Considering they are 39-50 and 10 games out in the American League East standings, it’s an understatement that the season has not progressed as anticipated for the Boston Red Sox.
After winning their third World Series in 10 years in 2013, this year’s version has endured injuries to key players and a woeful offensive display that has the club near the bottom of the majors in many categories.
With the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline rapidly approaching, it is likely that the Red Sox will trade pieces that don’t fit for the long term. Among them include players who can become free agents at season’s end such as right-handed starting pitcher Jake Peavy, right-handed reliever Burke Badenhop, catcher A.J. Pierzynski and outfielder Jonny Gomes.
Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported that Boston is unlikely to trade an array of players in the final year of their respective deals, even if the club opts to become sellers. Peavy is the most obvious trade piece for the Red Sox since the team has top young arms like Rubby De La Rosa and Anthony Ranaudo to step into the rotation. Brandon Workman, a 25-year-old right-hander who is among the group of promising young arms that have climbed the Red Sox farm system, is already in the rotation.
With Boston starving for offensive production from the outfield, ESPN’s Jayson Stark speculates that Allen Craig could be a trade target. St. Louis is in need of a starting pitcher with Jaime Garcia sidelined for the year and Michael Wacha out indefinitely. The Cardinals scouted Peavy’s last start.
Craig represents the type of player that would interest Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington since he is 29 and has value for the long term. Though the Red Sox are struggling this season, they are well-positioned to remain a formidable World Series contender for years with a bountiful farm system, a talented core, payroll flexibility and an ownership group that is willing to spend.
David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Clay Buchholz, Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli and Edward Mujica are the lone Boston players signed for 2015. Victorino, Napoli and Mujica become free agents after the 2015 campaign.
The Red Sox are stocked with prime starting pitching prospects like the aforementioned Workman, De La Rosa and Ranaudo as well as Allen Webster and Matt Barnes (who are currently at Triple-A Pawtucket) and left-handers Henry Owens and Brian Johnson (who are presently at Double-A Portland).
Though Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. have endured subpar seasons at the plate, Boston has high hopes for both. Mookie Betts, who like Bogaerts is just 21, recently made his Major League debut and is expected to fill a role beyond this season in the outfield. Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart are two of the top catching prospects in baseball.
With their minor league depth and payroll flexibility, the Red Sox will be able to fill holes internally at minimal cost, which will allow Cherington to spend big on impact free agents and trade acquisitions. This could dictate how he will manage trades this month and in the offseason.
Beyond a potential deal with St. Louis involving Peavy, the Red Sox are not likely to fetch much in return with trades this month and next month. Deals of veterans in the final year of their contract would be made to make room for deserving young players.
Here are Red Sox players who could be traded before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline (and perhaps the August 31 final trade deadline):
Jake Peavy – Dealing Peavy will not weaken the Red Sox rotation. Instead, it will allow De La Rosa and perhaps Ranaudo to get a well-deserved chance. Peavy has appeal to National League teams, including the Cardinals.
Felix Doubront – The 25-year-old left-hander is eligible for arbitration for the first time this off-season, and with the depth of starting pitching prospects in the Red Sox system, there is no room for Doubront. He could be a fit for a club looking for back of the rotation help or for a left-handed bullpen arm.
A.J. Pierzynski or David Ross – Both veteran backstops can become free agents at the end of the season, and the Red Sox are unlikely to bring either back. The 23-year-old Vazquez is a plus defensive catcher who has also produced with the bat at Pawtucket, and he is Major League ready, so dealing one of the veterans makes sense. Pierzynksi is limited defensively, but he does have pop in his bat. Ross is a light hitter but calls a plus game and is well-respected by pitchers.
Jonny Gomes – Everywhere he goes, a playoff appearance seems to result. Since the Red Sox will look to upgrade their outfield this offseason, it is improbable that they will re-sign Gomes. He would provide a solid right-handed power bat against left-handed pitching for a contender.
Stephen Drew – Yes, he of the anemic .136 batting average. Yet Drew does have some left-handed power, and he is one of the top defensive shortstops in the game. The Red Sox could return Bogaerts to shortstop and plug third with the rehabbing Will Middlebrooks or Brock Holt.
Andrew Miller and Craig Breslow – Left-handed relievers are always in demand, and both of these names will be free agents. The Red Sox have a less expensive option in Tommy Layne, and they could give him some innings in the second half if they deal Miller or Breslow.
Burke Badenhop – The right-handed sinkerballer will also be a free agent, and he has appeal to clubs looking for a reliable set-up man.
Will Middlebrooks – Though the young third baseman has been saddled with injuries and has struggled at times with pitch recognition, the Red Sox still believe he is a potential 30 home run bat. It is difficult to find a productive right-handed power bat, so it is unlikely he will be traded – unless the Marlins ask for him in a package for Giancarlo Stanton, that is.