Well, the trade-deadline is fast approaching (this Wednesday at 4PM!) and the Boston Red Sox perch atop the AL East at 63-43 with a 1/2-game lead over the Rays of Tampa Bay. The position in the standings has set the Sox in a better position to be big players at the vaunted down-to-the-wire-dealings: where bad teams mortgage the present in favor of the future and good teams push to win, selling off the future to get better immediately.
Even though the Red Sox are set-up to big buyers at the deadline, but they also have the assets and flexibility to deal several quality pieces from the team.
Here are eight names to consider; four the Red Sox have and are wondering what to do with and four on the open market they may pursue.
What to do with what the Sox already have…
Jacoby Ellsbury (CF):
The debate about the future has already begun as part team-owner John Henry addressed the team’s outlook heading forward. “[Ellsbury’s agent] Scott [Boras] has a track record of taking his players to free agency so I’m not confident. It would be great if we could,” Henry said Wednesday. This roused a question in my mind, would the Sox possibly use Ellsbury as a large trade-chip to bring in cheaper, longer-lasting talent and promote the hyped Jackie Bradley Jr.? Or would they keep Ellsbury, hopefully ride him to a championship and then take a chance on how things play out this offseason?
The better move right now is to stand pat with Ellsbury. He’s hitting .304, playing stellar defense in Center, and leading the Majors with 37 swiped bags this season. He’s leading off and catalyzing a potent offense that leads the American League in nearly every statistical category. With the dollars that the Red Sox cleared by means of the Beckett/Crawford/Gonzalez trade, they still have a chance to retain the Navajo Knight. And as long as they have that chance, they should take it.
Will Middlebrooks (3B):
Middlebrooks is decent, he’s certainly better than his stats show this year (.192/9 HRs/53 games played). His demotion to AAA really was less about his struggles than about his playing time. Middlebrooks really lost out after heading to the Disabled List and giving Jose Iglesias that chance the same chance Tom Brady got when Drew Bledsoe went down for the New England Patriots in football. Iglesias played too well and never relinquished Third Base.
That could be the key selling point for the Sox, who need to trade Middlebrooks immediately. With the impending arrival of Xander Bogaerts, the third-best ranked prospect in all of baseball, in 2014 at Shortstop (shifting Iglesias to Third or vice-versa), the infield doesn’t have a spot for Middlebrooks. As in 2012, he showed he could play at a big league level. He just needs to find a team.
Stephen Drew (SS):
Drew’s poor performance this season makes him probably the most overpaid player in The Show right now. Just joking! It’s second though, right behind the behemoth payday Alex Rodriquez receives every week for toiling away in AAA Scranton, the Electric City. Anyway, Drew’s $9 million salary is, to quote Jimmy McMillan, “Too damn high!” He’s batting .231 over 72 games. Honestly, the only reason he isn’t receiving that much attention is because the Red Sox are so used to getting next to nothing for overpaid players who have “Drew #7” on the back of their jerseys.
So, after the excessive belligerence towards Drew, why would any team want to pay for his services? A team with a young, impressionable shortstop who could benefit from Drew’s mentoring like Iglesias has this season. Teams like Kansas City and their 26-year old Alcides Escobar or Minnesota’s second-year man Brian Dozier. Iglesias has mentioned Drew’s aid and cited its usefulness, but now it’s time to move on. With more than a half of a season in 2013 and 30 games from October of 2012 under his baseball belt, Iglesias can survive without him. Also, it would allow the Sox to shift Iglesias to his natural position of Shortstop, pull up Middlebrooks for a stint and show the 31 other teams he can still play, then place him on waivers and work out a post-trade-deadline deal much like last year.
Jose Iglesias (SS/3B):
To begin with Iglesias, a short parable is needed.
Say all you’ve really wanted out of life is a nice sports car. You stay in school, get a great education and land at a job that pays a fantastic wage. Since you learned a lot and are a smart kid, you received scholarships and have no college debt. To reward yourself, you go out and buy your dream car, a brand-new Ferrari or whatnot all tricked out with all the awesome features you see in the commercials. The car handles incredibly and you drive in every spare second. However, just because it’s brand-new doesn’t mean it won’t have a few problems. One day you’re driving it up a rather steep incline and the transmission busts. What are you going to do? Go out and get a new car or are you going to repair it? The cheaper and better route is to repair the thing.
