Today we stand a dozen days until the July 31 trade deadline. Even after the Red Sox beat the Royals in the first post All Star Break game, they still stand at a very disappointing 44-52 at the bottom of the mediocre AL East. Because of this poor standing, it is not clear if the Red Sox will be buyers or sellers, or some combination of both, at the deadline. The Sox brass may not even have decided this internally yet, and the games between now and July 30( the Sox are off on deadline day) may determine their status.
Even if the Red Sox try to bring in some veteran help (not likely at this point), in other words be buyers, there are up to three current players who could be moved just to make room for some of the kids.
Last year in our July deadline post, we took a look team by team across MLB, to look for candidates to come to Boston. This year the multitude of speculation involves which players will leave Boston, and in nearly every case for minor league prospects. With just twelve days to go there we have heard only four or five names as possible major leaguers coming to Boston. They are:
Cole Hamels or Cliff Lee, LHPs, Phillies. Lee has been rumored to be on the Red Sox radar for years, he was mentioned in the RSM 2013 deadline post, and he is available. But he has been injured for a lot of '14 and he is owed about $52M through 2016. Hamels' name has cropped up in recent days, as insurance if the Red Sox cannot sign Jon Lester. Hamels and Lester have had similar careers, and the theory goes since Hamels has 5 years $90M remaining (on his original $144M deal), that his amount nearly matches what the Sox want Lester to take. The drawbacks are twofold: Ruben Amaro, Phils GM. has stated he is not looking to shop Hamels, but would deal him for a package of three top prospects. That is problem #1, to replace Lester it would cost players like Mookie Betts, Henry Owens, Blake Swihart, etc..( there is some talk Philadelphia wants two of these guys for Lee, too). Then after trading the package of kids there is problem #2, no guarantee Hamels can pitch in Boston. Although I will grant you Philly is no warm and fuzzy fan base. Hey, John Henry, just SIGN JON LESTER.
Allen Craig, 1B-OF, Cardinals. His name first arose when the rumors of Jake Peavy to St. Louis surfaced. The Cards are also looking to move some vets to make room for kids like Oscar Taveras and others. But I do not believe St. Louis will do Craig for Peavy straight up. If the Sox include a kid pitcher the deal is possible. But, Craig's 2014 stats are down a lot, and he is also a bad defensive outfielder. I do not think this is likely to happen.
Chris Denorfia, OF, Padres. This right handed hitting outfielder could have helped more a month or two ago. The idea would have been then to help fill in for injured Shane Victorino and/or platoon in center with Jackie Bradley, Jr. But tonight, Victorino is returning (although certainly no lock to stay healthy), and with his recent uptick in offense, JBJ needs to be in center nearly every day. If the Sox surge in the next two weeks, Denorfia could be added to the mix.
Marlon Byrd, OF, Phillies. Everything I just typed about Denorfia applies here, except for the fact Boston has all ready seen the sneaky good Marlon Byrd in 2012 and may not want to do so again.
Now onto the more likely action for Boston at the deadline. The moving of some of their veterans. The Red Sox began 2014 with 13 players who were potential free agents after this season. Three have all ready moved on (Grady Sizemore, Chris Capuano, and AJ Piersynski), the remaining ten make up the list of likely players to be traded. There are seven pitchers and three position players.
1. Jon Lester. Without getting into the long list of very good reasons the Red Sox should SIGN JON LESTER, for deadline purposes there are three Red Sox management options. First, SIGN JON LESTER. Second, ride out the rest of 2014 without an agreement, hoping to catch fire in August and September ( this would lead to two other post season options: lose him for a single draft pick or SIGN JON LESTER then). The third July option if the Red Sox management is absolutely sure they cannot or will not be able to SIGN JON LESTER, they could trade him. This would enable the Sox to get a return of more than a solitary pick in next June's draft. But do not expect a haul like the Cubs got for Jeff Smadarjiza or like the Rays could get for David Price. Both of those pitchers are signed through 2015. The teams who could deal for Lester would only get two months of his service without a new deal. One other rumor out there is for the Red Sox to trade Lester now, and then when he becomes a free agent the Sox could SIGN JON LESTER. I think that is next to impossible, if Lester gets to free agency in any manner, some other team (Yankees) will pay tens and tens of millions more than anyone including Boston. SIGN JON LESTER!!
