Boasting a 15-17 record as of May 6, Boston finds itself in third place within a division that, up to this point, remains wide open.
Upon early review, the Red Sox may have been heading towards the July 31 MLB trading deadline as sellers considering their early season woes. Fortunately, signs are pointing to Boston getting back on track.
This alters what general manager Ben Cherington and the Red Sox's brass may consider doing as the team continues to defend its 2013 World Series title.
According to Bleacher Report MLB featured columnist Rick Weiner, Boston will approach the deadline as buyers—attempting to bolster their roster en route to another playoff appearance.
While the trading deadline is still far away, Cherington is likely already considering potential moves that can help the franchise, both in 2014 and perhaps beyond.
Let us take a look at three potential trades the Red Sox should be considering at this point in the season.
Trade Away Will Middlebrooks
After a disastrous 2013 campaign, Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks looks as if he may wind up being one of the expendable pieces on Boston's roster moving forward.
At this point in the season, Middlebrooks' numbers are emulating the lowly season he had a year ago. The 25-year-old is batting a mere .233 with an .807 OPS in 52 plate appearances, begging the question of whether he can replicate his impressive 2012 rookie campaign.
Middlebrooks' defense has provided some saving grace—having committed only one error thus far in 29 chances. With Boston's infield defense a legitimate question at this point, trading away Middlebrooks might not make sense on the surface.
Yet here is why he should be moved.
For starters, there is third base prospect Garin Cecchini awaiting his eventual MLB debut. While not rumored to be a standout defensive infielder, recent reports from Tim Britton of The Providence Journal have suggested his defense has improved greatly at Triple-A Pawtucket this season.
While Cecchini is close to ready offensively, the defensive questions shall remain a focal point. If they improve, Middlebrooks becomes even more expendable.
Even more enticing for this Middlebrooks scenario is the notion—described further by Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe—Xander Bogaerts is better suited for third base, citing his limited range as a primary reason.
The Red Sox appear comfortable keeping Bogaerts at shortstop for now, but it is hard to overlook his four errors thus far in the season.
At any rate, the window on Middlebrooks appears to be closing fast. Sitting on a one-year, $540,500 contract, moving Middlebrooks would not be a difficult thing to do financially.
The last question would be what the Red Sox could get in return.
In all honesty, not much. Middlebrooks' offensive woes thus far do not inspire a lot of confidence, thus reducing his trade value. However if Cherington could find a suitor perhaps willing to offer a likable consideration—perhaps a defensive-minded infielder—the transaction would be worthwhile.
Trade Away Daniel Nava
In 2013, the Daniel Nava, Jonny Gomes and Mike Carp platoon worked in left field. In 2014, Nava's end of the platoon has not fared so well.
Over 75 MLB plate appearances thus far, Nava is hitting a lowly .149 with a .509 OPS—numbers that eventually resulted in a demotion to Triple-A.
The Red Sox already have a crowded outfield with Carp, Gomes, Jackie Bradley Jr., Shane Victorino and Grady Sizemore and it does not seem likely that Nava returns any time soon unless one of the other Boston outfielders struggles offensively.
Before the 2014 season, a Nava trade seemed anything but the truth. According to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com (h/t Alex Hall of SB Nation) Nava received plenty of interest from other teams during the offseason, yet Boston refused to make any move.
In hindsight, especially while his stock was high, such a deal may have been worthwhile.
This is not to say the Red Sox should simply trade away Nava because he has had an awful start to 2014. On the contrary, it is hard to fathom his struggles carrying over for a long period of time. Nava has dealt with setbacks before and this one is the latest he will overcome.
Add this to the fact that switch hitters are a viable commodity on the open market—combined with his defensive flexibility—and it is hard to imagine that teams with thin outfields would not make an inquiry.
Justin Millar of SB Nation lists a number of teams that could be seeking outfield help this season—the Washington Nationals, Detroit Tigers, Anaheim Angels, Baltimore Orioles and Seattle Mariners all being listed as possibilities.
So if this deal is made, what exactly would the Red Sox receive in return?
This is pretty hard to speculate considering the ups and downs Nava has gone through over the past couple of seasons. On one hand, he did hit .303 in 2013 so the potential is there. Yet his 2014 struggles have certainly turned some inquiries away.
In all reality, Nava would probably pull in little more than some bullpen relief at best, or perhaps a role player with a defensive upside. Yet when considering both of those attributes—relief pitching and defense—such additions are always worthy come playoff time.
Should this be the price Boston pays in order to better their chances of making another postseason run?
Given their current situation, why not?
Trade for Giancarlo Stanton
Until Stanton signs a long-term deal elsewhere, this author is going to continue pressing the issue that Boston should figure out a way to land Miami Marlins phenom outfielder Giancarlo Stanton.
Stanton's 2014 numbers are replicating exactly what a budding young power hitter should be doing. Thus far, he is batting .283 with 10 home runs and a National League-leading 37 RBI. With some of the offensive woes Boston has encountered this season, imagine a lineup that featured such potential with Stanton on board.
I wish it would be easy enough to simply trade off some of the Red Sox's excess to land Stanton. The previous two players mentioned in this article, and some other chips, are obviously too far off to land a player with Stanton's potential.
In short, it would take a lot to pry Stanton away from Miami. First, the Marlins have stated many times that Stanton is untouchable per Ricky Doyle of NESN.com. But Doyle also reminds us that the Marlins have conducted fire sales before and their low spending could force them to make a move considering Stanton's eventual contract considerations.
To make this deal happen, Cherington would have to be willing to part ways with a sizable chunk of Red Sox prospects. According to Cafardo, Miami is pretty stocked when it comes to pitching prospects, but they are short on positional players.
This forces the notion that Boston would have to give up promising fielding talent. Out of the wide range of such prospects the Red Sox have in their farm system, perhaps an enticing thought would be sending off second baseman Mookie Betts as part of a deal to make this happen.
Betts is perhaps one of the more impressive members within Boston's prospect pool. Yet with Dustin Pedroia holding down the position at the major league level for a long time to come, Betts will either have to shift positions or be used as trade bait.
The latter is a solid move.
Sure, it would be difficult to part ways with Betts—and likely a few other notable pieces—but when one stops and thinks about adding the 24-year-old Stanton to Boston's outfield, it is an opportunity too enticing to pass up.
In all reality, it is too early for any of these trades to be executed. Perhaps a "wait and see" mode should be applied here.
Yet the Red Sox are still sitting in the middle of the pack within the AL East and are waiting to make the surge that propelled them through the playoffs a season ago.
Should they bank on their incumbent roster of players to see if this happens, or would a transaction or two put them over the top?
That remains to be seen. While any move is plausible at any point, these transactions should at least be on the mind of Cherington and Boston's front office.
After all, putting together the right pieces is the key to postseason success.
Peter Panacy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report, covering the Boston Red Sox. Follow him @PeterMcShots on Twitter.
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