GM Ben Cherington will have some tough decisions to make as the 2013 MLB Trade Deadline approaches.
The surprising start of the 2013 Boston Red Sox has put them in a unique position with about five weeks to go until the MLB trade deadline. While many thought going into the season that the Sox would be full-on sellers, their success has dictated that the team’s thinking may shift slightly towards winning this season without mortgaging the future.
There is virtually no chance any of the Sox’s top prospects are going anywhere. GM Ben Cherington undoubtedly will hold on to all his assets, instead looking to bolster the MLB roster with minor moves designed more as band-aids than as long-term fixes.
While no player is truly immune from being moved, there is a huge divide in the likelihood that certain players will be moved at or before the deadline. Here, we’ll break down each Boston Red Sox’s odds of being traded before the deadline.
Position Players: David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia
Pitcher: Clay Buchholz
This list is tiny because when you’re a team transitioning into a younger generation of players, no veteran is truly untouchable.
The only exception, of course, is Big Papi.
Ortiz’s value to the Sox is greater than his value to any other team, and there’s no chance the Sox would allow their offensive centerpiece and face of the franchise to finish his career anywhere else.
Pedroia is similar to Ortiz in his esteem in the eyes of fans, and has been incredibly productive yet again this season. While he has a big payday looming, the 29-year-old is the cornerstone upon which the Sox will build their future offense.
On the mound, Buchholz looks like the ace the Sox have been craving. When healthy, he’s been 2013’s best pitcher. Given that and his reasonable contract, he’s not going anywhere.
Position Players: Will Middlebrooks, Jose Iglesias, Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, Daniel Nava
Pitchers: Jon Lester, Felix Doubront, Ryan Dempster, Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara
This area is reserved for guys who are either veteran free agents brought in over the offseason on large contracts, or young emerging players who have played key roles in the Sox’s excellent start to the 2013 season. Each has a particular value to the team this year and beyond, whether it be through their talent on the field, their favorable contract or both.
Lester is a unique case among this group; his performance has been spotty, but he is still ostensibly the co-ace of the rotation along with Buchholz. He is almost certainly staying put because the Sox’s asking price for him would likely drive away any potential suitor.
Position Players: David Ross, Jonny Gomes, Mike Carp
Pitchers: Craig Breslow, John Lackey, Andrew Miller, Franklin Morales
While all of these guys have been solid contributors to the cause, they don’t make enough money or play a vital enough role to be considered untouchable. They are key cogs in the machine who would be difficult to replace, but if the right deal came along, the forward-thinking Sox brain trust would happily send these veterans packing.
Even Lackey’s deal now has some value; his Tommy John surgery triggered a sixth year team-option on his deal that enables the Sox to pay him just $500,000, should they want to keep him around. In the process, his average annual salary plummeted from $15.25 million per year for the next two seasons to $10.3 million for the next three. If Lackey continues to perform as he has so far, that is a steal.
No, I can’t believe I just wrote that either.
Position Players: Jacoby Ellsbury, Jarrod Saltalamacchia
Pitcher: Andrew Bailey
These three are all key players for the Sox, but each is also an intriguing trade piece, especially if the Sox for whatever reason fall out of contention. Given David Ross’ continued concussion-related problems, Saltalamacchia is the least likely of this group to move.
In all cases, the Sox are going to want a big return in exchange for any of these guys. Each has his share of warts—Ellsbury’s lack of power, Bailey’s inconsistency, Salty’s poor plate discipline—but with all on manageable deals, money is not going to be an issue. Ellsbury’s situation is complicated by his impending free agency, but any contending team would be happy to have him—even if it's only for even two months.
Position Player: Stephen Drew
Pitcher: Alfredo Aceves
These may not be the flashiest of names, but given the organization’s focus on winning in the future and not necessarily this year, this may be as big as it gets for the Sox’s deadline moves. Both players have demonstrated they have some value, but not enough that they’ve become essential members of the squad.
One of the most under reported stories from the Sox’s last few weeks is how huge Aceves has been. With Clay Buchholz in injury limbo, and the rest of the rotation battling inconsistency, Aceves has emerged from the abyss and been an absolute stopper. While he has shown he can’t sustain that long-term, there are many MLB teams out there that could use him.
It’s fair to wonder if Stephen Drew would still be the starting shortstop if he weren’t making $9.5 million. It may be that the Sox are simply auditioning him for other teams so that he can be moved now that he is eligible.
In any case, Jose Iglesias needs to play and Will Middlebrooks and Dustin Pedroia aren’t going anywhere. While using Iglesias as a utility man will work in the short term, expect him to take over for Drew full-time after the trade deadline.