2. John Lackey. Lackey is a free agent to be in name only. His original deal with Boston is up after 2014, but the much publicized year that Lackey has to pitch for the minimum $500,000 is actually a club option for 2015. His free agent deal with the Sox included a clause stating if he missed time due to an elbow injury, the one year at league minimum option would be in effect. His Tommy John surgery causing him to miss '12 set this in motion. This option will definitely be picked up. This could make John Lackey the most attractive trade chip Boston has, either now or this winter. If he is traded now, the receiving team has Lackey for the rest of this year and all of 2015. And at $500,000 in '15 every single team in baseball could more than afford him. Lackey could ( especially if Boston throws in a bullpen guy) bring a package similar to the A's gave the Cubs. Maybe even one useful current big leaguer and a top prospect. But trading Lackey now ( as with Lester) likely waves the white flag on 2014 ( although frees up another sport for a AAA starter).
3. Jake Peavy. Here is the A1, top of the heap certain lock to be traded before July 31. Peavy has pitched better than his one win on the ledger would suggest. But he is a free agent after this year, and is in no way part of the 2015 Sox blueprint. Jake has to be moved now to make way for Brandon Workman ( or Anthony Ranaudo or Allen Webster). A week or two ago it looked like Peavy was gone to St. Louis. This rumors have cooled, although I still consider St. Louis a possible Peavy landing spot. The most recent reports I have read consider the Brewers, Angels, and Pirates the "finalists". Milwaukee was the first rumored suitor I had heard more than a month ago. Peavy will go, likely to the NL where he could thrive for any contender down the stretch. My guess is Pittsburgh.
4. Koji Uehara. The Sox could have easily the best closer available at the deadline if they shop Koji. This to would seem to wave bye-bye to 2014, but there at least three good reasons to pursue this. First, Uehara would be 40 next April, if the Sox brought him back on a new contract. Secondly, this would give the Sox a chance to audition a younger internal option at closer. Maybe Junichi Tazawa or even one of the Pawtucket starters. Thirdly and most importantly, there are contending teams out there who could use closer upgrades (Tigers, for one) or overall bullpen improvement (A's, Orioles, Dodgers, and others). A very good player or two could be acquired by a contender for a Koji rental. Remember the last time Koji was traded for two kids it was for Tommy Hunter and Chris Davis.
5. Andrew Miller. According today to Peter Gammons, Miller is the player the Sox are getting more calls on then any other player on their team. With nearly every team in baseball in some sort of contention, at least for a wild card, there are likely two dozen teams who could use Miler, maybe even as a closer. If Boston could two or three of those teams in a bidding war, who knows what the return may be. The flip side is Miler is only 29, and has been blowing hitters away. Perhaps they should be signing Miller to a new deal to help the 2015 Sox charge back to the top.
6. Burke Badenhop. For most of this year, the ground ball specialist has pitched very effectively. As a two month rental, Badenhop would help any contenders pen. Just do not expect more than a Grade B prospect in return.
7. Craig Breslow. One of the most sought after commodities at the deadline by contenders are lefty bullpen specialist. Breslow fits the bill, and the vet had a great ALDS and ALCS just last year.
8. Jonny Gomes. Probably the second most likely vet to go. The Sox outfield is crowded and with Victorino's return, Brock may take over left field. But from the buyer's point of view, Gomes still pounds left handed pitching and has the reputation (and resume) of being a leader for a winning team. Two teams all ready linked to Gomes are Kansas City (who last found out first hand Gomes pounds lefties and can win games) and Seattle.
9. David Ross. Of this whole list of ten, Ross is by far the least likely to be traded. David has an important role on the 2014 Red Sox. That is to mentor and teach Christian Vazquez, the young catcher. Ross may well be re-signed for 2015 to have that same role to Vazquez and /or Blake Swihart.
10. Stephen Drew. This is a player who needs to be moved out of the way as soon as possible. This is now being admitted by even most of the ardent proponents of bringing Drew back when he was on the free agent market. Xander Bogaerts needs to be the shortstop for the next two months, so the Sox can decide once and for all if he can handle that position. Several other players fates are intertwined in this decision. The Tigers are one contender still lacking are real big league shortstop, and there are others who could use an upgrade. The question is with Drew's poor 2014 offensive numbers, is he an upgrade. If the Sox eat some money they should be able to move Drew.
Besides the free agents a few other names have been mentioned. Will the Sox cut bait on Will Middlebrooks? Now is not the prime time due to his injuries perhaps,and the Sox keep hinting they do not want to give up on his right handed power. Jayson Stark, ESPN, threw out Junichi Tazawa's name but with so much of the bullpen on the free agent to be list, that seems unlikely. Nick Cafardo has reported the Sox have taken several calls on Mike Napoli. But again with right handed power so scarce, and with Nap signed through 2015, he is a building block for next year and Boston would need to get a major offer to move him.
Check back to this post over the next 12 days to see any action on the Red Sox trade front and commentary on that action.