Ten Boston Red Sox Who Need a Big Finish to Avoid Being Dumped
The Boston Red Sox are in a transitionary period right now.
We know this.
It was clearly evidenced by the recent blockbuster trade that sent Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and a bat boy named Nick Punto to the Los Angeles Dodgersin exchange for bust first baseman James Loney and a handful of prospects.
Don't expect the changes to stop there.
Jon Lester and Jacoby Ellsbury are currently the two Red Sox players on waivers, and while this doesn't necessarily indicate that the two All-Stars are trade bait, it does imply that Boston isn't finished cleaning house.
With that being said, Lester and Ellsbury are just two of many players on the team that need to finish 2012 strong if they plan on sticking around for 2013.
Lester is safely under contract through next season with a club option for 2014, but it jumps in salary from $7.652 million this season to $11.625 million next year.
That's quite a raise for a pitcher who is currently 8-10 with a 4.98 ERA.
If Lester intends on making sure the Sox don't shop him around this winter, promoting a change of scenery as a selling point, the southpaw should do his best to turn in a solid September.
Especially because Red Sox Nation would never let him hear the end of it if he had two less-than-stellar Septembers in a row.
Ellsbury can become a free agent in 2013.
One small problem: he's hitting .266 with one home run and 14 RBI in 47 games.
The Red Sox know what he's capable of, so it's likely they'll tell him to go ahead and see what the numbers of a utility outfielder get on the open market.
If Ellsbury plans on getting the financial dollars that he and agent Scott Boras are planning on seeing, he'll have to up his play over the last month to ensure the Sox will have competition during free agency.
Pedroia was once thought to be the future face of the franchise, but after a dismal first half, the diminutive second baseman has greatly picked things up.
His contract runs through 2014, so he's safe for now.
But if he returns to being the hitter that hit .266 with six home runs in the first half of the season, Pedroia could find himself being swept away as part of the house-cleaning by suddenly-bold general manager Ben "Cinderella" Cherington.
(Get it? Cinderella? Sweeping? OK, it was kind of a stretch.)
Red Sox Nation fell in love with the catcher lovingly deemed "Saltalamaggio" after a surprising first half, but the 27-year-old is batting just .211 since the All-Star break.
If he doesn't pick it up, Saltalamacchia could find himself losing his starting catching position to Ryan Lavarnway, or even worse, not even being brought back at all.
Though he has picked it up over the past two weeks, much like Saltalamacchia, Aviles needs to return to the first-half form he broke out with.
After hitting .260 with nine home runs and 44 RBI to open the season, the shortstop is batting just .237 with four homers and 13 RBI in the second half.
If Jose Iglesias somehow develops an offensive game and Aviles doesn't light it up in September, the 31-year-old might not be back in 2013.
Yes, he was just acquired in the Dodgers trade, but Loney has vastly under performed in his seven-year career, and he can't justify the $6.375 million he's making this season.
September will be the month to show Boston what he's made of if he plans to not only be back next year, but also garner a contract in any sort of similar price range.
The 2009 AL Rookie of the Year has been solid in his first six games with the Red Sox since coming off the disabled list for the first time in 2012, but it'll be tough for him to establish himself as a reliable and irreplaceable reliever/closer unless he's lights out over the next month.
Bailey will likely be back in 2013, but Boston still needs to see more from him before exploring other options for the closer role.
After being removed from the closer role last week and subsequently suspended for three games for complaining about it, there is the slightest of chances that Aceves will be be back in 2013.
The reliever will almost literally have to allow zero runs and/or hits in all of his appearances in September for the Sox to consider bringing the 29-year-old back.
Miller was a nice surprise in the first half, when he held batters to a .191 average and sported a 2.75 ERA.
The lefty has struggled since, posting a 5.27 ERA in the past 18 appearances and will find himself on the bubble when management is looking at whom to bring back next year.
Unless Miller ups his game in September, the once-promising prospect will again find himself on another squad.
Sweeney was productive at times before breaking his hand by punching a wall on July 30, forcing him to likely miss the remainder of the season.
The road to ensuring his return to Boston in 2013 will be challenging, but if the outfielder can lead the cheering from the dugout as the team plays mop-up baseball in September, he'll have a shot.
OK, maybe not.