Ellsbury is one of Boston's most serious trade candidates
If Red Sox fans learned anything near the end of last season, it was that no player is safe from being traded at any time.
Adrian Gonzalez, for example, was traded without warning last summer, despite providing very solid production during his time in Boston, to the tune of a combined 9.2 WAR. As is common knowledge by now, Gonzalez was required to sweeten the deal that would free the Red Sox of Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford’s contract.
Although it is highly unlikely that the Red Sox will be moving a quarter of a billion dollars via trade any time soon again, there are still a few players who may be deemed expendable for the right price. Here are four players most likely to be traded before July.
I recently highlighted Saltalamacchia as being in hot water because there is at least one other catcher on the Red Sox depth chart threatening to take his job.
Salty may have had a productive season last year, but his defense and on-base percentage still left much to be desired. However, for the moment, Salty is the starting catcher for the Red Sox, and he will only be traded if that changes.
How might that change?
Salty’s backup, David Ross, is a capable catcher himself, known for his defensive prowess and power bat. Ross is an experienced veteran who should earn at least 50 or more games of playing time simply due to his right-handedness. If he proves to be an effective catcher on both sides of the ball, he could very well gain even more playing time.
However, the more immediate threat to Salty’s employment in Fenway is Ryan Lavarnway. The young backstop has spent the last year and a half honing his craft in Triple-A Pawtucket. Lavarnway has always had a great bat, with the chance to hit for average and power as a major league ballplayer. His only drawback has been defense. However, after being voted the best defensive catcher in the international league last season, it seems Lavarnway is finally ready for Boston.
If Salty starts losing playing time to Ross or Lavarnway or both, he will become expendable, especially since he will reach free agency after this season. He may be traded before July.
And let me tell you this, if Saltalamacchia is traded, it will be a relief because I will never have to spell his name out ever again. That thing is a doozy. And I thought my name was long.
Ellsbury has headlined trade rumors for over a year now. Ever since being shafted in the 2011 MVP vote after leading the league in WAR, Ellsbury has been a coveted item on the trade market.
But despite his value, he has garnered nothing more than baseless theories and false rumors. However, with Ellsbury entering his contract, the Red Sox may look to launch him out of Boston to the highest bidder.
Furthermore, Ellsbury has become somewhat expendable over the past year. The first sign that he may be on his way out came when last season Jackie Bradley, Boston’s No. 2 prospect, and one of the game’s best young outfielders, started putting up monster numbers in the minors during his professional debut. Bradley is a superstar defender with an above average-to-better hit tool and a knack for getting on base. Assuming he acclimates to the major leagues, Bradley should make Ellsbury expendable.
If, for whatever reason, Bradley is not ready to take Ellsbury’s place as soon as the Red Sox hope, there is another realistic option. Recently signed, Shane Victorino is a very capable center fielder who is currently slated to play in right field next season. If the Red Sox are met with a lucrative offer for Ellsbury, they can accept with the peace of mind that Victorino can easily take his place in center.
Without a doubt, Ellsbury is a prime example of the strength of Boston’s farm system. However, his impending free agency, and the several capable alternatives available make him a serious candidate to be traded, and soon.
If there’s one thing the Red Sox have an excess of, it's relief pitchers. To be more specific, Boston has more left-handed relievers than most teams would dream of. Outside of Andrew Miller, Craig Breslow and Franklin Morales, who are on the major league roster, the Red Sox also have minor leaguers Chris Hernandez and Drake Britton, who could carve out a spot in the bullpen if given a chance.
At least one of these players is expendable via trade. The most attractive option to outside buyers will be Craig Breslow.
Breslow has several advantages over the other aforementioned pitchers. He first has a proven track record with several clubs in both leagues. Breslow also has roughly equal splits between both lefties and righties, making him a much more valuable pitcher than your average lefty specialist. Breslow will also be under team control through the 2015 season.
If the Red Sox need depth on the bench or have to use a reliever as part of a larger package to acquire a starting pitcher, Breslow will be a valuable trade chip.
Sometimes, the smallest deals are in fact the largest.
Ryan Sweeney was re-signed by the Red Sox shortly before spring training to serve as the team’s fourth outfielder. Sweeney is a very capable defender at all three positions and has shown the ability to hit for average in the past. He’s also known for being a clutch hitter.
Sweeney is a very useful player for any manager to have on the bench. So why would the Red Sox trade him?
Well, the only reason he would be dealt would be to make way for another player knocking down the big league door from the minor leagues.
Right now, outfielders Ryan Kalish, Jeremy Hazelbaker, Bryce Brentz and Jackie Bradley will be assigned to Triple-A Pawtucket once spring training draws to a close.
Kalish has been an up-and-down major leaguer for some time now, but he still has some potential to grow into a very effective big league starter once he overcomes several injury concerns.
Hazelbaker possesses a very attractive combination of speed and power that has impressed the Red Sox. He’s still struggling to hit for a decent average and he needs to hone his defensive instincts, but he’s not far off from making his major league debut.
Brentz and Bradley have the best shot at forcing the Red Sox to trade Sweeney to make room for them. While they are very different players, both have had consistent success all the way through the minor leagues. Brentz even helped lead the Pawtucket Red Sox to an International League division title at the end of the 2012 season.
Bradley and Brentz represent important pieces of the future of the Red Sox organization. If one or both of them prove ready for the major leagues this spring, Ben Cherington will not hesitate to jettison Sweeney in order to give his younger players a taste of the big show.
All Statistical information acquired from Baseball-Reference.com