The 2012 MLB trade deadline was a dangerous one for the Red Sox.
Over the past few years, we've seen this front office make some bad decisions, and they've really been at their worst when they need to change headlines. Swept by the Angels, under attack for Theo Epstein's "bridge year" comments, they went out and bought John Lackey. Having missed the playoffs for the first time in years, they added Carl Crawford. A dramatic September collapse and a payroll clogged by the bad decisions of the last two years? Splash on Bobby Valentine: big baseball personality, bad baseball manager.
So headed into the deadline just one game above .500 with talks of clubhouse disorder and a very disgruntled fanbase, it seemed all-too-likely that Ben Cherington -- whether on his own volition or at the behest of an ownership group afraid of any further failure -- was going to step to the plate and spend big on a team that did not necessarily deserve the greatest of investments.
Making the situation all the worse was the fact that, for the first time in years, they had truly valuable, important chips to work with. Jackie Bradley Jr., Xander Bogaerts, and Matt Barnes have returned the farm system to heights not seen in years, each one the sort of talent a deal could be centered around, but each one the sort that the team should most covet.
To Ben Cherington's credit, however, despite being given the power to make "bold" moves, he surveyed the scene, saw the talent available and their (often quite high) prices, and thought better.
Oh, the options were there, to be sure. Whether before the deadline or right up to it, the Sox were in on just about every starting pitcher who was available. Liriano, Dempster, Garza, Sanchez, Johnson ... If the Sox had really been determined to make that splash, there's no question that they could have. But instead of thinking about the PR implications and going for the splash, the Sox made the decisions which will give the Red Sox a chance to get back to being a real force in the American League East as soon as possible.
They were not completely inactive, of course, and in Craig Breslow they did find a bargain. Breslow has been an effective lefty out of the bullpen for some five years now. And while he's not ideal for Fenway given his high fly ball rates, he's been pretty good at keeping the ball in the park one way or another in his time. With another year of team control, the Sox will be able to hold on to him relatively cheaply into 2013, adding him to their very impressive core of relief arms.
And what did they give up in return? Not a top prospect, or a middling one, or their opportunity to try to make a miracle run in 2012. Instead, they sent Matt Albers, a reliever whose results seem completely unsustainable given his penchant for pitching up in the zone, hard-hit balls, and inability to miss bats. Given that Scott Podsednik wasn't about to make his way back on the roster anytime soon, it's hard to say if the Red Sox really gave up anything of value at all.
Add in a couple of 40-man roster spots, and the ability to move the very intriguing Franklin Morales back to the rotation, and you've got a move that's hard to question. It is, frankly, an A+ trade, or at least an A if you don't consider Breslow a return worthy of such a grade even if he comes essentially free. On the whole, though, it's hard to give the deadline such glowing remarks. The Red Sox straddled the fence here, going neither one way nor the other, and as a result they didn't do anything particularly well.
While it's hard to imagine a situation where the Red Sox buy without coming out behind, if they had sold who knows what they could have gotten from the likes of Cody Ross, Kelly Shoppach, etc. It's an opportunity ignored in favor of a likely impossible pursuit of the playoffs with a flawed team, but the decision to ignore it is reasonable enough given business considerations and the possibility that the team could either make something of the season or retain players like Ross for future seasons.
That they couldn't shed a big contract like Josh Beckett? The only criticism that should garner should be directed at those who built it up as a real possibility. Nobody was taking him off the team's hands in any deal that would make even the slightest bit of sense.
While the excitement of the trade deadline tends to be centered around blockbusters and the like, sometimes inaction is the best course of action, and this was one of those times.