5 Under-the-Radar Players Boston Red Sox Could Grab in the Trade Window
The 2014 season has not exactly been kind to the Boston Red Sox as the team heads toward the middle of June.
Boston currently sits at 29-35, nine full games behind the first place Toronto Blue Jays in the American League East. Upon initial evaluation, this season is looking much like what the Red Sox endured in 2012 and not the storybook World Series year they enjoyed a season ago.
While it is easy to fall victim to negative thoughts about this team's remaining chances to defend their title, we must be willing to accept that there is still plenty of baseball left to be played. Toronto (39-27) has remained hot, but nobody else in the AL East has made significant headway.
There is a chance to turn this whole thing around.
General manager Ben Cherington, manager John Farrell and the rest of the Red Sox's brass appear to feel this way as well.
Not so long ago, the team inked Stephen Drew to a one-year deal—shoring up the infield defense and adding some extra depth to the lineup.
Then the team added veteran journeyman outfielder Andres Torres to a minor league deal, as reported by Jeff Todd of MLB Trade Rumors.
Red Sox Sign Andres Torres http://t.co/1QdKZGxwHp— MLB Trade Rumors (@mlbtraderumors) June 11, 2014
These types of moves indicate that Boston is not ready to throw in the towel quite yet. While there are some glaring problems that need to be addressed, time remains for the Red Sox to take action.
We would obviously love to see Boston land a top-tier talent via a trade leading up to the July 31 trade deadline. It would be oh-so nice if the Red Sox could get their hands on a budding stud like Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton.
But when reality sets in, we have to accept the fact that such a deal will not happen—at least not midseason with the Marlins (34-30) playing well.
Further complicating the trade desire is the fact that in almost every scenario you have to give up something to get something in return. Extremely rare are the trades that send talented players in exchange for second-rate castoffs.
But the Red Sox still have the means to make deals targeted at lesser known, under-the-radar players. Most of these guys do not grab the headlines as much as others, but they can still complement a team that is looking for some substantial upgrades.
Let's take a look at five such players whom the Red Sox should target leading up to the deadline.
Jason Hammel, Starting Pitcher
Jason Hammel, SP—Chicago Cubs
Statistics: 12 GS, 6-3, 2.53 ERA, 0.881 WHIP, 78.1 IP, 70 SO
The decision whether or not to add a starting pitcher before the trading deadline will be directly related to how confident Ben Cherington and John Farrell feel about their current roster of starters, most notably at the tail end of the rotation.
While pitchers like Jon Lester, John Lackey and Jake Peavy are holding their own in the first three slots in the rotation, the final two—Felix Doubront and Clay Buchholz—have been utter disappointments thus far.
Buchholz has landed on the disabled list with a hyperextended left knee, but his 7.02 ERA suggests that his season-long struggles have deeply rooted problems.
Doubront and his 5.12 ERA is also a concern.
The Red Sox do not necessarily need to make a move to shore up the rotation. Rubby De La Rosa has stepped in—posting a 2.84 ERA over 12.2 innings pitched. Sox pitching prospect Brandon Workman has also filled a void and owns a 2.86 ERA over 28.1 innings pitched.
Boston can also count upon the services of offseason acquisition Chris Capuano, who has spent the entire season coming out of the bullpen despite being a starter for the majority of his career.
But if the Red Sox were looking to add a pitching piece in the next few weeks, they could do worse than target Chicago Cubs righty Jason Hammel.
At 31 years old, Hammel is on a Cubs team that is going nowhere fast this season. Hammel has been one of the Cubs' bright spots this year—owning a 6-3 record with a 2.53 ERA over 78.1 innings pitched.
Signed by the Cubs to a one-year, $6 million deal, Hammel will be a free agent following this season and it is feasible that Chicago would like to get something in return for his services.
If acquired, Hammel would be a nice piece at the back end of Boston's rotation. This move would likely spell the end for a player like Doubront. Hammel's contract also gives the Red Sox some flexibility in determining whether or not they would want to re-sign him during the offseason.
Granted, the Cubs may be asking a lot for a $6 million-per-year commodity. The Red Sox should absolutely walk away if the asking price is too high for them to make the move. But if the deal is worthwhile then such a trade would be worth a flier.
Nate Schierholtz, Outfielder
Nate Schierholtz, Outfielder—Chicago Cubs
Statistics: 55 G, .221/.274/.323, 43 H, 2 HR, 20 RBI, 46 SO, 13 BB
If there is one glaring weakness to the 2014 Boston Red Sox, it is their outfield.
