You hear that far-off rumbling in the distance? That’s the MLB trade deadline, and all the nonsense that comes along with it. There’s nothing quite like it in any sport: because of the sheer depth of trade assets that every team has (because of their minor league systems, in which they have the rights to trade any player), pretty much anything can happen, and star players can go for prized prospects who haven’t even seen Triple-A ball yet.
The Boston Red Sox are in a fuzzy situation in all of this hubbub. They sit at 39-5o in an admittedly weak AL East division, and are, by all accounts, out of the playoff race. But there’s an overwhelming feeling (rational or not) that the pieces are there to succeed, they’re just not all clicking at the same times. The rotation’s been good overall, the bullpen’s often been spectacular, and the offense has had their moments.
Actually, scratch that, the Red Sox offense haven’t had their moments. They’ve been silent, and, after last night’s game, they sit last in the AL in runs scored a game. That’s insane. So if the Red Sox are going to make a playoff push, they’ll need offense, or, at the very least, another ace who can give the team another shot at a win with little offense every five days.
I cannot stress how silly and useless an exercise this is. But it’s fun. Below you’ll find four potential trades, should the Red Sox be buyers this trade deadline, ranked from most to least reasonable. Here we go:
Boston Red Sox get: Alex Rios
Texas Rangers get: Brian Johnson, Alex Wilson
That Alex Rios would be the most “gettable” of these four trade possibilities seems a little crazy. That the Texas Rangers would be willing to give up a player who’s hitting .304/.333/.438 is also a little crazy.
But the truth is, the Texas Rangers aren’t the perennial contender that they have been. Despite Yu Darvish’s every efforts to single-handedly carry the team to the postseason, the Rangers, ravaged by injury, sit at 38-50, staring up at Oakland, Los Angeles, and Seattle, who are all well above .500. This season is effectively over.
And unfortunately, after spinning away their prized prospects to pull in their big-name players, their farm, especially in pitching, is mighty weak. As such, Texas is suspected to trade away any veterans who can net some youth in return, and reset for next year.
Rios, who’s entering a contract year, is an obvious player to be moved, especially as he’s one of the lone offensive contributors to the team. The fit on the Red Sox is obvious: he’s a dependable defensive presence, and one who could manage playing in right pretty easily, but more importantly his bat would make him the Red Sox’ most effective outfielder by a huge margin. The little things (his familiarity with Fenway Park as a long time Blue Jay, his contributions on the basepaths), would make Rios a very useful, if not electric, acquisition.
But what would it take to get him? Like I said above, the Rangers desperately need pitching in their minor league system, as their once-prize-jewels Martin Perez and Neftali Feliz have already graduated to the big leagues. The good news is, the Red Sox have oodles of pitching prospects. One good choice might be Brian Johnson. The 6’3 lefty has been remarkably consistent in his time in the Red Sox system, and has put up a bananas 7-1 with a 1.73 ERA in Portland. Because of the depth in the Red Sox’ minors, Brian Johnson is probably situated somewhere in the back end of the Top 20; with nearly every other organization, he’s a Top 10 talent. Throwing in a promising bullpen arm in Alex Wilson to sweeten the deal should be enough to convince Texas, and would be a win-win for two struggling teams, with two different intentions for the season.
Boston Red Sox get: Matt Kemp, cash
Los Angeles Dodgers get: AJ Pierzynski, Anthony Ranaudo, Burke Badenhop
That’s right! Matt Kemp is the second most reasonable potential trade target!! I told you this was a stupid exercise…
Right, so you’ve heard all the reasons why Matt Kemp is probably available. The Dodgers not only have four high-level, and not to mention high-paid (or at least Yasiel Puig will be soon), outfielders that they’re planning on juggling. Not to mention prized 22-year old prospect Joc Pedersen, who’s hitting .319/.437/.568 with 17 HR and 20 SB, like some bizarro Pablo Sanchez on easy-mode.
So let’s say the Dodgers are smart and make Yasiel Puig (an unbelievable talent, cheap for now, a huge draw for Cuban fans) and Pedersen pretty much unavailable. The Red Sox have been linked to Andre Ethier because of his friendship with Dustin Pedroia, which he’d be fine if he was as reliable a hitter as his contract would suggest, which…uh..he’s not. And for the most obvious of reasons, Carl Crawford I think would rather not play at all than play for the Red Sox again.
