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Tim O

Tim O’Sullivan: Trade Big Papi? It’s time for Red Sox to entertain offers

  • Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz during a baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston, Monday, June 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

    Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz during a baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston, Monday, June 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

  • Boston Red Sox's Koji Uehara walks to the dug out after pitching in the ninth inning of the first game of a baseball doubleheader against the Baltimore Orioles in Boston, Saturday, July 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

    Boston Red Sox's Koji Uehara walks to the dug out after pitching in the ninth inning of the first game of a baseball doubleheader against the Baltimore Orioles in Boston, Saturday, July 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

  • Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Clay Buchholz pitches in the first inning of an exhibition baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte, Fla., Tuesday, March 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

    Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Clay Buchholz pitches in the first inning of an exhibition baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte, Fla., Tuesday, March 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

  • Boston Red Sox's Jon Lester pitches in the fourth inning of the first game of a baseball doubleheader against the Baltimore Orioles in Boston, Saturday, July 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

    Boston Red Sox's Jon Lester pitches in the fourth inning of the first game of a baseball doubleheader against the Baltimore Orioles in Boston, Saturday, July 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

  • Boston Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz winds up for a warm-up throw in the first inning of an exhibition baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays, Tuesday, March 4, 2014, in Fort Myers, Fla. The Rays beat the Red Sox 8-0. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

    Boston Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz winds up for a warm-up throw in the first inning of an exhibition baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays, Tuesday, March 4, 2014, in Fort Myers, Fla. The Rays beat the Red Sox 8-0. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

  • Boston Red Sox's Koji Uehara walks to the dug out after pitching in the ninth inning of the first game of a baseball doubleheader against the Baltimore Orioles in Boston, Saturday, July 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

    Boston Red Sox's Koji Uehara walks to the dug out after pitching in the ninth inning of the first game of a baseball doubleheader against the Baltimore Orioles in Boston, Saturday, July 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

  • Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz during a baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston, Monday, June 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
  • Boston Red Sox's Koji Uehara walks to the dug out after pitching in the ninth inning of the first game of a baseball doubleheader against the Baltimore Orioles in Boston, Saturday, July 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
  • Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Clay Buchholz pitches in the first inning of an exhibition baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte, Fla., Tuesday, March 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
  • Boston Red Sox's Jon Lester pitches in the fourth inning of the first game of a baseball doubleheader against the Baltimore Orioles in Boston, Saturday, July 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
  • Boston Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz winds up for a warm-up throw in the first inning of an exhibition baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays, Tuesday, March 4, 2014, in Fort Myers, Fla. The Rays beat the Red Sox 8-0. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
  • Boston Red Sox's Koji Uehara walks to the dug out after pitching in the ninth inning of the first game of a baseball doubleheader against the Baltimore Orioles in Boston, Saturday, July 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Let’s be honest. The Red Sox are broken, and it’s going to take some work to fix them.

They are not better than their 39-48 record. They deserve to be in fourth place in the American League East. They are not going to catch Baltimore or Toronto to win the division, and they are not going to leap the tall pile of teams ahead of them in the Wild Card standings. Heck, these Sox aren’t even fun to watch.

It’s time for change. It’s time for Ben Cherington to get busy. It’s time to focus on 2015 and beyond. Cherington should start by extending Jon Lester. After that, the Sox GM should see if he can move some of Boston’s veterans, including David Ortiz and Koji Uehara, or even some of its horde of prospects, for players that will help in the future.

Let’s start with Lester. The third inning of yesterday’s game against Baltimore provided a symbolic moment. The Orioles had runners on second and third when Lester threw a groundball that should have been the third out. Instead, Xander Bogaerts booted it and both runners, one of whom had already reached on an error, scored.

Lester didn’t curse or scream at Bogaerts, or at least the NESN cameras didn’t show him doing so. He didn’t unravel like the defense behind him. He simply got back on the mound and struck out the dangerous Nelson Cruz on three pitches to end the inning.

