Boston Red Sox's Trade Deadline Big Board: Ranking the Top Targets
The Boston Red Sox are 43-52, tied for last place in the AL East and 9.5 games out of first place with 67 games left in the season.
Many of their star players have underperformed. Key contributors have lost large swaths of the season to injury. And several of their younger players have taken longer to adjust to MLB pitching than we would’ve hoped. In short, it’s been a perfect storm of bad luck and bad performance that’s led the Red Sox to go from first to worst in the AL East in 2014.
The good news is that this is not an organization in need of a major rebuild. The Red Sox have a strong offensive and defensive core moving forward. They have an excess of mid- to back-end starters all vying for time in the rotation. And they have a next wave of talented prospects being groomed in Double-A and Triple-A, all ready to possibly contribute in 2015.
That being said, we need to realize that 2014 is unlikely to have a fairy tale ending for this bunch. Baseball Prospectus lists the club's playoff odds at just 3.3 percent, and this is a team that would need to go 38-29 the rest of the way just to reach the .500 plateau.
It’s best to accept that the Red Sox should be sellers at the deadline. Yes, the temptation exists to chase after a big bat to place at a corner outfield spot or at third base. But the Sox are in the midst of building a very good, young, sustainable team, and they should do nothing to jeopardize that future.
That means it’s time for the Sox to sell off their extra pieces, create playing time for their young, promising players, and recoup whatever value they can for 2015 and beyond. With that in mind, here are the most attractive trade targets that Boston owns headed into the July deadline that the team should indeed be looking to move.
5. Jonny Gomes, OF; Mike Carp, 1B/OF
I’m placing Jonny Gomes and Mike Carp in a tie for fifth-most valuable trade commodity here, as each player could appeal to a contender looking for a power-hitting platoon bat. And while both players served as big parts of the Sox’s championship run in 2013, it’s safe to say that neither has a place on this team any longer.
Gomes is hitting .234/.329/.351 this year, doing what he does best: mashing lefties (his numbers jump to .306/.403/.429 against lefties in 2014) and playing questionable defense. According to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, the Royals have shown interest in Gomes, and it’s not hard to imagine that a few other teams might call, too.
Carp, meanwhile, has struggled through injury and underperformance this year. The left-hander is hitting just .211/.330/.312 and has appeared in just 38 games. The Red Sox may be less inclined to deal him, as he’s under team control through 2016, but he’s more of an extra piece than truly an essential cog in a team, anyway.
The return for Gomes or Carp wouldn’t be significant, but it would open up playing time for younger players, letting the Sox get a better idea of what they have moving forward.
4. Stephen Drew, SS
Don’t let his poor offensive performance fool you—Drew is still an attractive trade target for many teams. Yes, he’s hitting just .151/.218/.269 through 101 plate appearances, and he’s yet to show much of the power or patience that’s made him a weapon at the plate in the past.
But you have to remember that what we’ve seen from Drew so far is basically his spring training, and his career numbers suggest that improvement lies around the corner. Plus, Drew derives most of his value from defense anyway, and he’s continued to be a stalwart on that side of the ball.
The Tigers, Yankees, Brewers, A’s and Reds are all potential fits for Drew, and it’s not hard to see a few other teams vying for his services, too. The return won’t be huge, but dealing Drew will allow Xander Bogaerts to slide back to shortstop, and would allow the Sox to recoup some value on a $10 million investment that’s returned little so far.
3. Andrew Miller, LHP
If Miller was already closing games, as he would be for many teams, he’d probably be even further up on this list, since “proven closers” tend to bring back hefty rewards at the trade deadline.
As it stands, though, Miller is merely one of the best setup men who figures to be on the market this year, and because he’s a free agent after this season is over, it makes sense for Boston to float his name out there in the coming days.
As I wrote last week, Miller’s nearly been as dominant as Koji Uehara this season and has quietly performed as one of baseball’s elite high-leverage relievers. Indeed, one of the few (perhaps the only?) positives from former manager Bobby Valentine’s time with the Red Sox seems to be his insistence on moving Miller to the 'pen full-time.
On the one hand, attempting to extend or re-sign Miller makes a ton of sense, especially since their current closer, Uehara, is also a free agent-to-be. On the other hand, long-term contracts for relievers rarely work out, and Miller hasn’t been good for so long that we can assume he’ll buck that trend.
In the end, both keeping and trading Miller are justifiable decisions, but if the Sox do decide to trade him this July, they’d likely receive a substantial prospect or a younger, MLB-ready talent in return.
2. Jake Peavy, RHP
Perhaps Peavy deserves to be a spot or two lower on this list, since his 4.59 ERA, 1.4 home runs allowed per nine and 7.1 strikeouts per nine innings are all less than impressive. However, playoff-tested, capable mid-rotation starters like Peavy are always at a premium this time of year, and it would surprise me a great deal if Peavy was still wearing a Red Sox uniform come August.
While Peavy’s overall stats are somewhat lackluster, the right-hander has been better of late, allowing just six earned runs over his last three starts combined. Homers have been a huge problem for Peavy this season, and his command has been worse than usual, too.
But if a team thinks it can help him iron out his mechanical issues, there’s little to suggest he can’t be productive again, aside from the loss of around one mph from his fastball, per FanGraphs.
We’ve already seen plenty of Peavy rumors circulate over the past few weeks, and as The Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham pointed out Tuesday, the Sox seem to be scheduling their rotation as though he won’t be a part of the team.
Don’t expect the Red Sox to get back as good of a return for Peavy as the White Sox received last year, but do expect them to acquire at least one meaningful piece for Peavy’s services.
1. Koji Uehara, RHP
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: If the Red Sox aren’t going to sign Jon Lester and the latest rumors surrounding their negotiations—that Lester is "thrown off by in-season talks, per Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (via MLB Trade Rumors)—are simply for public-relations purposes, then the left-hander absolutely becomes the most valuable trade chip they’ve had in recent years.
Lester would fetch a massive return on the market, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see a half dozen teams seriously compete for him.
But I’m operating under the assumption that Boston’s interest in Lester is sincere, and that it will continue to try to work out an extension with him by season’s end. That makes Uehara Boston’s best trade chip, and he’s one who’s fairly likely to be dealt, in my opinion.
Uehara is an absolutely dominant reliever, a fan favorite and has become a big part of the identify of the Red Sox over the past 18 months. That being said, let’s consider what he’s likely to do in the future rather than what he’s done in the past.
Boston’s closer is now 39 years old. He has a history of shoulder issues and is slated to be a free agent after this season ends. Is there any reason to think he’s due for major regression? No. But he is getting hit harder this year than he was in his historic 2013 campaign (his ERA is up to 1.65 from last year's 1.09), and at his age and with his health, the end is probably closer than we’d like to admit.
Closers often bring back disproportionate returns at the trade deadline, and it’s easy to see a team like the Tigers, Angels, Blue Jays or Orioles overpaying for Koji as they try to solidify their playoff runs. It would be painful to part with Uehara, yes, but if he’s going to bring back young, MLB-ready talent, it’s a move the Red Sox should make.