ARLINGTON, TX - Josh Beckett of the Boston Red Sox throws against the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. (Photo by Rick Yeatts/Getty Images)
The Red Sox are reportedly open to trading Josh Beckett. Why?
The Red Sox needed pitching. Everyone knew it. But instead of a big, splashy move, the Red Sox did a few little things over the offseason. They converted Daniel Bard to a starter. They found a spot for youngster Felix Doubront. And they filled their spring camp with all sorts of fallback options like Aaron Cook, Clayton Mortensen, Vicente Padilla, Andrew Miller, and Alfredo Aceves.
Nothing really worked. The pitchers they were counting on have been mediocre-to-awful. The pitchers who were supposed to be decent fill-ins have been just that, nothing more. It's not a Rockies-style mess of a rotation, but it's close.
And yet the Red Sox are still on the fringes of the race. They're tied for last place in the AL East, but they're just 4½ back of the second Wild Card. They probably aren't close enough to be active buyers for short-term rentals, but they're close enough to avoid being sellers. And considering this offseason they'll be in the exact same spot as last winter -- looking for starting pitching -- here's the most curious trade rumor of the deadline:
The Red Sox have made it known they are willing to trade right-handed pitcher Josh Beckett.
This isn't a case of "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is …" But the only possible response is to furrow your eyebrows and wonder what in the hell the Red Sox are thinking. Consider:
- Beckett's trade value is at an all-time low
- He's still owed over $30 million for the next two seasons, so the Red Sox would have to eat all sorts of money for Beckett not to pitch for them
- The Red Sox will still need to find pitching in the offseason
- Boston is still in something of a race, and they aren't blocking a hot prospect out of a rotation spot
There are exactly two reasons the Red Sox would want to trade Beckett right now. One, if they thought they could get a lot of value back for him. Two, if they want him the hell off their team. It doesn't seem like the first one is likely, considering Beckett's performance and salary. Which leads me to guess it's the latter.
In the abstract, Beckett might be a decent target for a big-spending team that isn't looking to dump prospects in a deadline deal. If Beckett can be had for little more than the price of his contract, he'd be a decent gamble. There's the eternal hope of a change-of-scenery boost in performance, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio is still good. His strikeout rate is down a tick, but not to an alarming degree. You can almost trick yourself into thinking, yeah, that'd be a good targ…
And then you remember the context. The Red Sox seem like the last team in baseball that would want to move a starting pitcher, especially one under contract for next year. The Red Sox are standing on a street corner in a trench coat, saying, "Hey, you looking for a starting pitcher? We'll pay you to take this one. C'mon, lemme show you what we got." You're right to be skeptical. You're right to cross the street, avoiding eye contact.
It makes no sense. There are all sorts of rumors this month. Some of them are silly. Some of them are practical. But this one might be the silliest of them all.
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Okay, second silliest. How do the Red Sox benefit from trading Josh Beckett at his lowest possible value when they don't have a preferable replacement in the middle of something approximating a playoff race? There are ways it could make sense for them, but all of those ways have to do with the other team getting damaged goods.