Shane Victorino has struggled to stay healthy this season, Jackie Bradley Jr. has not exactly wowed the masses in his first full season at the major league level and Grady Sizemore has fallen off after a hot start. Daniel Nava has also underperformed—earning a trip to Triple-A Pawtucket.
This unit needs some help if the Red Sox look to remain in contention for a playoff berth.
The previously noted addition of Andres Torres provides some depth, but Torres cannot be viewed as a full-time solution. His lone impressive year came in 2010 with the eventual World Series champion San Francisco Giants—hitting .268 with 16 homers and 63 RBIs.
Despite his above-average defensive capabilities, Torres is little more than a platoon-type player at this stage of his career.
Instead, Ben Cherington should once again look towards the lowly Chicago Cubs to execute a deal. As mentioned on the previous slide, the Cubs are going nowhere this season and would benefit from the sale of some of their established talent.
Here is where an acquisition of Nate Schierholtz makes sense.
Schierholtz is batting only .221 in 2014 thus far—the lowest number in his eight-year career. But one cannot forget that he hammered 21 home runs a season ago. Plus, he is batting in a Cubs lineup that does not exactly offer a lot of protection or opportunities.
Primarily listed as a right fielder, Schierholtz does have experience playing all three outfield positions. This flexibility—combined with his career .989 fielding percentage—would assist in the Red Sox's defensive depth.
So, are the Red Sox interested?
Ricky Doyle of NESN.com thinks so, citing Schierholtz as a potential trade target of the Red Sox this season.
The Cubs may also be interested in moving Schierholtz thanks to promising prospect Ryan Kalish.
Cubs OF Nate Schierholtz could be available via trade, as a result of Ryan Kalish's progress. LH bat, unknown if he is a fit for Detroit.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) March 10, 2014
Should the Red Sox pounce, it probably would not take too much for a deal to be made. At any rate, Boston would be adding a left-handed bat to the lineup and potentially cashing in on the power numbers Schierholtz displayed last year.
Such a move would likely mean the end of Sizemore's tenure in Boston—although the acquisition of Torres could already spell this at some point soon.
Still, the Red Sox need help here, and Schierholtz would be a relatively easy option to pursue.
Domonic Brown, Outfielder
Domonic Brown, Outfielder—Philadelphia Phillies
Statistics: 60 G, .247/.309/.420, 46 H, 4 HR, 30 RBI, 41 SO, 15 BB
Had this suggestion been made a year ago, a potential deal for Philadelphia Phillies' outfielder Domonic Brown could hardly have been classified as "under the radar."
Once touted as a top prospect in the Phillies' organization, Brown batted .272 with 27 home runs and 83 RBIs in 2013 en route to his first All-Star appearance.
Unfortunately for him, 2014 has been a complete disaster.
So far this season, Brown is hitting a lowly .214 with four home runs and 30 RBIs. It is a night-and-day difference from the numbers he put up a season ago.
Still, one cannot overlook the possibility of a chance in scenery being beneficial to the 26-year-old Brown.
At 26-36, Philadelphia is another one of those teams going nowhere fast. With an aging cast of veterans, it is likely we should expect a fire sale in the weeks leading up to the trade deadline. While not as old as some of the other Phillies, Brown is another chip that could be moved if Philadelphia does not plan on building a team around him.
Brown is making $550,000 this season and is not arbitration eligible until 2015. From a financial standpoint, this would give the Red Sox some flexibility in deciding whether or not they want to pursue him.
But would they?
Bleacher Report featured columnist Ben Carsley thinks it would be a creative move from the Red Sox's vantage point. He writes:
If you're looking for a buy-low candidate who could pay dividends, not only in 2014 but in the years to come, Brown is a worthy candidate. An All-Star just one year ago, Brown is currently hitting .214/.263/.316, demonstrating an inability to make contact, walk or hit for power. However, Brown is actually striking out less this year than he did a season ago, and his line is being dragged down partially by a .247 BABIP. Brown is only 26, was a top prospect and has already shown tremendous promise in hitting 27 homers a year ago.
Now comes the tough part—disseminating exactly what Philadelphia would be asking for in exchange.
Given the numbers Brown put up a season ago—combined with his relatively young age—it is safe to assume the Phillies will simply not "give" him away. They will want some prospects, and probably a few of them.
The Red Sox are still searching for another outfielder. According to reports, the Phillies are heavily scouting our farm system.— Red Sox Nation (@Red_Sox_1901) June 4, 2014
This is another one of those situations where the price has to be right for a move to be made. Boston can ill afford to make a deal if Brown continues to be the type of player that his numbers from 2014 indicate.
Such a move may wind up being a smart one for Boston's immediate and long-term plans if Brown can return to the form he enjoyed in 2013.
