Three Crucial Trade Options for the Boston Red Sox
Since finishing the month of May at 32-20, the Boston Red Sox have begun to leak oil, going 9-14 in the month of June, and dropping to four games behind the first place Baltimore Orioles while holding on to a lead in the Wild Card race.
Now as Dave Dombrowski and Co. approach the trading deadline, it is clear that a move or two needs to be made. Boston has a plethora of young talent in their farm system that one day will compliment the likes of Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley, and Mookie Betts at Fenway. But for now, there are only so many spots up for grabs as the Red Sox build around their cornerstones.
Andrew Benintendi and Yoan Moncada are among the organizations top talents, currently playing alongside each other in Double-A for the Portland Sea Dogs. But in addition, the Red Sox have other highly regarded prospects like Rafael Devers, Anderson Espinoza, and Sam Travis*, who are also catching attention nationwide.
In order to stay afloat down the stretch in August and September, Boston needs to acquire either a front of the rotation starter, a strong bullpen arm, or better yet, both.
For the Red Sox to make any big move for either one of these necessities, they’ll need to part with at least one of their top four prospects as well as a second tier prospect and a major league-ready player. The current question marks at third base and left field lead me to believe that Boston will want Moncada and Benintendi to be there respectively. Subsequently, I believe the Red Sox will be reluctant to move those two, and instead, sell out on their other prospects if possible – much like they did with Bogaerts and Bradley in 2013.
Without further ado, here are three trade “musts” for the Sox in the coming month.
Devers is one of the best infield prospects in all of baseball. Although he’s only batting .239 at High-A Salem, scouts believe that Devers possesses plus bat speed and an advanced approach for his age and All-Star potential regardless of position due to his value at the plate. Additionally, scouts see Travis as a second division regular and acknowledge room for improvement in his bat, though his current injury diminishes his value. Pat Light and Henry Owens are respectable arms that can be deposited at the major league level, especially in Oakland. Owens was once a highly-regarded prospect himself, but his mechanics have slowed his progression. Either way, the two may be developmental major-league ready pieces for Billy Beane to use or barter.
Letting go of Devers will have to be the catalyst in this trade because Oakland will want a top tier prospect in return for Gray and Valencia. Gray will be able to fill the Sox need for a starting pitcher and Valencia will be a respectable placeholder until Moncada is ready, especially considering the recent struggles of Travis Shaw. The interesting piece is Axford, who I see as a veteran throw-in to a blockbuster that will still add some depth and experience in the Boston bullpen.
The Braves look to be huge sellers this deadline, as they frantically try to rebuild their franchise before moving into a new stadium. There is no question that many will see this move as an Espinoza for Teheran trade which it will be in all seriousness. Scouts say that Espinoza, even at the ripe age of 18, has ace potential and a fastball already reaching 94-97 MPH. Lakins is the the Red Sox #8 overall prospect and will help get the deal done, especially with the inclusion of Vizcaino on the Boston end. He currently has a 1.62 WHIP through 60+ innings in Single-A. Hernandez, currently a bench player at the major league level in Boston, will be a valuable piece because of his readiness in the big leagues.
For Boston, Teheran will become the #2 starter behind David Price and a key piece down the stretch. Through 16 starts with Atlanta he is 3-7 with a 2.46 ERA and a .183 BAA. Don’t let the win-loss record fool you as the Braves are one of the MLB’s worst teams. Vizcaino has a 1.93 ERA in 34 games this year, and will definitely help the Red Sox inconsistent bullpen.
Part of the reason that Brentz has been getting playing time lately is because of Boston’s recent injury woes in left field. However, I think the situation doubles as a perfect chance to build his trade value. The once top prospect has since become an afterthought in many minds around New England. For the Padres, he will be a major-league ready player if need be. San Diego, though, will be reluctant to trade Pomeranz for just anybody due to his outstanding 2016 campaign so far. But I believe the additions of Kopech and Light could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Say what you want about Kopech’s off the field issues, but scouts acknowledge his wide variety of pitches and his top of the rotation potential. At age 20, he already has a fastball in the mid-90’s and a 87 MPH slider with wipeout ability. Light, who I mentioned earlier, is also a flamethrower, who touched 100 with Pawtucket and looks to be a future closer or set-up man. Basabe is a mostly unknown prospect because of low name recognition and high risk, but his potential is that of a first division player. He also has plus-speed and raw power, a rare combination. Through 56 games in Single-A Greenville, Basabe has 46 hits.
That four-man combination should get the deal done considering both Pomeranz and Villanueva aren’t going to get much better than what they are showing right now. If insisted, Boston could add another MLB ready player player like Deven Marrero to the trade. Dombrowski should be careful not to let San Diego over-value the pair during trade talks. But even so, Pomeranz and Villanueva could be what the doctor ordered for Boston in terms of short term effectiveness. Pomeranz is 7-7 with a 2.76 ERA this season and Villanueva has only walked six in 45 innings this season. They might not be outstanding pieces like Gray or Teheran, but still a heck of a lot better than Clay Buchholz. Can I get an amen?
Bottom line: for the Red Sox to hold on to any chance of being a contender, they’ll need to take advantage of their farm system and make one of these three moves to compliment their strong offense.