A mere 20 games into the 2014 regular season, the 9-11 Boston Red Sox are probably not concerned about midseason trades the team may make leading up to the 2014 MLB trading deadline.
Yet that 9-11 record—combined with a last-place rank in the American League East—could suggest that changes are coming.
Exactly what these changes may be remain anyone's guess.
For starters, it is far too early in the season to determine whether or not the Red Sox will be active buyers or sellers when it comes to assembling a late-season roster. As with any general manager, Boston's GM Ben Cherington will have an open ear when it comes to making the right move.
The move just has to come at the right time and for the right price.
In this article, we will take a look at two potential trades that Cherington and the Red Sox may consider executing.
The first two will be from a seller's perspective—banking on the possibility that Boston's World Series title defense does not go well and the team looks to unload players on, or before, the trading deadline.
The two remaining possibilities will be placed as if the Red Sox are looking to bolster a playoff-potential roster, perhaps even with long-term considerations in mind.
As with any moves, speculation is most prevalent until a deal actually takes place. First, we must establish the need to move/acquire a player and then make all the other pieces fit.
A Seller's Market
As noted before, the first two predictions shall focus on the possibility of the Red Sox trading away talent in the case that they have given up on a legitimate playoff run.
Whether it is to unload a lofty contract or possibly make room for a budding prospect in the minors, trading away players is a great way to bring in future commodities. Finding the right suitor is always the key.
Will Middlebrooks—Third Base
Entering 2014, Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks could very well be on the hot seat.
Middlebrooks' 2012 rookie campaign—a season that saw him bat .288 with 15 home runs and 54 RBI—was followed by a disastrous sophomore season.
The second-year slump forced the Red Sox to send Middlebrooks down to Triple-A Pawtucket, and even after the minor league stint, Middlebrooks lost plenty of playing time to the upstart Xander Bogaerts.
After Boston thinned out its infield during the offseason, Middlebrooks was given another chance to make the case for himself in 2014, being named a starter on Opening Day.
Yet with the budding third base prospect Garin Cecchini awaiting his major league turn, Middlebrooks' days in Boston could be numbered.
Currently on a one-year, $540,500 contract, Middlebrooks would be a cheap commodity for a infield-needy team making a playoff push. Middlebrooks also has desirable power, further adding to his trade value.
So who would be the most likely of suitors?
Tyler Drenon of SB Nation pointed out back in February that the Miami Marlins have been inquiring about Middlebrooks' services. Yet Drenon cites The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo as saying Boston would probably not make a move unless it involved Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton—more on him shortly.
At the beginning of the season, such a deal may have been difficult to execute. Yet if Boston continues to find themselves in last place within the division, such a deal may be mandated.
As far as the exchange rate is concerned, Boston would probably not receive much if Middlebrooks was traded outright. In spite of his power, the overall production simply does not warrant a lofty trade. Being a part of a package deal, however, is another story.
Alternative Trade: Mike Carp or Daniel Nava. Boston has a plethora of outfielders and seeing what Carp and/or Nava's trade value is on the open market could be enticing for Cherington.
Felix Doubront—Starting Pitcher
Similar to Middlebrooks, Red Sox lefty Felix Doubront is one of those players who could very well be on the hot seat in 2014.
At 26 years old, 2014 is likely a make-it, or break-it season as far as Doubront's future with Boston is concerned. With a surplus of young and talented pitching in their minor league system, the Red Sox are afforded the luxury of being impatient with the talented, yet inconsistent southpaw.
After his first four starts this season, Doubront's 2014 numbers are not particularly inspiring—a 1-2 record with a 5.48 ERA and 1.547 WHIP.
As Conor Duffy of Bosoxinjection.com writes:
However, the final judgement of Doubront’s 2014 season will not come from the start; it will come from the finish. If Doubront’s better conditioning helps him to stay strong throughout the season and not falter down the stretch, then it’s safe to assume that he’ll be a key part of the Boston starting five for years to come. If he falters down the stretch again, however, he could be in the back of the rotation to stay and could even find himself as trade bait with so much depth in the Red Sox system.
Like any transaction, Doubront's eventual future will likely be the direct result of how he performs on the field. If his 2014 struggles continue, look for Cherington to entertain a possible deal, as suggested by Michael LeDuc of Fansided.com.
LeDuc suggests that a trade to the National League may be beneficial to Doubront's future.
