HOUSTON — It's all about trade value now — establishing it, keeping it, and executing it.
Toward that end, the Red Sox saw mixed reviews amid an eight-game losing streak and 0-7 road trip, which culminated in a 5-4 walkoff loss to the Houston Astros Thursday night.
Thumbs up: Mike Napoli homered and doubled twice and got his average over .200. Another trade candidate, Ryan Hanigan, singled in four trips.
Neutral: Shane Victorino and Daniel Nava were idle. Koji Uehara did not pitch.
Thumbs down: The Red Sox might want to stop using Alexi Ogando. Colby Rasmus homered against him in the seventh inning. Junichi Tazawa, also being watched by other teams, allowed three hits and one run in a third of an inning. Alejandro De Aza went 0 for 4.
Yes, scouts are still watching the Red Sox looking for that extra piece for their contending teams. Why not look at Boston, which has a few veterans who could help contenders?
And there are scouts looking at Boston's depth in the minors.
Jackie Bradley Jr. is drawing interest for his defense, if nothing else. And the fact he's hitting, and hitting for power, hasn't hurt the interest in him.
"First off, he's a lefthanded bat who is having success in Triple A, but the reason any team would want him now is for his defense in center field and all over the outfield," said one American League adviser. "Defense becomes very important to contending teams and this kid is the best. You're not going to find a better defensive outfielder who could be available in a trade. It seems you could get a decent reliever for him. Doubt anyone gives you a starting pitcher, but a need-for-need type of trade."
Allen Craig hasn't been convincing, hitting .260 in Triple A, but who knows, a righthanded bat for a contending team from a guy who has been a superb postseason hitter?
If Napoli starts to hit, his value is similar to Craig's — they both have hit well in the postseason.
"Who isn't looking for righthanded pop?" said the AL adviser. "You look for guys who are getting hot with the bat. It doesn't matter what they've done the first two-thirds of the season, if they're hitting now you go get them. Look at Gerardo Parra in Milwaukee. He's red-hot right now. Now's the time to get a bat like that.
"Napoli's always been a streaky guy, so you get him on the upswing, he could impact your team. I think a lot of teams think Napoli is done, but there are a few teams out there who keep watching and you see signs that maybe he isn't."
Victorino is also intriguing, as a platoon player against lefthanders. His conversion to a strictly righthanded hitter has hurt his value. But teams love the defense and energy, although they are worried he can't stay healthy. Teams love experienced players at crunch time, especially those who have won championships, and Victorino has won two.
Hanigan is a catcher who can blend into any contending team and have an immediate impact on the pitching staff. The Red Sox will likely hold onto him with one year remaining on his contract, simply because Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez need some time to grow up in the big leagues.
Teams also have shown interest in Wade Miley, but again, the Red Sox will likely prefer to keep Miley, who is under contract at reasonable money and fills a spot in the middle of the rotation.
The Red Sox are trying to add to their pitching and would make a deal for a controllable pitcher such as Cleveland's Carlos Carrasco, who is 10-7 and could be available. Otherwise, they are likely to wait until the end of the season and opt for a free agent ace.
Unlike in 2014, the Red Sox do not have major pending free agents that could land them significant players.
Last season, the team dealt Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jake Peavy, Felix Doubront, and Andrew Miller and got back several players, a combination of major and minor leaguers.
The Miller deal yielded Eduardo Rodriguez, but the Red Sox made a major mistake in not going the extra mile to sign Miller in free agency, and he went to the Yankees for $1 million more per year over four years.
Uehara would likely get them their biggest yield because of a closer's importance.
So, if you're wondering why the Red Sox would hold onto veterans at the end of contracts, it's likely going to be the case from now until the July 31 trade deadline, and possibly beyond, when the Sox can pass players through waivers, and if they're claimed can make a trade that way.
Might as well get something for them rather than release them and eat the money.
If the Red Sox had a possible buyer for Napoli, they would likely have to subsidize some of the remaining $7 million on his $16 million deal. Likewise with Victorino on what's left of his $13 million deal.
These were two key players on the 2013 championship team. They produced big plays and hits. Both are hard-working, lunchpail players who care about the team.
Napoli has taken his poor performance to heart and Victorino has been as frustrated as anyone about his breakdowns earlier this season. Both were looking forward to their next contracts, but now their futures are in doubt.
But if they show some life, they may have a fun second half with a contending team.