so many teams are within reach of the playoffs will mean value for teams willing to trade pieces will be higher.

Cherington has to think about this season, because that's his job, but let's be realistic. The bigger picture should be next season and beyond. If a team is willing to mortgage the farm for a Jon Lester, does he say no, thinking after five years in the league, he's going to be the ace he was thought to be?

When Jacoby Ellsbury returns from the disabled list, if he produces and someone takes interest, does the GM listen and seriously consider acquiring the necessary pieces for a World Series run in 2013? You would think--at this point--he's obligated to at least listen. Deep down, and maybe not so deep, he knows that this team as it stands is far from a contender.

In his first year as the general manager of the Red Sox, Cherington has to take a chance and pull the trigger. He must see the big picture and do what's best for the long-term success of the Boston Red Sox, because at this juncture, not many are optimistic.

If he's smart, he'll start by acquiring some young, high upside starting pitching. The Red Sox staff simply isn't good enough and it doesn't figure to have anything better going into next season. The prospects at the AAA level are un-inspiring and Matt Barnes is at least a year from Fenway.

What will it be Ben? Sit tight and miss the playoffs this season and next? Or make the necessary changes now and end the playoff drought after this season? Decisions, decisions.

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