His one-year, $586,000 contract would also make Doubront relatively easy to move.
Alternative Trade: Starting Pitcher Jake Peavy. The former Cy Young Award winner is not getting any younger, but he is still a serviceable starter and playoff-bound teams are always looking for added pitching.
A Buyer's Market
Moving from the possibility of a Red Sox collapse in 2014 to the prospects of turning their fortunes around, let us shift into what could transpire if Cherington wants to make some additional moves to bolster the team's playoff chances this season.
Bidding wars leading up to the trade deadline can be costly—any general manager knows this. Yet finding the right piece and for the right price can be paramount in constructing a team, not just in the short term, but for years down the road as well.
We have already covered the fact that Boston's current outfield is crowded. With the eventual return of Shane Victorino, the Red Sox's outfield becomes even more overloaded.
So why would Boston want to add yet another outfielder to the mix?
Well, when that outfielder's name is Carlos Gonzalez, one would have to think that a possible acquisition would make sense from the Red Sox's vantage point.
With the Colorado Rockies likely not favored to make it far in the National League West, moving a player like Cargo might be an option as the Rockies look to measure up to divisional powerhouses like the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants.
There is no doubting Gonzalez's prowess at the plate and in the field. The three-time Gold Glove Award recipient would be a defensive bonus in Fenway Park, and his lifetime .299 batting average would further boost Boston's already potent lineup.
Such a move would likely mean the end of Boston's platoon in left field, and it could force manager John Farrell to shift his outfielders around to some extent based on defensive preference. Still, Gonzalez's presence would be far too good to overlook.
Two things would hamper such a deal however.
First, Gonzalez is signed through 2017 on a seven-year, $80 million contract. With Cherington's reluctance to extend long-term contracts to incumbent Red Sox players, it is hard to fathom such a deal being made outright.
Additionally, Cargo would not come cheap. The Rockies would be looking to land a plethora of prospects in return—possibly with an emphasis on young pitching.
Fortunately, Boston has plenty of young arms to line up in exchange. They could make the deal happen. The only question is whether or not Cherington wants to.
Yet the speculation is not far removed from possibility, as pointed out by NESN.com's Ricky Doyle on his list of potential midseason trades.
Assuming that the Red Sox will continue to look to bolster their outfield situation in the same context mentioned above with Gonzalez, another possibility could be that of adding Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton.
At 24 years old, Stanton is a much younger option compared to the 28-year-old Gonzalez. Yet his ceiling is just as high, if not higher.
The speculation surrounding a possible Red Sox acquisition of Stanton is nothing new this season.
Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe broached this topic back in early March, suggesting that Boston was one of many teams lining up for a potential Stanton trade.
Cafardo does mention that Marlins GM Dan Jennings has insisted that Stanton is not for sale, but as Michael Jong of Fish Stripes points out, Miami is accustomed to sending away its young talent when the team feels as if they can no longer meet their contractual obligations. He writes:
As Miami Marlins fans, we have become accustomed to the rumor mill swirling over our young talent constantly. But at no time will the mill be more active and frothing than when it becomes evident that the Marlins will have to trade Stanton. That time may not be now, but it will be within the next year, and Marlins fans will have to hear hundreds of rumors flying on a daily basis.
Should the Red Sox be in on these rumors? The answer is simple.
From a contractual standpoint, Stanton and his one-year, $6.5 million deal may be easier to swallow from Cherington's perspective. If an in-season deal takes place, Boston would have the luxury of establishing a term to Cherington's liking.
The only question from there is whether or not Stanton would be on board with a GM not prone to dishing out long-term deals.
Similarly to Gonzalez, Stanton would not come cheap and the Red Sox would have to pay up in prospects to make any sort of deal happen. Still, they have the pieces to make such a move.
Thus, a deal is not out of the realm of possibility even if it is but a pipe dream at this point.
As with any trade rumors—especially ones so early in a season—speculation is typically the best judge of possibility.
There have been ties and stories regarding which players could move from, or to, the Red Sox in 2014. But nothing is guaranteed until a transaction actually takes place.
As the season moves on, the fog surrounding potential moves will start to clear and we will gain a better knowledge of what should transpire.
Until then, we can only take an educated guess.
Peter Panacy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report, covering the Boston Red Sox. Follow him @PeterMcShots on Twitter.
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