Stocked with an abundance of high ceiling prospects, the Red Sox farm system has the trade chips to yield an impact Major Leaguer.
So far this offseason, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington has refused to part with promising names like Xander Bogaerts, Matt Barnes, Jackie Bradley, Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster, Bryce Brentz and Blake Swihart.
That could change before spring training.
Though it was freed of the cumbersome contracts of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett in a blockbuster trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers last summer, Boston’s front office has constructed a roster for 2013 that features a myriad of free agents on short-term deals to complement returning core players and give the aforementioned minor leaguers more time to develop.
Yet the possibility remains that the Red Sox could acquire a difference-making young player who is getting too costly for his current club.
Here are five trades the Red Sox could make to bolster their roster in time for spring training:
Though Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers recently told the media that his team and the Red Sox are likely not an ideal match for a deal involving the 25-year-old Justin Upton, who has yet to fully realize his potential but is due $9.75 million in 2013, $14.25 million in 2014 and $14.5 million in 2015.
Upton, a right fielder, offered a glimpse of his enormous capabilities in 2011 when he belted 31 home runs, drove in 88 runs, swiped 21 bases with 39 doubles, five triples and a slash line of .289/.529/.898.
He slipped to .280/.430/.785 with 17 home runs, 67 RBI, 24 doubles, four triples and 18 stolen bases in 2012.
Upton’s’ slash line over six Major League seasons is .278/.475/.832.
The Red Sox could tempt Towers with Jacoby Ellsbury, who is set to be a free agent at the end of the 2013 campaign, but likely that deal would only happen if Ellsbury agreed to a contract extension.
The Diamondbacks are rich with pitching prospects like Patrick Corbin, Tyler Skaggs and Archie Bradley, and they already have young arms like Wade Miley and Trevor Cahill in the rotation, but there is no such thing as too much starting pitching as long as a lineup has enough offense.
Barnes, who was Boston’s first round pick (19th overall) out of the University of Connecticut in 2010, is projected as a No. 2 or No. 3 starter at the big league level and is slated to open 2013 at Double-A Portland.
The 20-year-old Bogaerts, who MLB.com has rated as the game’s No. 31 prospect on its top 100 list, is projected as a middle of the order bat at the Major League level.
He is currently at shortstop, but as he body grows bigger and stronger he could be moved to third base or left field.
The 22-year-old Jacobs was swayed from his commitment to Auburn University as a running back when Boston gave him a handsome signing bonus after selecting him in the 11th round in 2009.
He has a power bat but saw his numbers drop in 2012 (13 home runs, 61 RBI, .252 average at advanced Single-A Salem) compared to 2011 (17 home runs, 80 RBI, .303 average at Single-A Greenville).
An average defensive left fielder, the right-handed hitting Jacobs is not mentioned with Bradley and Brentz, but he does have upside because of his power potential.
Upton would give the Red Sox a high-profile middle of the order bat, but giving up Bogaerts alone would be a risk because the latter has a soaring high ceiling.
Adding Barnes and Jacobs to the deal would be a coup for Arizona, which has the aforementioned deep rotation and a plethora of outfielders (including the recently signed Cody Ross to accompany Gerardo Parra and prospects Adam Eaton and A.J. Pollock.
While speculation has arisen that the Red Sox might have interest in Upton, little has been said about Boston landing Giancarlo Stanton, who is apparently unhappy with the Miami Marlins’ latest fire sale.
The 23-year-old Stanton would require a much larger prospect package than Upton because he (Stanton) is under team control through 2017, is not eligible for arbitration until 2014 and is reminiscent of a young Manny Ramirez at the plate.
In 2012, the slugger recorded a slash line of .290/.608/.969 with 37 home runs and 86 RBI. He ripped 34 home runs in 2011.
The cost would understandable be high.
Bogaerts, Bradley and Barnes – three prospects who the Red Sox are said to be building the future around – would likely head to Miami. The Marlins would possibly require more names such as Jacobs and leff-handed starting pitching prospect Henry Owens.
A right-handed slugger, Morse had 31 home runs and 95 RBI in 2011 but dipped to 18 home runs and 62 RBI in an injury-shortened 2012 season.
Getting Morse would also require surrendering top prospects, but not the batch that Boston would have to give up for Stanton or Upton.
Even if the Red Sox and Napoli sign off on a contract, the Red Sox would still have a role for Garrett Jones, a left-handed hitter who can play first base and right field.
Chances are, Jones would have been packaged in the recent Joel Hanrahan trade if the Red Sox were deeply interested, but Cherington has said he would like to acquire a versatile left-handed hitter who can play multiple positions, and the Pirates are open to trading Jones.
Like the Nationals, the Pirates need a left-handed reliever, and they are also seeking rotation help.
Though the Red Sox have a rotation that includes Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Ryan Dempster, Felix Doubront and John Lackey, and Morales has upside as a starter, they would still be interested in the 29-year-old Matt Garza, who is proven in the American League East.
Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer obviously have in-depth knowledge of the Red Sox farm system, and they could use a catcher and a left-handed reliever as well.