Nope, if the Red Sox are going to try and swing a deal for a Dodgers outfielder, it’s gonna be Matt Kemp. The bad news is, Kemp is seriously struggling, hitting .268/.329/.439 on the season, and still struggling with injuries. He’s also sulking because Don Mattingly isn’t playing him in center, where he thinks he belongs. The good news is, that means his trade value’s pretty low at the moment, and he might be rounding the bend, as he put up a much more impressive June (.317/.375/.525).
The problem is, and always has been, Kemp’s salary. 20mil a year until 2019 is a hefty price to play for a one-time MVP candidate, whose game has basically plummeted. The only way the Red Sox would ever consider trading for Kemp is if Los Angeles eats some of Kemp’s contract (which doesn’t seem like too much of an issue, the way they spend). But that does mean, hypothetically, sending back some actual talent.
Let’s start with the centerpiece: the Dodgers are going to undoubtedly ask for one of Boston’s premiere pitching prospects. While there is a conversation to be had, certainly, I do think that Ben Cherington will do everything in his power to hold onto Henry Owens. But the dropoff between Owens and Triple-A pitcher Anthony Ranaudo isn’t that steep. Put it this way, this trade’s gonna sting no matter what.
The 6-7 Ranaudo has had no real trouble with Triple-A batting, going 9-4 with a 2.66 ERA to start off the year, and, if it weren’t for Boston’s confused rotation situation, he’d almost certainly be pitching in Fenway in one capacity or another. The Dodger’s starting rotation has actually been amazing this season, headlined by the indomitable Clayton Kershaw. But Josh Beckett and Dan Haren are both getting up there in years, Haren already showing signs of losing his mojo. Ranaudo could immediately jump into either Los Angeles’ Triple-A rotation, or become a valuable bullpen piece, especially come September. The gigantic New Jerseyan would bring some power to a bullpen that’s been lacking in that department sometimes.
The other two pieces could be seen as fill-in, but would have tremendous value for the Dodgers. Badenhop has been, arguably, one of the Red Sox’ best relievers, and could help stabilize a Dodgers’ reliever core should they keep Ranaudo in the minors. And while it seems that all Red Sox fans is to see AJ Pierzynski gone (a little overblown in my opinion, but whatever), the Dodgers desperately need a catcher. No, seriously. A platoon of AJ Ellis, hitting a combined .219, is scaring absolutely no one, no matter how good they are defensively. AJ Pierzynski’s contract wouldn’t deter the Dodgers, especially if they’re losing Kemp, and they could actually use him, especially come playoff time. In the meantime, the Red Sox could call up Christian Vazquez, recently named a Minor League All Star, who immediately becomes one of the MLB’s best defensive catchers, and could at least project to have an average bat.
Trading for Matt Kemp is obscenely risky. As crazy as it seems, he may just never be able to turn it around, and what seem like fluke injuries may be the sign of something more. But if the Red Sox are really going to try and make a playoff run this season, they need an outfielder who can at least scare pitchers. And Kemp has the potential to be as scary as they come.
Boston Red Sox get: Carlos Gonzalez
Colorado Rockies get: Rubby De La Rosa, Matt Barnes, Bryce Brentz
And now we come to my favorite possible Red Sox trade target. Not that there have been much in the ways of buzz around a deal (except buzz that I tried to generate myself) CarGo isn’t just one of the best young outfielders in the game, he’s a cornerstone that the team could build around. From 2010-2013, Gonzalez hit .310, averaged 27 HR and 22 SB a season, was a three time Gold Glove winner, and is, by all accounts, a model clubhouse presence.
So why would CarGo be available? A couple of reasons. First, the Rockies are going nowhere, and going nowhere fast. Colorado sits at 37-53, worst in the NL West, and seem certain for their fourth straight sub-.500 season. Despite having one of the most exciting duos in baseball in Cargo/Tulo, this team just isn’t built for success right now, and they might as well sell high on one of their stars now and use the big return to refashion for the future. Tulowitzki is the more untradeable of the two, as he plays at such a premium position, and so CarGo might be headed out the door this summer, especially as his yearly salary’s about to bump up in a big way in the next three years, as he’s set to make a combine $53 mil.
