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. Think of it as Model UN but with a luxury tax.
Last time, Dodgers writer Matthew Moreno and I constructed a megadeal for outfielder Matt Kemp.
This time, representing the Atlanta Braves: Jordan Hill
Alex: Alright, Jordan, here’s the deal. There have been several reports that the Atlanta Braves are in need of a veteran starter to be a more consistent presence alongside their young hurlers. The Red Sox, as of now, have six starting pitchers, not to mention the half dozen or so pitchers in Triple and Double A who could see a start some time this season. With the Napoli signing (and my deal for Matt Kemp), the Sox need to clear some salary space to stay under the luxury tax, and letting one of their surplus starters go is the best way to go about it.
Are the reports that the Braves are searching for a pitcher true? I know losing Tim Hudson hurt.
Jordan: The reports concerning Atlanta’s need for a veteran hurler are spot-on. The Braves have leaned on Tim Hudson ever since he came to Atlanta from Oakland, but his departure for San Francisco leaves a huge question mark concerning the 2014 rotation.
Atlanta has some great young pitchers in Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, and Julio Teheran, but the rest of the potential starters are a bit questionable. Brandon Beachy looked like Atlanta’s ace in 2012 before having to undergo Tommy John’s surgery, and he just did not look the same in the few games he pitched in the majors last season, posting a 4.50 ERA in five starts. Alex Wood’s play in the second half of last season (3-3 record with a 3.13 ERA and 77 strikeouts) gives him a compelling argument, but his inexperience still leaves some concern once he has to take his spot on the mound every fifth day. The same can be said of Princeton graduate David Hale, the twenty-six year old who was not called up until September but did break the Braves’ franchise record for strikeouts in a debut with nine.
The Braves will certainly be looking around the league for a proven starter that can join Medlen, Minor, Teheran, and either Beachy or Hale, but they will only pull the trigger given the right price; Atlanta has a multitude of talented young players, but also boasts a history of holding their pieces and allowing them to develop for their future teams. Which veterans will the Red Sox possibly be willing to part ways with, and what does the team want in return?
Alex: This is where things get tricky for the Red Sox. I think Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester are pretty untouchable at this point. Buchholz still has immense potential if he can stay healthy, and if Lester got traded after his playoff performance, I think there’d be a riot. The other four though…
I’ve never had as big a 180 on a Boston athlete as I did with John Lackey this past year. Dude turned into a bulldog, toughing out games, and snarling and stomping off the mound after every strikeout, furious when Farrell comes to pick him up. Felix Doubront looked good as a long reliever in the playoffs, and is definitely improving, not to mention that he’s young and under club control.
Jake Peavy and Ryan Dempster are both beloved vet presences in Boston, but are the priciest of the four (Peavy is owed 14.5mil this year, with a player option in 2015, and Dempster is on the hook for one more year at 13.25mil). I think the Sox would be more willing to entertain offers for those two, not because of their performance, but just because of their age/cost.
As for what the Red Sox are looking for, it’s prospects. The team will always love to take on a pitching prospect, but are also looking to stock the farm at the outfield position and maybe a first baseman with power potential (no matter how raw).
That being said, the prestige of the prospect depends on which pitcher the Braves target. Out of the four, who do you think Atlanta would want the most, taking into consideration what the Sox would ask for in return?
Jordan: I agree with Buchholz and Lester being off limits, and frankly even if Boston was listening to offers the Braves would not be able to give up enough to bring those guys into the fold.
There were three starting pitchers that I had in mind from the Red Sox, and you just named all three. However, I have some real concerns with Lackey and Dempster. Lackey has never pitched in the National League, and although he did play a lot better last season and in the playoffs, he simply has not been the same since he left the Angels.
A trade for Dempster would not be the first time the thirty-six year old has been connected to the Braves, as he was nearly traded to the team back in the summer of 2012. However, it is this very incident that I believe will keep him from being moved; Atlanta and Chicago had agreed in principle to the trade, but Dempster balked on the decision, reportedly because he did not want to move his family of four so far away. The Braves may understandably shy away from pursuing Dempster again due to both this and his combined 4.84 ERA in his stints with the Rangers and the Red Sox.
The ideal target for the Braves is Jake Peavy. Peavy’s name was linked from time to time to the Braves during trade talks going back to his time as a San Diego Padre, although these talks proved to only be rumors. The Red Sox won all three games Peavy pitched in the 2013 postseason which may make moving him unlikely, but doing so would be a win/win for all of those involved: Atlanta gets a reliable veteran pitcher who they would be on the hook for two years at the minimum (only one if Peavy opts out), Boston alleviates some of the room that Peavy’s contract takes up and gets even better for the future thanks to their acquisitions in the trade, and Peavy becomes the veteran leader for a new club while also still possessing his World Series ring (and duck boat) from his time with the Red Sox.
