Alright, so yesterday we went over four potential trades should the Boston Red Sox decide to be buyers at the trade deadline. Hypothetically, with a strong rotation and bullpen, and at least some strong offensive players, a jolt to their lineup could spark off a run that puts them right back into the AL East title race.
But let’s take a second away from this outlook, and just dive into full on pessimism mode.
Every major Red Sox writer has published their “The Red Sox Are Officially Done” article. John Farrell is admitting that things haven’t gone as planned. Ben Cherington is already talking about potential moves at the deadline. Last night, an 8-3 loss to the Chicago White Sox, was a perfect encapsulation of this season: a frustrating lack of offense, costly defensive errors, a starting pitcher constantly bailing himself out of trouble, and the team staying close until in the end their opponent blew it open.
So let’s say that the Red Sox become sellers this trade deadline. What are some possible moves that could be made?
First off, to clarify who you might see below. You won’t see AJ Pierzynski, who by himself won’t bring much back in return, and might just be DFA’d if things really turn bad. You won’t see Andrew Miller or Jonny Gomes, who are pieces that could bring something back, but are genuinely useful and relatively cheap options for next year’s team. The team could possibly deal off their spare parts (Mike Carp, Will Middlebrooks, Jonathan Herrera) for small returns, but that’s mostly speculation. And you won’t see Xander Bogaerts, because stop you’re being stupid.
Instead, here are four pitchers who genuinely have a chance of being traded, ranked from most reasonable to absolutely unreasonable.
I can pretty much pinpoint the moment exactly. On June 3rd, my dad and I were sitting in the basement, watching the Red Sox take on the Cleveland Indians. In the bottom of the 1st, Peavy gave up a single, a single, an RBI single, and then a bunt single to load the bases. With Lonnie Chisenhall at the plate, Peavy let loose a fastball that stayed right across the middle. Chisenhall took a crack at it, knocking a single right back into center and scoring another run. My dad sighed and said, “He doesn’t have it.”
That’s not a unique story, I’m guessing. Peavy’s been up and down all season, but when he’s down, you know it almost immediately. Statistically, Peavy is having one of the worst seasons in his career, his 4.64 ERA, .273 BAA, and 1.44 WHIP pretty shocking compared to his career averages. At first glance his 1-7 record stinks of being let down by his offense in games, and that’s somewhat true, as, in his losses, the Sox only put up 1.42 runs a game. But Peavy also only had 3 quality starts in those 7 losses, and his ERA has gone up almost 2 points since his last win on April 25th.
Any way you slice it, Jake Peavy just isn’t cutting it for the Sox, as well as the Sox not cutting it for Peavy. It’s best for both sides that Peavy be traded, so he can get a fresh start on a, preferably NL, contender and the Sox can clear that rotation spot and bring up one of the Triple-A pitchers knocking on the door.
In fact, by the time you read this, Peavy may already be gone to the St. Louis Cardinals, who were reportedly in the mix for him last summer, and could do with a veteran depth piece in a very young rotation. The Red Sox won’t be getting too much in return, and certainly not a player equal to Jose Iglesias, who they gave up for Peavy. But an outfield prospect like Charlie Tilson, one of several athletic outfielders in the lower levels of the Cardinals’ minor league system. He’s got top-notch speed that will help on the basepaths and in centerfield, and he has the bat speed to possibly turn into an above-average contact hitter. He may never be a power hitter, but he’d be a useful player, at only 21, to develop for a few years. The one stumbling block may be Peavy’s salary this year, but the Red Sox might be willing to eat some of his salary.
I love Jake Peavy. I love his fire, his clubhouse presence, his yelling and screaming on the mound. I love that he bought a duckboat. I honestly believe he loves playing in Boston. But it may be best for everyone that he find a new home.
Felix Doubront is sitting in a strange position on the Red Sox roster. He’s got undeniable upside alongside being a young, cheap lefty. But he’s often been the odd man out of the rotation, and is stuck between the established starters (Lester, Lackey, Buchholz) and the hordes of young talent knocking at the door (Workman, RDLR, Webster, Ranaudo). In Boston, he’s an expendable, but extremely attractive piece to be traded. Doubront has had proven success as a pitcher, has nasty stuff when he wants to, and, most interestingly, has absolutely shone in a relief role, especially in last year’s playoffs. For a team looking for a spot starter/long reliever in the playoff hunt, Felix could be their man.