Boston hopes its crop of young talent, Bogaerts chief among them, can become the core of a contending team for years to come, and Lester has become the kind of player who can lead a team. He showed it during last year’s postseason when he went 4-1 with a 1.56 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP. He’s shown it this year by pitching as well as he ever has while the team has floundered around him. Even

before yesterday’s stellar outing (eight innings, seven strikeouts, no walks, no earned runs), Lester was working with the best ERA (2.92), best WHIP (1.18) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.97) of his career.

He is a 30-year-old lefty with a big-game pedigree who can be counted on to go out there every five days and deliver around 200 innings every year. That’s the type of player you build a staff, and a team, around. Finding someone else to fill that role will cost just as much as it will to re-up Lester.

The Sox should do everything they can to erase any bad blood the organization created with Lester and his agents, Seth and Sam Levinson, when Boston offered him that insulting four-year, $70 million extension in May. If that offer sheet still exists, Cherington should call for a meeting with the Levinson brothers just so he can tear it up in front of their eyes and then immediately present them with a new sheet, something around the five-year, $120 million range.

Once that meeting is done, Cherington should start working the phones. Hard.

His first calls should be searching for teams who might be interested in some of the team’s veterans like Jake Peavy, A.J. Pierzynski, Stephen Drew, Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront or Shane Victorino. Sure, all of those guys have struggled this year, but Cherington could make a sales pitch for all of them and add to Boston’s stockpile of young talent in return.

Some team might feel the need for a gritty yet near-sighted former Cy Young winner, a savvy yet cantankerous catcher, a slick-fielding shortstop who might get hot at the plate, a pitcher with ace-level stuff when healthy, a young lefty with postseason experience or a clutch outfielder who surely will improve the clubhouse atmosphere even if he is on the DL.

Those are the obvious veterans to be moved. But what about Ortiz? Yes, all of Red Sox Nation loves Big Papi, as it should. Yes, he has been more productive in his late 30s than anyone expected. But Father Time will catch up with him eventually, and maybe now is the time. He did, after all, have a pedestrian .252/.351/.483 slash line going into yesterday’s games. He is, after all, 38 years old. Cherington shouldn’t just give him away, but if a team that thinks it needs a left-handed bat to push itself over the top is willing to offer a haul of young talent for Ortiz, Cherington better listen with both ears.

Koji Uehara falls into a similar category as Big Papi. He was instrumental in last year’s World Series run and he’s a popular figure in the region and in the clubhouse. But at 39 years old, Uehara is not part of the long-term future in Boston. Plus, he’s put up some impressive numbers this year (1.40 ERA, 18 saves going into yesterday) and could command a high price on the trade market.

The Sox should first position themselves as sellers, but there’s no reason they can’t also look to buy if the deal is right. They need young outfielders and they have a plethora of young arms, so if a team is willing to work within those parameters, Cherington should consider it.

With so many potential trade chips to use, Boston could look to land a young outfielder who is ready to contribute now and help going forward. That way the 2014 Sox would get a much-needed shot in the arm and the team could still be building toward the future. Players like Oscar Taveras from St. Louis, Kansas City’s Lorenzo Cain, Dayan Viciedo from the White Sox, Arizona’s A.J. Pollock or Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez would all work in that regard.

But getting a player who can help this year should not be a priority for Cherington. The Sox are not going anywhere this season. It’s time to look to the future.

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3341 or tosullivan@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @timosullivan20.)

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BOSTON – Nelson Cruz went a career-best 5-for-5, including a solo home run and a bad-hop single that scored the go-ahead run in the sixth inning, and the Baltimore Orioles beat the Boston Red Sox, 7-4, last night to earn a split of a day-night doubleheader. The Red Sox won the opener, 3-2, on Jonathan Herrera’s one-out, broken-bat RBI single …

Legacy Comments1

Well said, Tim. I'm with you on all points.

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