As far as prospects are concerned, it appears that Boston can practically take their pick for Peavy’s services. Among those to consider would be left fielder/short stop Jose Peraza, who has great speed and a plus glove; first baseman/outfielder Joey Terdoslavich, who hit .318 with the AAA Gwinnett Braves along with a .215 average in fifty-five games with the Atlanta Braves last year and happens to be the nephew of former Red Sox outfielder Mike Greenwell; and right-hander Mauricio Cabrera, the hard-throwing twenty-year old whose potential seems to be as high as the radar gun measuring his pitch speed (has topped out at 100 MPH).
Alex: Alright, Peavy it is. I think as much as the Sox will miss him (and as disappointed as I’ll be to miss the Pierzynski/Peavy Reunion), moving helps clear cap space and a rotation spot, leaving Brandon Workman to battle it out with Dempster (if he stays) for the fifth spot . The Red Sox gave up Jose Iglesias for Peavy (we miss u Iggy), and would hope to get a similar return.
The Red Sox would be quite happy with Mauricio Cabrera as the centerpiece of this deal. While he needs to develop another pitch next to his plus-plus fastball, and he has a lot of command issues, he’d have plenty of time to work it out, as there are four to five highly prized pitching prospects ahead of him in the Sox system. He would start off in Greenville, and slowly make his way up the ranks.
I think the deal could be rounded out with a mid-level outfielder prospect. While I like Terdoslavich, he’s 25 and already logging major-league at-bats. I think the Sox would hope for someone to develop for a year or two more. I also love Peraza, but I don’t see the Braves giving up Cabrera and Peraza for Peavy.
So I’ll throw out three outfield names in the Braves minor leagues: Matt Lipka, Robby Hefflinger, and Josh Elander.
Could either of those three find their way to Fenway?
Jordan: Of the three players named, it would appear to me as though Hefflinger would be the piece that would be the likeliest to be moved: Lipka was the Braves’ first round pick back in 2010, making his move unlikely, and Elander’s impressive play in his first two seasons within the Braves’ organization should result in his continued progression up the minor league ladder.
There is a lot to like in Hefflinger, the 6’5”, 225 lb. Buford, Georgia native who is very raw but has great potential at the plate. Hefflinger’s size results in an impressive amount of power, and through five seasons of minor league play he has hit 64 home runs and driven in 294 runs. Unfortunately, with this home run capability comes a price: Hefflinger tends to strike out a considerable amount of the time.
Last season was a bit of a struggle for the twenty-three year old, as he finished the season with 135 strikeouts in 127 games at the A+ and AA level. Hefflinger has plenty of potential and can be very dangerous if he develops patience at the plate. Giving up Cabrera and a hitter like Hefflinger may leave some Braves’ scouts wincing, but the return of Peavy would certainly bolster Atlanta’s rotation and chances in 2014.
Alex: Hefflinger is definitely a prospect that would interest Red Sox brass. He’s got great power potential, and I like his size (he could possibly be moved to first if his glove doesn’t catch up with his bat). Hefflinger’s plate discipline is definitely a worry (and at 23 he doesn’t have a ton of time to develop) but the Red Sox organization is so focused on getting their young hitters to focus on drawing walks, that it may help him out.
So here’s my offer:
Braves receive: SP Jake Peavy, RP Alex Wilson
Red Sox receive: SP Mauricio Cabrera, OF Robby Hefflinger
Alex Wilson is a good young reliever, who was often placed into thankless spots in his first major league season (he pitched a lot better than his 4.88 ERA) but at this point he’s 8th on the bullpen depth chart. He’s still on his rookie contract, and is under team control for a while. Hopefully that helps the loss of Cabrera/Hefflinger go down a bit easier?
Jordan: This deal seems like a home run from the Atlanta Braves’ perspective. Not only does Atlanta add Peavy, but they also bring in a valuable arm for a bullpen that is in danger of losing Eric O’Flaherty to free agency. It is never a good decision to make a habit of trading away young talent, but if it done sparingly and for the right players, it can work out. Show me where I sign off on this one!
Alex: My god, an actual win-win. Braves get the vet they want. Sox dump salary and pick up some young talent. We’re good at this.
But what do you think? Is this a good deal for the Sox? A steal for the Braves? 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 Jordan Hill here at iSportsWeb. Keep an eye for the next installment of Playing GM on Tuesday or Wednesday.