Yes, it's early, but the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox are in dire straits. Their two-game sweep at the hands of the Yankees this week dropped their record to 6-13 on the season. Only the Reds (5-12) and Marlins (4-15) are worse, and only the Marlins (minus-49) have a worse run differential than Boston (minus-42).
Following Wednesday's brutal late-inning blown lead loss (NYY 5, BOS 3), Red Sox hurler David Price did not mince words when asked what'll happen if the team doesn't improve. He told reporters, including Alex Speier of the Boston Globe, the front office could trade players away the deadline. From Speier:
"If we don't start playing better, J.D. Martinez, Mookie Betts, maybe myself, we could get traded," he said. "We're, what, 30th in minor league systems?"
Price was referencing Baseball America's recent organizational evaluations that did indeed rank the Red Sox with the No. 30 farm system."We're dead last," he said.
"We don't play better, Mookie Betts will be traded, J.D. Martinez will be traded. It will be tough for a while here."
Baseball America ranked the Red Sox's farm system the worst in baseball before this season, saying they have "cashed in their best prospects to bolster the major league club (through trades). Baseball Prospectus also ranked Boston's system as the worst in baseball.
Anyway, Price is speaking from experience here. The struggling Rays traded him to the Tigers at the 2014 deadline, and the last place Tigers then traded him to the Blue Jays at the 2015 deadline. He's been through deadline sell-offs before and knows what the early signs look like.
Betts can become a free agent following next season and has indicated. Martinez can opt-out of his contract after this season and next season. Price is owed roughly $127 million through 2022, so there might not be much of a market for him, but the other guys? You bet.
That all said, the Red Sox have the game's largest payroll and they are all-in on winning with this core right now. It is not really in president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski's DNA to conduct a deadline fire sale. I think it's more likely the Red Sox will add pieces to try to prop this group up than trade players away.
There is a single July 31 trade deadline now -- August trade waivers are a thing of the past -- which means the Red Sox (and every other team) will have less time to decide whether to buy or sell. Should the Red Sox sell if they keep losing? They'd have to consider it. Will they actually do it though? That's another matter.