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What should the Red Sox do?

At 48-47, the Red Sox stand two and a half games back of the second Wild Card spot. Given that statement, as well as the knowledge that David Ortiz will be returning from the disabled list at some point, it would be very easy to say that the Red Sox should approach the upcoming trade deadline as buyers.

In a deadline rarity, there are apparently plenty of quality starting pitchers to be had; frontline studs like Zack Greinke and Cole Hamels are potentially on the market, as well as lesser (but still valuable) talents such as Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster. In addition, noncontending teams like the Rockies may be looking to shed a bit of payroll, and you can’t deny that a guy like Marco Scutaro would be a lot nicer to have in the lineup than the true talent of Pedro Ciriaco.

Of course, there is another side to the story. While the Red Sox are just two and a half games behind the second Wild Card, that spot is currently held by three teams: the Orioles, White Sox, and Athletics. On top of that, the Rays are also a game ahead of the Red Sox, and the Blue Jays and Indians are just half a game behind. In all, this makes seven teams who find themselves within just three games of that one spot–a spot that, it should be noted, is only rewarded with a road trip and a one-game series with the first Wild Card holder.

Making matters more difficult for the Red Sox is the fact that their schedule in the days before July 31 is the most difficult one imaginable. After this afternoon’s game in Toronto, they must fly down to Texas to play three with the Rangers; then, after a travel day on Thursday, they will be in New York to play three against the Yankees. If we’re being honest with ourselves, the Red Sox would be lucky to win even two of those six games; if they did, and won today, they’d enter July 30 at an even .500, and almost certainly with a bigger gap to close to reach the playoffs.

Given the immediate difficulty of the schedule, the number of teams that would need to be overcome, the relative lack of value in the prize to be obtained, and the fact that the Red Sox have so very few prospects of enough value to net a substantial improvement, I think it would be foolish to suggest that they should be buyers. This could change, of course; if they should somehow win both of the series with the Rangers and Yankees, or if every other team should falter, or if Theo Epstein should somehow decide that Jose Iglesias is fair compensation for a year and a half of Matt Garza, that would be wonderful. But right now, entering play on July 22, the Red Sox should be looking for true contenders who may be interested in Cody Ross in Kelly Shoppach, not offering up top prospects for pointless rentals.

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