Playing GM is a mini article series, in which I, Alex Peters, play out my wildest dreams and (hypothetically) place myself in the beautiful golden throne that is the Boston Red Sox General Manager chair. Helping me will be another Baseball Correspondent at iSportsWeb, representing their team, as we hash out potential trades both small and mega, with the Winter Meetings rapidly approaching.
Representing the Los Angeles Dodgers: Matthew Moreno.
Alex: Alright Matt, here’s the deal. There have been two trades since the ’04 World Series that were a huge part of my life: The Manny Ramirez-Jason Bay trade in 2008 and the A-Gon/Crawford/Beckett fire sale in 2012. And, as the Los Angeles Dodgers were the prime trade partners in both trades, I figure why not keep this up? Because I see that there’s a bit of an outfield controversy in the City of Angels…
Who’s the odd man out, and how can we, the Red Sox, help?
Matt: Well, what’s interesting is had we had this discussion maybe a month or so ago, my answer would have been Andre Ethier. But currently, the odd man out may actually be Matt Kemp.
According to reports, the Dodgers have been taking calls on Kemp, and while nothing appears to be imminent, the news is somewhat surprising. Kemp is still under an enormous contract, and he’s been injury prone. Those two issues would lead one to believe Kemp isn’t exactly tradeable. Plus, Kemp is 29, which you would think would entice the Dodgers into holding onto him. Conversely, Ethier is 31, and has had up and down seasons recently.
Of course with the Red Sox losing Jacoby Ellsbury to the Yankees, the Dodgers and Red Sox may again be the perfect trade partners.
As the roster currently stands, the Dodgers could use a second baseman, though I doubt Dustin Pedroia would be an option. Outside of that, perhaps a third baseman, but I have a hunch Juan Uribe will eventually be signed. A quality relief pitcher or two would also be welcomed, but I’m not sure which one(s) the Red Sox would be willing to part ways with?
Alex: Oh, Matt, you read my mind. Los Angeles wants Puig, Boston doesn’t want Crawford, and nobody really wants Ethier. If there’s a trade, it’s going to be around Matt Kemp.
First, let me clarify where the Sox are coming from. As it is, Shane Victorino (former Dodger) will be locking down right field. In center field, the Red Sox would like to see what they have in Jackie Bradley Jr, who may very well become Ellsbury’s heir, but is still quite young. Kemp, a bat who, when healthy, could tear Fenway apart, could either play center and ease Bradley’s transition to the majors, or move to left (where his average defense becomes above-average). This allows Jonny Gomes and Daniel Nava to be most efficient as platoon/bench players (with Nava possibly being the Sox’s starting 1st baseman should Mike Napoli not return).
But now the return. In terms of bullpen (with our recent signing of Edward Mujica) we’ve got parts to spare. Drake Britton is a young power lefty who impressed in his first major league stint, and perhaps you’d want Rubby De La Rosa back?
It seems to me that the Dodgers farm system is a little light, which is a particular strength of Boston’s. Would the Dodgers want prospects back or are they looking for established everyday talent for Kemp? Or both?
Matt: I don’t think replacing Kemp would be an issue, at least in terms of having an outfielder. Replacing his production, or potential production, however, may be an issue. But even that may not be a problem as Kemp has struggled for much of the last two seasons.
I would imagine Ethier is again slid over to center field, which is where he played when Kemp was injured. Puig remains in right field, and left field is platooned between Crawford and Scott Van Slyke, or someone similar. The Dodgers still have outfielder Joc Pederson in their minor league system, and he was thought to be comparable to Puig. Perhaps Pederson gets his opportunity next season.
Britton could be an attractive piece, especially if the Dodgers lose J.P. Howell to free agency, but I don’t know if him being the centerpiece would be attractive enough.
That being said, I don’t think it stands beyond reason that the Dodgers would be opposed to acquiring a collection of prospects in order to flip over to Tampa Bay for David Price.