That’s what should happen to Iglesias. He’s slumping right now and looks as though it might get worse (.217 with no HRs in July). Remember what happened with Dustin Pedroia? His rookie season in 2007, at the end of April hit .182 with 0 HRs. He started 2B since Opening Day whereas Iglesias essentially won that position from Stephen Drew in May. Iglesias has shown he can do it every day, all day. Pedroia won the Rookie of the Year in 2007 with a worse start than Iglesias so there’s no reason to disbelieve he can pull back up.
What the Sox need…
Jake Peavy (SP, Chicago White Sox):
Boston’s trouble begins in the starting rotation. Clay Bucholz can’t seem to recover from his lengthened stint on the Disabled List and performances from Jon Lester and Ryan Dempster have been inconsistent, to put the problem lightly.
The Red Sox seem perfectly in position to address these needs despite losing out on the Matt Garza Sweepstakes. Red Sox scouts were in attendance for the Thursday start of White Sox Pitcher Jake Peavy who is 8-4 on the year. The Red Sox have competition for Peavy; the largest players are reportedly the Arizona Diamondbacks and St. Louis Cardinals. Peavy recently came off a rib injury, but has seemed solid in his two starts back. He is an innings-eater, the workhorse the Sox could use as he averages just over 6 innings per start this year. The Sox could choose either of their Catching prospects in Ryan Lavarnway or David Ross to build a package around as Lavarnway or Ross could supplant Chicago’s struggling fourth-year man Tyler Flowers as the starter.
Plus, the Red Sox need a Starter, could you imagine Alfredo Aceves starting a game that truly mattered?
They need to act quickly as the Atlanta Braves and Baltimore Orioles are rumored to be suitors as well.
Jesse Crain (RP, Chicago White Sox):
After pilfering Matt Thornton from the Chicago White Sox and looking at Jake Peavy, apparently the Red Sox are interested in another White Sock, Reliever Jesse Crain, according to Mark Gonzalez of The Chicago Tribune. Crain would bolster a Boston bullpen that currently ranks 23rd in all of MLB with an ERA dangerously close to four. It would also increase the depth that is now depleted because Franklin Morales went down with a shoulder injury and then Andrew Miller, Joel Hanrahan, and Andrew Bailey (three of Boston’s best four relievers entering the season) sidelined with season-ending injuries.
Crain has 46 strikeouts to go along with a 0.74 ERA this summer and it was recently announced he would avoid an injury rehabilitation assignment – enabling him to pitch right away. To have a healthy – and somewhat skilled – body in the bullpen certainly increased his trade value – and the Red Sox interest.
Luke Hochevar (RP, Kansas City Royals):
Continuing the brave quest to plug bullpen holes, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that the Red Sox front-office is in hot pursuit of the Royals set-up man. An ability to mix pitches (Hochevar was formerly a starter) has prompted Boston to send scouts to Kansas City’s game during the last week.
Hochevar posts a 1.89 ERA as well as throwing 38 innings in 32 appearances.
Michael Young (3B/1B, Philadelphia Phillies):
With a losing record assured the Phillies are looking to reboot. They want to unload Young and his $16 million annual paycheck on a contract that expires after this season. They have Cody Asche, their 23-year old Third Base prospect who is batting .294 with 23 doubles and 13 homers, all in 100 games at AAA Lehigh Valley. He was ranked as the best defensive Third Basemen and is the best Phillies prospect.
The Sox aren’t concerned with money after the fire-sale last season and as Young’s contract ends after this season, he is the perfect acquisition. Young has been in the World Series twice in his career (2010 and 2011) and his 16-year veteran presence would add to the leadership of Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz. A steadying influence is one perk he would bring as the other would be flexibility in the infield. Say Iglesias’ slump gets severely worse; Young could spell him for a time at Third Base and give Iglesias a few days off to figure out what he’s doing wrong. He could also play First Base.
Within the next 50 hours or so, the Boston Red Sox will need to address the major, glaring error in their club: a depleted, defeated bullpen. They have a surplus where many other teams have a need: in the infield. Those two things juxtaposed form compatibility between another team and the Red Sox. So as Wednesday fast approaches, their needs do as well.