Seth Smith, Outfielder
Seth Smith, Outfielder—San Diego Padres
Statistics: 54 G, .299/.399/.531, 53 H, 6 HR, 21 RBI, 34 SO, 27 BB
This author has done a lot of work covering both the American and National League Western Division teams. One under-the-radar player who has done plenty of damage within both divisions is San Diego Padres outfielder Seth Smith.
His career numbers are as such: .268 AVG, .808 OPS, 79 HR, 294 RBI.
Like other teams on this list, the San Diego Padres look as if their chances for a postseason berth have already been dashed. With this in mind, look for the Padres to be sellers at the trading deadline.
A possible piece that could be moved is Smith, who is on a one-year, $4.5 million contract for 2014.
The cash-strapped Padres are a team that could benefit from unloading Smith's contract and getting a couple of prospects in return. Smith's numbers alone make him a worthy candidate in this scenario.
Additionally, Smith has experience playing both corners in the outfield. This would add further depth to Boston's current crop of outfielders while also providing a little more offensive thump to the lineup.
Given the fact that Smith has frequently been used as a platoon player, putting him in a similar situation in Boston would be nothing new. This facet could also keep the price tag on him relatively low from a trade standpoint.
Joon Lee of SB Nation targets Smith as a potential outfield upgrade for the Red Sox, writing:
Smith is a free-agent after the season and is part of a platoon for the Padres. The 31-year-old has been strong offensively this season, hitting .315/.413/.568 in 45 games with six homers, 20 RBIs, 13 doubles and three triples. Smith might not require a large return if teams are wary of his history, and could provide a solid option for the outfield.
As stated, it probably would not take a lot for the Red Sox to get their hands on Smith. An acquisition—like many in the outfield—would likely spell the end for Grady Sizemore and potentially offset the minimal contributions from players like Jackie Bradley Jr. and Daniel Nava.
Smith's bat could provide a nice bonus at a relatively cheap price when one considers what Boston is currently getting out of its current crop.
Jose Tabata, Outfielder
Jose Tabata, Outfielder—Pittsburgh Pirates
Statistics: 55 G, .299/.336/.343, 40 H, 0 HR, 12 RBI, 21 SO, 6 BB
Not so long ago, 25-year-old Jose Tabata of the Pittsburgh Pirates was once considered a top outfield prospect.
Now, with the up-and-coming Gregory Polanco, the Pirates may be forced to make a move that sends Tabata off somewhere else.
This is exactly what Ricky Doyle of NESN.com thinks will happen, and he cites the Red Sox as being a team that should be interested.
Before the season began, rumors circulated that Pittsburgh had placed Tabata on the trading block. Marc Normandin of SB Nation broke this down last March by writing:
If Polanco wasn't there, it would be easy to sit and hope Tabata has another 2013 in him, but when your replacement is ranked 10th on Baseball America's top prospect list, and Tabata is just one year removed from a disappointing campaign, you can afford to see if anyone else will bite on him.
The Pirates are shopping starting right fielder Jose Tabata, which could be good news for Gregory Polanco fans http://t.co/WuYkBKJOLn— SB Nation MLB (@SBNationMLB) March 18, 2014
Tabata is currently being platooned in right field with Travis Snider, per Joon Lee of SB Nation. Andrew McCutchen and Sterling Marte hold down the remaining outfield slots.
This suggests that Pittsburgh should be willing to move Tabata if the right offer comes around—a 30-34 record at this point in June hints they may be sellers at the deadline anyway.
So is Tabata the type of player the Red Sox would be intrigued to add?
First, Tabata offers almost zero power at the plate—he has totaled a mere 17 home runs during his five-year career. But he does offer a decent on-base percentage—indicated by his career .338 posting.
Defensively, he can play all over the outfield, so there's that to consider as well.
Despite an impressive 2013 campaign, the Red Sox would have to be wary of a potential bust if a trade is made. Still, Tabata has room to continue his development and could wind up being a solid piece if put into the correct situation.
He is signed through 2016, so the Red Sox would also have to be comfortable with that contract length.
But at this point, Boston needs outfield help and Tabata could provide that.
If you have been paying close attention, you will notice that four of the five under-the-radar trade targets are outfielders.
Boston's outfield has been problematic this season and should be considered the biggest weakness on the team in 2014.
Fortunately, the Red Sox are far from being knocked out of contention at this point. The right move(s) could prove to be the difference between a disappointing championship defense and another return to the postseason.
Sometimes the splashy deals are not the ones that get it done. More often it is the lesser known ones that are the difference makers.
Let's see if that winds up being the case for Boston in 2014.
Peter Panacy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report, covering the Boston Red Sox. Follow @PeterMcShots on Twitter.