Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com (Oct. 17, 2018 – Source: Elsa/Getty Images North America)
It’s that time of year again. MLB front offices are frantically calling, texting, scouting, and negotiating in an effort to improve their respective organizations, either for 2019 or beyond, prior to 4:00pm EST next Wednesday. Dave Dombrowski & company have firmly established themselves as “Buyers” by trading for Andrew Cashner earlier this month. However, there’s plenty of reasons to believe the Red Sox aren’t done adding, including numerous reports naming specific players as targets.
Obviously, other teams aren’t going to send impact players to Boston for nothing. Last year, the additions of Nathan Eovaldi, Steve Pearce, and Ian Kinsler cost the organization 4 prospects total, 3 of whom have already made it to the majors. Dombrowski’s strong desire would be to minimize any further damage to Boston’s farm system, but with a relatively loaded roster and an opportunity to repeat as World Champions for the first time since the dreaded Yankees did so last century, you can’t blame him for wanting to make a splash, even if it’s a modest one.
None of us are Dave Dombrowski, so we don’t know exactly where the decision makers stand on each prospect. Nor do we know how much each opposing team values each Red Sox prospect. If that information were public, this exercise would be rather pointless, and the trade deadline would be a lot less exciting in general. Still, that won’t stop Chris Gionta and I from fabricating pseudo-trade packages for players who have been recently connected to the Red Sox. Below is a list of teams we view as potential fits, the players we’d offer up in a trade proposal, and a brief explanation as to our reasoning behind each scenario.
SAN DIEGO PADRES
A year after shipping off Brad Hand to the Cleveland Indians for one of the game’s premiere catching prospects, AJ Preller has the chance to strike gold at the trade deadline once again. Kirby Yates is one of the top relief pitchers believed to be available, and there’s no shortage of teams looking to add bullpen help. He’s also making a very reasonable $3.06M this year, adding to his appeal, and with another year of team control, there’s no urgency for San Diego to move him.
Chris’s offer: Jarren Duran, Kutter Crawford, and Denyi Reyes for Kirby Yates and Craig Stammen
Kirby Yates is having arguably the best season for a reliever this year. To add to that, out of the same bullpen, there is a righty by the name of Craig Stammen who is having an above-average year. He has a 3.68 ERA through 51.1 IP and has been very good at getting soft contact. His 29.8% hard-hit rate is in the top 9% of the league. He could be a quality depth addition the shoulder the load off Matt Barnes, Marcus Walden, and Brandon Workman.
In terms of what is being given up, Jarren Duran is the main attraction. He is ranked #9 in the organization by MLB.com, but ranked #3 by SoxProspects.com. He is a speedy center fielder that the Padres could use, as two of their starting outfielders are primarily power hitters. Kutter Crawford and Denyi Reyes are two mid-level arms that could add more organizational depth to the Padres’ pitching staff.
Julian’s offer: Tanner Houck, Travis Lakins, and Kyle Hart for Kirby Yates plus cash considerations
Between their current outfield logjam, Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer entrenched at the corner infield positions for the next half decade-plus, Fernando Tatis Jr. at shortstop, and Francisco Mejia behind the dish, the Padres seem to be pretty set at most field positions, so I built an offer designed to overwhelm them with potential future arms. Since Travis Lakins – who made his MLB debut earlier this season – is already on Boston’s 40-man roster, neither team needs to DFA anybody to make this work from a roster management standpoint. The opening Yates’s departure would create in San Diego’s bullpen could potentially open a spot for Lakins, who might see his initial 2019 number improve by moving to a pitcher-friendly ballpark. At the very least, he’s a Quad-A arm who should be capable of filling in during an emergency.
Of course, the centerpiece of this deal is 2017 first round pick Tanner Houck, who could still profile as a starter or a reliever. Truthfully, just Houck and Lakins seems like a fair deal for Yates, but Dombrowski will probably have some competition for Yates, and the Red Sox will need monetary assistance in order to remain under the luxury tax threshold. Sprinkling in an additional Triple-A starter putting up decent numbers this year should help our case. Boston doesn’t have the top-100 prospect (unless they’re open to moving Triston Casas, which I wouldn’t) to dangle in this offer, but a first-round talent combined with two upper-minors arms might move the needle enough for Preller to pull the trigger, especially if they’re taking a quantity-over-quality approach.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
The Blue Jays are in full-blown sell mode as they look to surround Vladimir Guerrero Jr. with the talent needed to compete in baseball’s toughest division. Marcus Stroman is probably their most attractive movable asset, but other pitchers – Ken Giles, Aaron Sanchez, Daniel Hudson, among others – also face the strong possibility being shipped out of Canada before July ends, even those under contract through the 2020 season. Justin Smoak is also a noteworthy rental who will surely be available.
