Last season, the Boston Red Sox had a fire sale, jettisoning Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto for James Loney and other considerations.
That fire sale cleared up the space to sign Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli, and now the Sox are tops in the AL East. But they still have a couple weak spots, and the AL East race is shaping up to be quite tight, which is why I think they should be the recipients of a fire sale this campaign.
Obviously, when you hear “fire sale” right now, your mind should automatically flash to the great Chicago fire sales that have been mentioned over the past two weeks. But those aren't the fire sales Boston wants to buy, for a number of reasons.
For one, neither the Cubs nor the White Sox can offer the Red Sox exactly what they want. The Cubs appear to be dealing piecemeal, with Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports, among others, reporting within the last few hours that ace Matt Garza is likely going to Texas. And with the White Sox already dealing Matt Thornton to Boston, further, larger deals seem unlikely.
No, the team I see as fire-selling to the BoSox are the Milwaukee Brewers.
A disappointing showing in the first half will be followed by a wretched second half and a not-that-great 2014, since Ryan Braun is slated to serve a long PED-related suspension. Milwaukee has been pegged as sellers by most analysts and is one of the few sellers who can fulfill all of Boston's needs.
Let's review what Boston needs. For starters, it needs an upgrade at the hot corner: Will Middlebrooks (.192 BA, .617 OPS, -0.4 WAR) has been disappointing this season and is currently in Triple-A Pawtucket. With Jose Iglesias sliding back to shortstop and Pedro Ciriaco traded, the Red Sox have been operating an unfortunate platoon of Brock Holt and Brandon Snyder.
The other two things it'd be nice for Boston to have are another starter and closer. Boston is near the bottom of the league in relief ERA (4.10) and 20th in the majors in starters' WHIP (1.32). Neither are particularly encouraging signs with ace Clay Buchholz on a prolonged DL stint and Jon Lester posting a disappointing 5.23 ERA in the last 30 days.
Boston's bullpen took major hits with Joel Hanharan's injury and the continuing ineffectiveness of Andrew Bailey and Daniel Bard, and it has no closer at present.
Milwaukee can fulfill those needs with Aramis Ramirez, Yovani Gallardo and Francisco Rodriguez. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports has all three of them on the block, and those three players have been mentioned as being on the block individually in sources ranging from Jon Morosi of Fox Sports (Ramirez) to Dave Radcliffe of Yahoo! Sports (Gallardo and Rodriguez).
Though Rodriguez is a free agent at the end of the season, Ramirez and Gallardo will be owed $32 million if they are bought out after 2014 and $54 million if they’re held on to until the end of the 2015 campaign. The three players’ contracts combine to $25 million this season alone, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts. If the Brewers want to shed salaries, shedding these players (or the underwhelming John Axford) is a wonderful way to start.
What would the Sox have to give up to get Ramirez and Gallardo in their uniforms, besides lots and lots of cash? Well, I think it begins with Middlebrooks.
Add to that reserve outfielder/first baseman Mike Carp. Carp has a triple slash of .303/.369/.606, but with Victorino, Jacoby Ellsbury, Daniel Nava, David Ortiz and Napoli all healthy, there really isn’t a place for him on the Sox roster.
The last piece I see is sending two or three prospects the Brewers’ way. One of them will probably have to be Anthony Ranaudo, who’s 8-2 with a 2.67 ERA for Double-A Portland.
Bottom line: The Boston Red Sox have a good thing going, whereas the Milwaukee Brewers will probably be cellar-dwellers for the foreseeable future. The two teams need to make a deal.