Enter the Atlanta Braves, whose entire pitching staff is a bit shaky at the moment. Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy, and Gavin Floyd are all lost for the season. Aaron Harang has been surprisingly dependable (3.67 ERA, 1.396 WHIP), but if you’re going to playoff war starting a 36-year old contact hitter, you might be in trouble. Ervin Santana has been fine, if not underwhelming considering his 14mil paycheck. Andy Wood has been a pleasant surprise, Mike Minor an unpleasant one. Julio Teheran has been the only stud pitcher in the rotation, and even he just got slammed by the Mets last night (11 H in 3.1 innings). The bullpen all has a glaring hole for a lefty specialist, as the only one, Luis Avilan, is carrying a 4.25 ERA and a 1.55 WHIP. Doubront would immediately thrive in that bullpen role, while also being on hand to jump into any rotation needs.
But what would the Sox get back? Obviously, prospects like Lucas Sims, JR Graham, Christian Bethancourt, or Jose Peraza are completely out of the question. However, should the Sox sweeten the deal with anoter MLB-quality reliever in Steven Wright, they could aim for one of the second-tier prospects. Specifically, Kyle Kubitza.
Kubitza doesn’t exactly have one tool that shines above the rest, but is a very solid-all around player. The 23-year old third baseman is having a tremendous year in the Braves’ Double-A affiliate, putting up a .309/.400/.479 line. His raw power looks like it might finally show up, and he’s surprisingly fast for his position (16 SB, and only caught once). He’s got a cannon of an arm, and his quickness and glove are all very good. His size (6’3, 215) and potential versatility make him a bit Ben-Zobrist-y (to anyone who’s never read me…Ben-Zobrist-y is the highest compliment I can bestow). He could make his living at third, play second in a pinch, and be totally comfortable as a corner outfielder. He may never be a dangerous hitter, but as a utility player, he could be a tremendous asset 2-3 years down the line.
Alright to get this out of the way, there is a huge dropoff in my opinion from the first two trades to the last two trades. I think that if the Red Sox think they won’t contend this season, they can trade off their extra parts, but maintain the pieces they need for a successful season next year, an extremely short-term rebuild. This isn’t a scenario to tear it all down, just because of one bad year.
That being said, I understand the rationality behind trading Koji Uehara, even if I hate it. Whereas closers tend to be unbelievably fickle commodities, with only a handful (Craig Kimbrel, Aroldis Chapman, etc) really considered superstars, Koji Uehara has been unbelievably automatic, even at the age of 39. For a team looking to contend right now but are missing that one piece to carry them to a World Series, Koji is extremely attractive: you know the ninth is safe in his hands. It would suck for Red Sox fans to see Koji go, he’s literally the emblem of the Red Sox’ little success this year, and huge success last year. But he deserves to be on a contender.
The problem is that most of the teams that need a closer (the Angels, the Tigers, the Giants) have unbeliavably underwhelming prospects to send back, but San Francisco is at least intriguing. The Giants are in a race with the LA Dodgers to get to the top of the NL West, and are sitting with a great overall team. But they’ve been let down by Sergio Romo, their once-fantastic closer, who isn’t washed up in the slightest, but is just having a really down year (5.35 ERA, 5 blown saves). Bringing in Koji immediately changes things, allowing Romo to settle in a lower-leverage situation, and get his mind right for next year.
But make no mistake, if the Giants want a sure-thing closer, they’re going to have to pay for it. While middle infielder Christian Arroyo has struggled a bit in Single-A ball (.231/.278/.335), but has above-average power potential for his position, and has a solid arm to play second or short with ease, while only being 19 years old. LHP Ty Blach, a Creighton graduate, has been unblievably steady in his first two seasons, with only a 2.98 ERA in Double-A ball. He’ll never be a power pitcher, but projects as a dependable mid-rotation arm. And finally, OF Gary Brown had a terrible 2013, which did a lot of damage to his reputation as one of the game’s top prospects, but is showing signs of returning to his old form (.275/.327/.397 with 16 SB). At his worst, Gary Brown could be a fourth outfield/pinch runner, but the Red Sox player development team could put him in a situation to regain confidence in his swing, and turn him into a solid contributor.