Chris’s Offer: Gilberto Jimenez, Kutter Crawford, and Travis Lakins for Ken Giles
There is going to be an overlap because the Red Sox are not going to go after two closers. Giles is proving to be a dominant closer, and his 43.2% strikeout rate says that. He is also 14/15 in save opportunities with a 1.64 ERA and 1.46 FIP. He, like Yates, is under control through 2020, so even if it doesn’t work out this year, the Red Sox would still have a closer for next year.
Because Giles has not been quite as good as Kirby Yates, his asking price should be lower. Jimenez is arguably the second best outfielding prospect in the organization behind the previously mentioned Duran. He is 19, and currently slashing .352/.386/.438 in Lowell. Lakins has given up six earned runs in 9.1 innings at the Major League level, but will likely be a quality reliever in the big leagues, soon.
Julian’s offer: Cole Brannen and Zach Schellenger for Giles plus cash considerations OR one of the two for Smoak plus cash considerations
If this seems like a lowball offer, that’s because it is. (After all, this is a divisional rival.) Brannen has been a colossal bust since Dombrowski took him in the second round of the 2017 draft, though he’s still just a few weeks shy of his 21st birthday, so time is on his side. Schellenger appears in the 20-30 range of Boston’s farm system on both SoxProspects.com and MLB.com, but he’s been lit up so far this year to the tune of an 8.69 ERA through 29.0 innings across Advanced-A and Double-A.
I’m personally not that high on any of Toronto’s pitchers. Stroman (who I can’t imagine getting along with Alex Cora) and Sanchez are both overrated starters who will likely command more than their worth. Daniel Hudson’s stat lines are similar to Shane Greene’s career numbers, both prior to and during the 2019 season, leaving room for doubt that his numbers could fall off a cliff upon a change of scenery. Similarly, I have concerns about Ken Giles and his ability to maintain the value he’s built back up since being traded away from Houston last year. This is the same maniac who once cursed out Astros manager AJ Hinch between the lines during a game, and also punched himself in the face upon being pulled from a separate ugly outing. Do we really trust that guy to shine in high leverage situations in Boston in late October?
Smoak is a player the Blue Jays need to move more than any team truly needs Smoak’s services. Simply put, if Smoak is still with Toronto come August 1st, Ross Atkins failed to do his job. It is imperative that they get something for Smoak’s expiring contract, and if no one else comes in with a better offer, I’d be willing to give them one (not both) of the prospects mentioned above, provided they send along enough cash to cover Smoak’s remaining prorated salary. Best case scenario, he arrives at Fenway and turns into 2018 Steve Pearce. Worst case scenario, he arrives at Fenway and turns into 2019 Steve Pearce.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Rich Hahn should be proud of the job he’s done thus far. The emergence of Lucas Giolito, Yoan Moncada, and Eloy Jimenez have started to paint a picture of the team Hahn envisioned when he traded away Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, and Adam Eaton. Also, if you don’t know the name Luis Robert yet, you should; he’s a monster who’s destined to haunt MLB pitchers in their sleep. His addition, plus the eventual returns of Tim Anderson, Carlos Rodon, and Michael Kopech should put them in the position to contend for the AL Central crown for the better part of the next decade. In the meantime, since they’re still at least a year away, considering a Jose Abreu trade is only logical since his contract ends after this season, even if they hope to bring him back during the offseason. Closer Alex Colome is also bound to attract some interest from teams in need of immediate bullpen health, though he too has an additional year of control remaining after this season.
Chris’s Offer: Durbin Feltman for Alex Colome
Jose Abreu is not an attractive asset to me, because I believe he is not much better than what the Red Sox have. Abreu has an .810 OPS compared to Michael Chavis’s .779 OPS, and he would only be around for this year. The Red Sox also have another corner infielder, Bobby Dalbec, coming up in the system. Chavis and Dalbec are under cheap control for a while, so trading prospects for a 32-year-old first baseman would not be an intelligent decision.
Alex Colome has a 2.33 ERA through 38.2 innings, but I am afraid his success is not very sustainable. He only has 7.0 K/9 and he has a .155 BABIP against despite allowing hard-hit balls at an above-average rate (39.2%). He is still a quality reliever with closing experience, so I would offer a relatively well-known prospect for him. Durbin Feltman is known for his high-90s fastball and ability to strike batters out. But, like most prospects, he is flawed, and the Red Sox might not have the patience to let him develop. With Colome under control through 2020, I figure this would be a pretty fair trade.
