It’s not lost on, well, anyone, that the upcoming games are pretty significant for the Boston Red Sox.
But the impact of those contests most likely will shape not only the 2019 squad, but how the team looks for years to come.
Entering Sunday’s action, the Red Sox trail the New York Yankees by 11 games for the American League East lead. Meanwhile, they are three games behind the Oakland Athletics and Cleveland Indians, who own the two wild card spots. And just two games out of the wild card and one contest ahead of the Red Sox is the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Red Sox on Sunday will close out a three-game set with the lowly Baltimore Orioles. From there, Boston’s schedule for the next two weeks is as follows:
— Three games against the Rays at Tampa
— Four games at home against the Yankees
— One day off
— Three games at home against Tampa
— Four games against the Yankees in New York
That’s right, the Red Sox’s next 14 games will be against the Yankees and Rays.
Now, it’s probably fair to assume the Red Sox are not catching the Yankees. New York simply has been too good this season, and even if the Red Sox were to catch fire, it seems hard to believe the Yankees would relinquish an 11-game lead.
By the time the July 31 trade deadline hits, the Red Sox will have played eight of those 14 games. At that point, the Red Sox likely will know where they stand in terms of playoff contention, and that very well might (and probably should) determine if they are buyers or sellers at the trade deadline.
And that’s where future Red Sox squads will be impacted.
Say the Red Sox start getting steamrolled and end up even further back in the wild card race, might they consider moving players to acquire future assets? Lest we forget in 2014 the Red Sox held a firesale at the deadline, selling off key parts of a squad that had made a memorable World Series run just months earlier. With those deals, the Red Sox in return landed the likes of Marco Hernandez (as a player to be named later), Eduardo Rodriguez, Heath Hembree and Joe Kelly. Those were not insignificant acquisitions, especially since the latter three played important roles for the 2018 championship-winning Red Sox. If the Red Sox need binoculars to see the wild card spots by next week, that might end up being the most prudent approach, even if it is a gut-punch.
However, the Red Sox remain committed to trying to win now with this current group, so one has to think they might try to be a little active ahead of the deadline (just look at the reported activity of some of their scouts). If the Red Sox play well in the upcoming week, they might stick to being buyers at the deadline. And if they really play well over the next couple weeks, then a fun August and September could be on deck. It’s a gamble that would have an impact on Red Sox teams down the road, but if you can win now, why not do it?
The Red Sox really are teetering on the edge. They’re enough in the thick of the postseason race to where being buyers at the trade deadline would be understandable. After all, it was just last October that pretty much this exact same group made a memorable postseason run — so who’s to say they couldn’t do it again if they just get themselves into the playoffs? Conversely, they’re one bad stretch away from their season effectively being over in late July/early August.
All told, these upcoming games probably will more or less steer the Red Sox in a direction that will impact them well beyond this season.