Make no mistake, unlike some other trades, the Red Sox have all the leverage in a Koji trade. He’s a wildly valuable piece for any would-be contender trying to win a ring, and has shown no signs of slowing down. For the Red Sox to be willing to give him up, they’ll have to be overwhelmed by a trade offer.
Alright so yesterday, I wrote that it would be stupid to trade for David Price. I also think it would be stupid to trade away Jon Lester. Homegrown, ultra-competitive lefties with great stuff don’t come around often. And those pitchers that actively want to return to their team and skip the free agency process come around even less. For whatever reason, Ben Cherington and Lester’s agent just haven’t seen eye to eye, and the process has gone on to an uncomfortable length. But the worst case scenario is that he walks away for nothing. If the two sides can’t come to an agreement in the next month (again, highly unlikely in my mind), then, find, trade him.
Let’s do an exercise:
Player A (28 years old): 19 GS, 3.47 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 10.22 SO/9
Player B (32 years old): 18 GS, 3.70 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 7.40 SO/9
Player C (30 years old): 18 GS, 2.73 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 9.00 SO/9
Got it? Player A is David Price, Player B is James Shields, and Player C is Lester.
Basically, if Lester is on the market, his trade return should be inarguably above what the Rays got for James Shields, and right around what the Rays will get for David Price (though Lester is the better pitcher, and is one of the greatest playoff pitchers in Red Sox history, but whatever, irrelevant).
So let’s take that as a baseline, with the understanding that all of the teams that are in on Price are in on Lester (who doesn’t have nearly the same attitude issues as Price, and will probably sign an extension on the spot wherever he lands, can you tell this is super frustrating to me?).
The obvious location, especially if they miss out on Price, is the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are angling for a star pitcher as leverage in their constant war with Time Warner over their television deal, as well as their unending quest to put out a video game lineup every day. Jon Lester, Zach Greinke, and Clayton Kershaw would immediately become the best rotation in baseball by themselves, not to mention the top two out of Josh Beckett, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Dan Haren. Plus, they have the funds to pay Lester whatever extension he wants, and finally have a battle-tested playoff pitcher in their ranks to carry them deep into the postseason.
But any conversation with the Dodgers and the Red Sox would start with Joc Pederson. The top prospect in the Dodgers’ system (though Julio Urias is zooming up the ranks) can’t even find his way onto the major league roster, because he’s blocked by four “superstar” outfielders. And so Pederson, who is wasting his time at Triple-A, batting .319/.437,.568, would immediately become the Red Sox’ top prospect under Xander Bogaerts, and could probably outplay most of the team’s current outfielders. The 22-year-old has a terrific power/speed combo, and is an above average defender who could play any of the three OF spots.
But that’s not all. Zach Lee has had a rought 2014 in his first season in Triple-A (5.04 ERA, 1.45 WHIP), but has the build and pitches to be a very solid innings-eater in the major leagues. Scott Schebler, a 23-year old outfielder, is having a solid season at Double-A, with a .270/.350/.557 line, and has some nice speed potential to go along with his big bat (17 HR in 87 games thus far). That power/speed combo can also be found in Darnell Sweeney, a middle infielder who stole 48 bases last year, and is batting .313/.402/.506 this year in Double-A.
If that seems like a lot, it’s because Jon Lester deserves a lot. If Lester has to go, the Red Sox should expect a huge haul for him, and stock up on position prospects for their already impressive farm system.
All that being said, I wouoldn’t do the above trade, though that could very well be what it would look like. Jon Lester is a proven winner and actively wants to stay a member of the Boston Red Sox for life, a combination that has been a rarity of late. If the two sides can’t come to an agreement, we as a fan base will understand if he goes. But it’ll hurt. A lot.
But what do you think? Anyone you think the Sox should trade this summer? Anyone you think they should hold onto? Let us know in the comments, or find me on Twitter @isportspeters.