The Red Sox have been as active as anyone at the winter meetings, signing Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino, and there could be more on the way.
According to a tweet from Buster Olney, the team could look to address their pitching needs by dealing center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury.
Rival officials believe that the Red Sox are laying the groundwork for a trade of Jacoby Ellsbury, for the pitching they need.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 5, 2012
With Victorino and fellow free-agent signing Jonny Gomes already filling two outfield spots, the team's continued interest in Cody Ross and others could be a sign they are open to moving Ellsbury, as Boston Globe beat writer Pete Abraham pointed out in a tweet.
Sources: #RedSox are open to idea of trading Ellsbury, playing Victorino in CF and signing C. Ross or another RF. Keeping doors open.— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) December 5, 2012
Here is a look at the three teams with a combination of offensive need and pitching trade chips that could be where Ellsbury lands if he's moved.
Having finished dead last in the American League in runs scored and batting average in each of the past three seasons, it's clear that the offense has to be addressed if the Mariners are to return to contention.
Their current outfield shapes up to be some combination of Michael Saunders, Franklin Gutierrez, Casper Wells and Eric Thames, so Ellsbury would mark a significant upgrade over their current crop of talent.
The team has three of the game's top pitching prospects in Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton, and while the first two are likely untouchable, they could build a package around Paxton to acquire Ellsbury.
The team also has a veteran trade chip in Jason Vargas who could interest the Red Sox, and a number of lower-level pitching prospects with high upside.
After getting a lowly .581 OPS out of the leadoff spot in their lineup last season, the Reds are understandably looking for an answer atop their lineup. With Ryan Ludwick gone, they have a hole to fill in the outfield as well.
According to Jon Morosi of Fox Sports, the Reds have shown interest in Dexter Fowler on the trade market, so they would likely be in on Ellsbury if he were made available.
The Rockies were interested in Homer Bailey as a return piece, and the budding ace would no doubt interest the Red Sox as well, but the Reds may not want to give him up in any deal.
With Aroldis Chapman moving into the rotation, Mike Leake is the odd-man out. Perhaps a deal built around him and top pitching prospect Tony Cingrani would be enough to lure Ellsbury away from Boston.
The Rays have already added some solid minor pieces to their offense this offseason, signing James Loney to play first base and acquiring shortstop YunelEscobar from the Marlins.
However, the offense still falls short of instilling fear in the hearts of opponents as they are lacking in impact bats. Adding Ellsbury would likely mean sliding Desmond Jennings to left field and Matt Joyce to DH.
The Rays have a surplus of top-flight pitching, with the oft-rumored James Shields one potential trade piece the team could use to land Ellsbury.
If they opt to keep Shields, the team could build a package around Jeff Niemann, Chris Archer or Alex Cobb and still have a rotation that ranks among the best in baseball.
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