Julian’s offer: Bobby Dalbec, Chase Shugart, and Steve Pearce (yes, you read that right) for Jose Abreu and Alex Colome plus cash considerations
This is my proverbial “swinging-for-the-fences” proposition, but it doesn’t totally deplete the Red Sox farm. Dalbec is too talented to be sacrificed for a rental, but if we could effectively kill two birds with one stone, I’d authorize such a deal. It’s also not unprecedented, as we’ve seen Hahn trade away multiple major league players in one deal at the trade deadline in the past.
I actually see this as a win-win. Dalbec is a tremendous talent who is well on his way to the majors, but he’s blocked at his natural third base position by Rafael Devers. The White Sox current third baseman, Yoan Moncada, moved from second base where he seemed more better suited. Dalbec profiles as a better defender at third, so it’s conceivable that Moncada could move back to second in order to make room for Dalbec once he’s ready. That is, unless they use the vacancy at first base, left by Abreu, to test Dalbec’s abilities across the diamond. Either way, Dalbec represents an instant upgrade to their farm system at the corner infield positions, and his developmental track fits their timeline. If he can cut down on the strikeouts, Dalbec alone should make this trade worth it for Chicago.
If Dalbec is compensation for the talent, Shugart (who’s enjoying an exceptional first full season in Greenville) is compensation for the balance sheet adjustments. The White Sox adding cash probably won’t be enough to keep Boston out of financial trouble, so I’m sending back Pearce and the remainder of his bloated contract in addition to asking for money, copying the blueprint of the Swarzak-Vizcaino trade between the Braves and Mariners earlier this year. This would honestly be a favor to the 2018 World Series MVP, given the fact that he shouldn’t expect to see any meaningful at bats in Boston for the remainder of the 2019 season. (Honestly, I would expect Pearce to get DFA if Dombrowski trades for a RH first baseman, but I’m getting creative in an effort to make someone else pay his remaining salary.) The best way for Pearce to rebuild any semblance of value before he hits the FA market again this winter would be to finish this season in a lineup where he might actually get playing time.
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
In the midst of a historical July, Bruce Bochy’s swan song has certainly made Farhan Zaidi’s job difficult. (Or at least much more intriguing. Reports indicate that management is still on-board with the plan to sell expiring contracts, particularly with pitching.) Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith are generating most of the headlines, and with the lack of clarity in the current market, they’re bound to garner multiple offers. That being said, Smith isn’t San Francisco’s only relief pitcher with closer experience. Several names on their roster would still represent an upgrade to the Red Sox bullpen.
Chris’s offer: Antoni Flores and Alex Schreff for Sam Dyson
I have been in love with the idea of having Sam Dyson in this bullpen since I did a breakdown of which relievers the Red Sox should trade for. He is a sinker-baller who gets soft contact and doesn’t walk anybody, so he would be a breath of fresh air to anyone who has watched this team this year. He has a 2.57 ERA, 2.71 FIP, a 6.7 K/BB ratio, and great hard-hit and barrel rates (34.1% and 4.5%). Not only that, but he has closer experience. He was 38/43 in save opportunities with Texas in 2016, which was his only full season as a closer.
Flores is an 18-year-old shortstop ranked #6 in the organization by MLB.com and #10 by SoxProspects.com. I would assume he has some potential, but his numbers in the minors aren’t showing he will be something in the near future. Schreff is a RHP that is ranked #25 in the organization by SoxProspects.com. He is only 21, so the Giants might see potential in him.
Julian’s offer: Brandon Howlett and Josh Taylor for Tony Watson plus cash considerations
Frankly, I’m not sure Boston can compete with the packages Atlanta, Minnesota, Milwaukee, and the Yankees could put together for Smith, much less Bumgarner. And while Boston’s rotation consists of predominantly southpaws, the best LH option out of the ‘pen presently is either the oft-injured Brian Johnson, prospect Darwinzon Hernandez, or the aforementioned Josh Taylor himself, depending on who woke up on which side of the bed that day. The Sox would be getting older and more expensive in that department by swapping out Taylor for Watson, who’s likely to opt out of his player option for the 2020 season. However, it would also improve the current bullpen, giving Alex Cora not only a situational lefty, but also a reliever who… get this… has recorded consecutive saves in a season!
I throw in a decent third base prospect partially to separate my offer from others, partially because it’s a relative position of strength for Boston’s farm system, and partially because if I have to watch Pablo Sandoval play another major league game at the hot corner, I might gouge my eyes out.