Choose wisely Theo

With the Red Sox treading water just above .500 after a month and a half of the season, its too early to fully embrace the “wait ’till next year” mentality. At the same time however, you had better believe Theo Epstein and his advisors have played their own game of “choose your own adventure” that has them following the “to become sellers and restock for 2011 turn to page 41” path.

If the Red Sox find themselves in a double digit hole behind both the Yankees and the Rays in July, there are plenty of targets that other clubs may place on members of the 2010 Red Sox at the deadline.

Names like Jonathan Papelbon, Manny Delcarmen, Adrian Beltre, Mike Lowell or Mike Cameron — even Daisuke Matsuzaka or David Ortiz should they show enough life between now and then to serve a potential playoff team well — could all be fits for playoff teams given their contract length and playoff experience.

I would suspect that Epstein’s “choose your own adventure” has strings that follow each of those players and others out of Boston at the deadline if the case were to be made that they should be sellers.

One name that I hadn’t thought to include on that list until reading Ken Rosenthal’s recent column on Fox Sports was Victor Martinez.

Maybe my neglect was born out of the thought that, “if not Victor behind the plate in 2011, then who?”. Would the Red Sox really consider making Victor Martinez a back to back deadline darling? Here’s Rosenthal’s case:

Don’t put it past them.

One rival executive scoffs at the idea the Red Sox might quit on a season with a $160 million payroll. But what if the season leaves general manager Theo Epstein little choice?

The Red Sox — 6 1/2 games behind the Rays, six behind the Yankees — still figure to play better. But if those respective deficits reach double digits by July, Martinez would be a logical piece to move.

He is a free agent at the end of the season, and Carlton Fisk stands a better chance of being the Sox’s catcher in 2011.

While I would argue that Rosenthal is at his inflammatory best at the end of his sentiment — there may not be many alternatives outside of Victor Martinez and/or Carlton Fisk behind the plate next season — I think the remainder of his logic is spot on. If not a part of the long term plan in Boston, Martinez would likely headline the list of desirable and acquirable talent in Boston.

It has been a long time since the Red Sox were sellers at the deadline. Even in down years like 2006, it was their idleness at the deadline that spoke volumes instead of those whose cards were punched out of town.*

*Slightly ironic since the Red Sox have moved two of their biggest stars and biggest names at the deadline under the Theo Regime in Nomar Garciaparra and Manny Ramirez.

It will certainly be interesting to watch this front office maneuver themselves around the run-up to the trade deadline. In all likelihood, they will sit smack dab on the center of the line between buyers and sellers, far enough behind the Yankees and/or Rays to consider selling, but close enough to think the right pieces could allow them one more run.

If past deadlines have shown us anything, Theo will be both creative and aggressive this July. The outstanding question is which path will he choose?

Theo Epstein, it is July 10th and you are 7 1/2 games out of the wild card and 10 games out of the division do you:

(a) aggressively sell popular pieces of the current roster waving the white flag on 2010 in lieu of competing on the other side of the bridge? If so, turn to page 41.


(b) look to acquire the missing pieces to bring onto the 2010 roster (and beyond) to make a mid-summer run at the playoffs in 2010? If so, turn to page 178