John Lackey
It’s trading deadline time, so that means questions abound about possible trade options; the Josh Beckett/Jon Lester conundrum; and concern over Carl Crawford‘s elbow.  Let’s dive right in to the yummy goodness that is this week’s Cafardo mailbag.

Do you feel that either Beckett or Lester has to go, preferably Beckett? They are both performing at an alarmingly bad level and something needs to be done to shake up this team.

Does the team really need to be shaken up?  Let’s examine.

As of Thursday morning, the Red Sox are tied for fourth (read: last) place in the AL East with a 49-50 record.  They’re 10.5 games behind the AL East leading Yankees, and five games off the pace for one of the two Wild Card spots.  Currently, they have a 20% chance of reaching the playoffs.*  Needless to say, the Red Sox aren’t exactly in the most advantageous position to be in at the trading deadline.

* For what it’s worth, the Red Sox had a 99.9% chance of reaching the playoffs on September 1st last year, and they still missed it.  Any team can go on a run or fall down a hole at any given time.

Let’s look at what the Red Sox have had to endure over the last 99 games.

At the risk of sounding overly optimistic, the fact they’re 49-50 is pretty freaking amazing.  Furthermore, that they’ve done what they’ve done while playing in the AL East is even more impressive.  Really, what the Red Sox need, first and foremost, is to be healthy.  Secondly, they need Lester and Beckett to pitch up to their abilities, which is not just possible but likely.

Also, the Red Sox made a move earlier this year that was at least partially designed to shake things up.  They traded Kevin Youkilis to the White Sox.  That was a pretty big shake-up, and nothing has changed.  I don’t know how trading two pitchers at the nadir of their trade value does anything to help this team either in the short or long-term.

With management stating Ben Cherington is empowered to make “bold” moves at the trade deadline, and starting pitching being an obvious issue, do you think there’s any realistic possibility of a deal centered around Jon Lester and King Felix?

This is an interesting question that can be answered in three ways.  First way is no.  The second way is no.  And the third way?  Surprisingly, no.  Strange.  I really had high hopes for that third way.

Look, guys.  We all love Felix Hernandez.  He’s a 26 year old ace starting pitcher with a fairly reasonable contract.  As nice as it would be to trade for him, we’d literally have to sell our farm system to the Mariners.  The M’s have already traded Ichiro Suzuki.  If they trade Hernandez as well, they’re essentially waving the white flag through probably the 2015 season.  As a result, it doesn’t make sense for the Mariners to take on a pitcher who will be a free agent by the time they’re ready to contend.  They’ll likely be looking only for prospects on the off chance he becomes available.

For more of my thoughts on a potential King Felix trade, click here.

I have noticed most of the year that John Lackey has been in the dugout and wondered why you or none of the other media has mentioned this? Could Lackey’s presence be a negative influence on Beckett and Lester?

In 2010, Ellsbury was criticized for rehabing on his own in Arizona, and not spending time with the club.  In 2012, we’re criticizing John Lackey for spending too much time in the clubhouse during his rehab.  Interesting how things change over time.

Lackey’s going to miss the entire season, and is not obligated to be with the team.  Furthermore, the Lester, Beckett, Lackey trio has widely been faulted for being a gang of malcontents who took down the Red Sox last September due to their beer drinking, fried chicken eating, video game playing ways.  While this was a compelling (but sadly, empty) narrative that got beaten into the ground, those three were doing those things all season long.  Their actions didn’t seem to bother the team during their 81-41 stretch.  Beckett and Lester had no problem pitching beautifully for 90% of the season last year despite Lackey’s presence.  As such, this seems like a non-issue.

I don’t see how anyone can realistically see Lackey’s presence in the clubhouse as anything but positive and supportive.

There are two main factors that determine the success of a manager — where a team is in the standings and the atmosphere in the clubhouse. Based on the latter, when is the front office going to make the switch to Gene Lamont?

Nick answers this question pretty flawlessly actually.  Injuries have a lot more to do with the Red Sox’s current position in the standings than anything else.  Additionally, Bobby V has been a pretty solid manager over the past few months.  Yes, the first 4-6 weeks were infuriating to watch, but he’s settled in.  For the most part, he makes the right decisions night-in and night-out.  I don’t see reasonable grounds for firing him at the moment.

Why aren’t the Sox doing surgery on Carl Crawford now rather than taking a chance on further or more serious injury by playing him?

The Red Sox don’t have the right to force surgery on any player.  Typically though, decisions on surgery are a joint decision.  I’d like to say the Red Sox wouldn’t send Crawford, a player who will make $100 between 2013 and 2017, out onto the field if he had a chance to further his injuries.  Then again, we all know about the problems with the Red Sox medical and training staffs, so who knows?

All that said, I’ve wondered the same thing.  I keep hearing that Tommy John surgery is inevitable, and it definitely makes more sense to do it now than later.  For starters, it gives him a chance to really start from scratch next year.  Secondly, the recovery will probably be tougher if he has it done next year or a few years down the road.

An important thing to keep in mind though, is Albert Pujols was given the same diagnosis four years ago, and he still hasn’t needed surgery.  Food for thought.

Will the Sox consider trading Mike Aviles to a team needing help at shortstop or utility to make room for Jose Iglesias? Iglesias’ glove would help the Sox pitching, which would also be a confidence boost for the pitchers. And while he may be inferior to Aviles with the bat, it is only a strong April that makes Aviles’ numbers look strong.

Everyone loves Iglesias’s fielding.  There’s no doubt about his talents on that side of the coin.  Unfortunately, he’s made little improvement at the plate in his second season for AAA Pawtucket.  At this point, we have to wonder if he’ll ever hit enough in AAA, let alone the majors, to deserve regular playing time.  Even with Aviles hitting .250/.269/.368 since May 1st, his defense has been good enough that he’d still probably be slightly more valuable than Iglesias.

As a side note, Nick made an interesting comment in his response:

“I think with Xander Bogaerts and Deven Marrero coming up, Iglesias himself may even be trade bait during this trading period.”

A couple of things.

1.  Wow.  During Spring Training he was considered by many to be the dark horse starting shortstop candidate. Guys like Nick and Bobby V raved about his abilities.  It’s a little surprising to see him mentioned as a potential trade candidate.  It’s not that I disagree with the sentiment.  Still, I’m taken aback.

2.  Due to his size, most prospect experts feel Bogaerts will be forced off of shortstop before too long.  Third base and right field seem like likely landing points for him at some point.  Also, it’s a little too early to be throwing Marrero’s name around.  I understand he was a first round pick, but he’s played a handful of games for Lowell in short-season A-ball.  Let’s see how he performs at Greenville and Salem first.

With someone like Daniel Nava, whose batting right vs. batting left numbers are so far apart, it seems to me sticking to hitting from the same side for righties and lefties makes more sense than continuing to try and switch hit.

This is something I’ve always wondered as well.  In a lot of cases, it’s a comfort issue.  A lot of work goes into it, and there’s usually a slight platoon advantage over batting from one side.  Lastly, it gives managers greater levels of flexibility when setting the lineup.

Is it possible that Lester’s cancer is back and he isn’t saying anything? This would be one issue that may be wrong with Lester.

Yikes!  Talk about grim.  I certainly hope not.  I have feeling Lester’s issues are mostly mechanical.