There are two big questions about Gonzalez. Like Kemp, Gonzalez is having a down year while struggling with injuries (including a removed tumor from his left index finger), only hitting .255/.307/.449 in 52 games. The other issue is that its no secret just how much Coors Field is inflating his stats, and his somewhat shocking Home/Away splits reflect that. The worst-case scenario for most teams is that he’ll suffer through more injuries, and he’s not nearly the hitter people think he is.
For the Sox, that’s not a problem, as Fenway is only four spots below Coors in pitcher-unfriendliness. While he may not keep up the insane numbers that he has at Coors, his raw power, baserunning ability, and sparkling defense will play extremely well in Boston.
But what would the Sox have to give up for him? My immediate instinct was that the Rockies don’t need pitchers, as Eddie Butler, Tyler Matzek, Jonathan Gray, and others are all climbing up the Rockies’ minor league ranks. Then I remembered that they’ll always need pitching, because no free agent pitcher in their right mind would voluntarily pitch in Coors Field for a solid portion of their career.
As such, the Red Sox would probably need to give up one of their established young arms (Rubby De La Rosa, Brandon Workman, Allen Webster) as well as one of their three prized pitchers (Henry Owens, Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes). I’d say a combo of De La Rosa and Barnes would do the trick, as much as that may seem, because of the extreme depth of their minor league system. The Red Sox should also throw in a young bat to sweeten the deal, and Bryce Brentz desperately needs a change of scenery, after being passed up time and time again for a spot start in the majors, even as the Red Sox outfield was hanging together by a shoestring.
There may be a few extra pieces tossed in, but that would be the core of a trade that would bring one of the most prized bats in the MLB to Boston.
Boston Red Sox get: David Price
Tampa Bay Rays get: Allen Webster, Mookie Betts, Garin Cecchini, Sean Coyle, Michael Kopech
I cannot stress enough how silly of an exercise this is. And, since it’s no. 4, I cannot stress how unreasonable a trade for David Price is, let alone a major trade with the Tampa Bay Rays is.
We are now entering Hypothetical Land.
So let’s say, for the moment, that all of the bad blood between Price and various members of the Red Sox (especially Big Papi) disappears in the name of winning. And let’s say that Jon Lester, instead of being absolutely insulted that the Sox would give up the farm for another star lefty while he can’t even get a market-level extension, sees it as an opportunity to craft a remarkable starting rotation and is more eager to return. I mean, without question, having David Price on your team makes you a whole lot better.
But what would it take to get him? In short, a lot.
Andrew Friedman and Joe Maddon know the Red Sox minor league system backwards and forwards. They know that they’d have leverage, and that they’d need to really be won over to trade within the division. Their first calls would be for Xander Bogaerts and/or Henry Owens, which, I would assume, Ben Cherington would decline. But that means sacrificing more second-tier prospects to protect your top two.
The conversation starts, sadly, with Mookie Betts, who immediately offers positional versatility and underrated power. Without Dustin Pedroia blocking him at second (and because Ben Zobrist can apparently play every position imaginable), Betts becomes the cornerstone of that infield. Next comes one of the Red Sox’ top pitchers, most likely Allen Webster, who’s shown steady improvement, especially in his fastball command. Then, the Sox would have to throw in two more premier position players, Sean Coyle and Garin Cecchini, who could replace James Loney at 1B in the future. Round off the deal with an intriguing arm (Michael Kopech), and the Rays would get what they call “a haul.”
This would be the one trade on this list that I wouldn’t go through with. As prized an arm as Price is, the cost to obtain his services, the fact that the Sox rotation is the _one_ area that doesn’t need any boost, and the wrench it would throw into the team politics, is enough to stay out of the fracas come trade deadline.
Nope, if the Red Sox are going to be buyers, they’re going to go after a power outfield bat above all else. While Daniel Nava and Jackie Bradley Jr. are showing signs of offensive light, and Brock Holt is some kind of superhuman, the fact remains that the Red Sox outfield, and really just the entire Red Sox offense, has been the most futile in the major leagues. To make it to the postseason, the Red Sox will need to make a serious splash, and make their lineup look like the ultra-dangerous one that won them a World Series.
Of course, they probably won’t, and look out tomorrow for the Sellers’ Edition!
But what do you think? Any players you want the Red Sox to target? Any of these trades seem unreasonable? Let me know in the comments, or find me on Twitter @isportspeters.