BOSTON -- David Price may have been on to something.
Back in April, the Red Sox left-hander issued a warning after a two-game sweep at Yankee Stadium.
"If we don't play better, there's going to be a lot of changes around here," he told the Boston Globe. "I remember when Boston won the World Series in 2013. In 2014, they were trash. Trash . . . If we don't start playing better, J.D. Martinez, Mookie Betts, maybe myself, we could get traded."
What sounded over the top and alarmist suddenly feels within the realm of possibility, even if it's not exactly likely. But if the Red Sox continue nose-diving against their playoff competition, we shouldn't discount the chance of the defending World Series champions placing their finger on the button. Maybe it's time to start thinking about a purge.
On Tuesday night, they delivered yet another dreadful performance in a 9-5 loss to the Rangers. Red Sox pitchers walked eight batters, including five by rookie Darwinzon Hernandez, who should've been nowhere near a big-league mound after posting a 5.13 ERA at Double A and walking more than seven batters per nine innings, but such is the state of the roster that manager Alex Cora had nowhere else to turn.
They allowed an inside-the-park home run when right fielder Brock Holt crashed into the fence near the Pesky Pole chasing a Hunter Pence fly and then just stayed there. They made a pair of errors, including a dropped pop-up by third baseman Rafael Devers that led to the go-ahead run. They handed the game to the dregs of the pitching staff, with predictable results, dropping to .500 at 34-34 in the process. Baseball-Reference now places their odds of reaching the playoffs at 22.6 percent.
"We absolutely have to be better than this if we want to be in the hunt," Cora said.
And so now we wonder: was Price right? Could the Red Sox sell? And if so, how big should they think?
Let's toss around a few names that would normally be considered untouchable, because they're integral to the repeat effort, but what the hell, we're approaching desperate times.
1. MOOKIE BETTS
Trading the defending MVP in his prime is insane . . . unless you're convinced he won't sign a long-term extension, in which case moving him now and starting a rebuild shouldn't be off the table.
Some talented players have delivered massive hauls at the trade deadline, whether it's the Indians turning Bartolo Colon into Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips and Grady Sizemore in 2002, the Rangers flipping Mark Teixeira to Atlanta for future All-Stars Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, and Matt Harrison five years later, or more recently, the Yankees very smartly transforming relievers Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman into Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier, and Justus Sheffield, among others.
Moving Betts with a year of team control remaining would be waving a white flag on the season, but the Red Sox need to realistically balance the cost of going all-in for a wild card spot vs. retooling to remain competitive moving forward.
And if Mookie is going to walk anyway? Then it's not so crazy.
2. ANDREW BENINTENDI
Some of us (me) have been predicting Benintendi would win a batting title for three years now, but he hasn't really put things together yet. Still only 24, and under team control through the 2022 season, Benintendi would hold tremendous value on the trade market, where he could perhaps address holes in the bullpen, as well as the farm system.
There's real risk in surrendering him, especially when he's in the midst of a disappointing season, but with so much uncertainty on the horizon — Will J.D. Martinez opt out? How much longer will Betts be here? Who replaces Rick Porcello? — acquiring legitimate depth would have a real purpose on a roster that has suffered serious erosion.
3. MICHAEL CHAVIS
The bloom has come off that rose after a hot start, but 10 homers in his first month and positional flexibility make Chavis an attractive target. The Red Sox never expected the rookie to make such an impact; otherwise he would've opened the season on the roster. Now that opponents have found a potentially serious flaw in his swing, attacking him up in the zone with power and inducing him to chase off-speed pitches away, the Red Sox might be best served maximizing his value while they can.
Trading Chavis would leave them awfully thin at first and second base, but another bullpen arm is more important at this point than a strikeout-prone infielder.
4. RICK PORCELLO
If the Red Sox fall in the standings, then Porcello could be an option for contenders seeking an experienced starter, à la Jake Peavy in 2013.
The Red Sox don't seem interested in retaining Porcello — an argument can be made that he should've received the $68 million they gave Nathan Eovaldi — and if they're going to bid him farewell anyway, they might as well get something for him while they can.
As Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel taught us this winter, there's no guarantee a departing free agent will return a draft pick, anyway.
5. DAVID PRICE
He brought it up, so we might as well consider it. Price has already been moved at the deadline twice in his career, going from the Rays to the Tigers in 2014, and from the Tigers to the Jays a year later.
He is the ace of the Red Sox at the moment and coming off a scintillating postseason that erased any doubts over his ability to win in October. He could alter the trajectory of the postseason if he's moved. He's owed $96 million through 2022, when he'll be 36, and even if the Red Sox eat a lot that money, removing him from the books while adding younger, cheaper talent would give them more flexibility to retain players like Betts or Martinez.
Hey, it was his idea.
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