In 2012, the Boston Red Sox had a bloated payroll filled with bad contracts. They were a bad team that finished with 90 losses for the first time since 1965. They opted for a wholesale overhaul of the team in the wake of their September 2011 collapse and 2012 regular season disaster. They were able to unload the contracts of Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford on the Dodgers. Then they used the offseason to sign less heralded free agents like Shane Victorino, Stephen Drew, Jonny Gomes and Koji Uehara. They got their payroll under control and then went on to have a dream season ending in a World Series win. One season later, however, the Red Sox are back in last place and selling off parts. They have already traded Felix Doubront and Jake Peavy. John Lackey has been dealt to St. Louis, and Jon Lester is now in Oakland.
Meanwhile, the Yankees have gone from first place in 2012 to third place in 2013 to third place again in 2014. The Yankees have reduced their payroll slightly over the last two years but remain in the top five in the majors. They have several bad long term contacts and have been devastated by injuries the past two seasons. However, while their Boston counterparts have been able to shed many of those overpriced players, the Yankees have been unable to turn any aging veterans into prospects. Rebuilding is a dirty word in the Bronx and the Bombers are consistently in the hunt for a playoff spot so the win now mantra prevails. But the price of that mindset may be continued mediocrity.
Only time will tell if the Red Sox made the right moves in trading their veterans for prospects and some top big league talent such as Yoenis Cespedes and Allen Craig. The prospects may turn out to be fantastic players who lead the Red Sox back to greatness, or they could be total flops. That’s the biggest problem with prospects, no one truly knows how they will turn out. Ask a Yankee fan about Brien Taylor, Drew Henson or Eric Duncan now and most will have forgotten about them, but in years past they were once the best prospects in the system and should not have been traded at any cost. However, a combination of bar fights and inability to hit a curveball changed that thinking. None of the three ever made the majors. Prospects are simply the Forest Gump box of chocolates: You never know what you are going to get.
As the trade deadline approaches, the Yankees have been able to make modest improvements for the second half of the season in Brandon McCarthy, Chase Headley and Chris Capuano. However, they have lacked the prospects needed to get a real difference maker such as David Price or Cole Hamels. This leaves them as an average to above average team but certainly not an elite team. This is a team with four of its opening day starters on the DL. This is a lineup that struggles to score runs. This is a very flawed team. And yet it remains in the hunt for a playoff spot, and once you get to the dance anything can happen.
As the Yankees and Red Sox open a three game series on Friday, team going in different directions and with vastly different mindsets will be on display. In one dugout will be the Red Sox, a last place team in the midst of a fire sale, ridding themselves of payroll and stocking themselves with minor league talent. They are a team that has completely given up on 2014 and are solely focused on 2015. On the other side are the Yankees, a middle of the pack team desperately trying to get one more playoff run out of Derek Jeter. They are a team rife with bad contracts and huge payroll that remains deficient in several key aspects of the game. If 2015 even comes up, it is referred to as when some of their injured players such as Ivan Nova and CC Sabathia might return, not something that should be looked forward to.