Alex: Prospects it is (and it’s prospects we’ve got). There are a few Red Sox players who are untouchable: Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Garin Cecchini, Blake Swihart, our Double-A pitching trio (Anthony Ranaudo, Henry Owens, Matt Barnes), and Trey Ball, who the Sox just drafted. Everyone else might be in the conversation.
I think I’m personally a lot more down on Allen Webster than most, but he’s still in our Top 5 prospects. Another possibility is Rubby De La Rosa, who is downright electric, but, with his gradual recovery from injury, has gotten lost in the Red Sox pitching shuffle.
I think another possibility is 2B Mookie Betts (one of the most intriguing players in the Sox system) or SS Deven Marrero. I’m guessing the Dodgers don’t see Juan Uribe as a long-term answer at third, and I also don’t think Hanley will be suited for short much longer. Either of those two could be a prospect the Dodgers could groom to fill that vacancy.
But before we go any further, let’s address the elephant in the room: Matt Kemp’s gargantuan contract for 6 years, $128 mil. The Red Sox have finally cured their mega-spending ways, and may not be itching to take on another monstrosity. Would the Dodgers be willing to eat some of Kemp’s contract?
Matt: Yes, Uribe certainly is not a long-term solution. The idea is if he is re-signed, that it is only for one or two seasons. The wildcard is Cuban infielder Alex Guerrero. He may end up the starting second baseman, but he can also play shortstop. That would conceivably give the Dodgers some flexibility with respect to which infielder they possibly take from the Red Sox.
With that in mind, I believe your notion that Betts and/or Marrero could be prime candidates to head west is correct.
I think whether or not the Dodgers are willing to absorb some of Kemp’s salary depends on how pleased they would be with the pieces they are receiving in return. Also, they still need to sign Clayton Kershaw, which will probably cost them upwards of $200 million. And of course they may be in the mix for Masahiro Tanaka, which would be another costly signing.
All of that put together, and I can’t imagine the Dodgers paying much, if any, of Kemp’s remaining salary.
Alex: Well then, there’s the crossroads. Kemp’s contract makes him a $21 mil a year player, which he hasn’t played like for a while (if the Dodgers took $20 mil off of that, it’d be a lot easier to swallow). If the Red Sox are going to take on his whole contract, then the untouchable prospects are going to remain that way.
So here’s my initial offer:
Red Sox receive Matt Kemp, contract intact.
Dodgers receive Mookie Betts, Allen Webster, Drake Britton
What do you think of that?
Matt: That’s an attractive offer, particularly with the Red Sox agreeing to assume the full amount remaining on Kemp’s contract.
Betts and Britton are pieces that could be valuable, but Webster wouldn’t necessarily fit in. Starting pitching isn’t a concern unless it’s regarding Price and/or Tanaka.
The team has lost Nick Punto and Skip Schumaker. Do the Red Sox have a similar utility player?
Alex: Unfortunately, the Red Sox are also looking for a utility infielder, but we’re looking for another bat rather than defensive security. A player who could help you there is Jonathan Diaz, who can play second, short, and third pretty handily, even if his bat is still maturing. So offer #2:
Dodgers get: Rubby De La Rosa, Mookie Betts, Drake Britton, Jonathan Diaz
While Webster is pretty much only a starting option, Rubby has the firepower to be a killer reliever if the Dodgers wanted to put him there, until the day when Beckett/Haren/Billingsley eventually pack it in. Diaz should only be used as a defensive sub or a pinch runner, but could still be useful.
How does that strike you?
Matt: I think we’ve got a deal that is satisfactory for both parties.
Alex: And they say being a GM is hard.
(Update 12/10: Jon Heyman reports that the Red Sox have moved on from considering Matt Kemp as a potential trade target. Ah well. Fun while it lasted.)
But what do you think? Is this a good deal for the Sox? A steal for the Dodgers? Leave your suggested deals in the comments, or any suggestions for other players across the league the Sox should pursue.
You can read more of Matthew Moreno here at iSportsWeb. Keep an eye for the next installment of Playing GM on Monday or Tuesday.