Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez is one trade option the Sox are pursuing
With every passing day, more trade rumors and gossip and potential deadline deals are splattered across the Internet, and the Boston Red Sox are at the heart of much of the conversation.
Likely buyers, the Sox could certainly benefit from good decisions at the trade deadline. Despite having baseball's best offense, the club could stand to see some improvements in both the bullpen and rotation, and bench depth is a potential sore spot as well.
There have been plenty of trade rumors that Boston would be better off ignoring.
Chicago Cubs relieve Kerry Wood has been mentioned as a possible trade option, but the Red Sox should steer clear of the 34-year-old. Wood isn't enjoying a particularly strong season, yet his name carries enough weight that Chicago will probably get a good return if it elects to move him.
Boston can do better.
While he's always had upside, it hardly makes sense for the Red Sox to chase a guy so familiar with the DL. Injuries are what has the club needing arms in the first place.
Other more reliable players like Baltimore's star reliever Koji Uehara and Tampa's centerfielder B.J Upton would be solid options, but their respective teams are unlikely to deal them within the AL East.
The Sox could use Uehara (what teams couldn't?), but it's hard to imagine the Orioles being willing to go that route unless the offer was too big to refuse.
The Sox don't need to do anything desperate.
They also don't need to break the bank for a two-month rental of Carlos Beltran, and there's little reason to even discuss Jose Reyes trades anymore. Whispers about bringing Hanley Ramirez back to the organization seem to be little more than wishful thinking.
Nevertheless, there are deals to be made that could help this team solidify its playoff credentials. Making the postseason in baseball's toughest division is never easy. What moves could Boston make to maximize its chances?
Before taking a look at seven possibilities, it's helpful to get familiar with the team's stable of quality prospects and with a few current Red Sox who might be on the block if the right trade comes along.
Would Boston trade top prospect Will Middlebrooks?
Prospect rankings are provided by soxprospects.com:
At High A Salem (VA)
Anthony Ranaudo, SP: No. 3
Bryce Bentz, OF: No. 6
Miles Head, 1B: No. 13
Drake Britton, SP: No. 19
Kolbrin Vitek, 3B: No. 20
At AA Portland (ME)
Will Middlebrooks (pictured), 3B: No. 1
Alex Wilson, SP: No. 10
Oscar Tejeda, 2B: No. 11
Alex Hassan, OF: No. 17
Chih-Hsien Chiang, OF: No. 18
At AAA Pawtucket (RI)
Ryan Kalish, OF: No. 3
Jose Iglesias, SS: No. 4
Ryan Lavarnway, C/DH: No. 5
Felix Doubront, SP: No. 8
Kyle Wieland, SP: No. 7
Yamaico Navarro, IF: No. 9
Josh Reddick, OF
Andrew Miller, SP
Boston's greatest need is pitching, and dealing for a player like Kuroda would alleviate a major concern. The Japanese import has never finished a season with an ERA in the fours and is one of the best arms reported to be on the market.
However, Kuroda, who has a no-trade clause, has said he doesn't want to play on the East Coast. His skills and $12 million salary make him an appealing option, but it probably won't happen. If the teams do deal, L.A. would probably require several prospects in return, at least one of which would be a pitcher.
Likelihood: Low. Boston would have to not only offer the right price but also overcome Kuroda's geographic objections.
Potential Impact: High. Kuroda would be able to step into the middle of the rotation with his mid-threes ERA and respectable peripherals. He would give the Sox a fourth reliable starter, assuming Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz can return to good health.
The trade market is rather thin when it comes to quality starting pitching, and the Sox may elect to shore up the bullpen instead.
If they do, the San Diego Padres have several interesting arms to look at. The players most likely to be dealt are closer Heath Bell and setup man Mike Adams.
While Bell gets most of the acclaim, Adams is probably the better arm. Both will command a significant price, something like a top-tier prospect and a mid-level prospect. And both will be highly sought after by other teams.
Likelihood: Low. The Padres will probably hang onto Adams and let him close after Bell's departure. Bell himself is rumored to be going to the Rangers.
Potential Impact: High. Either Adams or Bell would make the Boston bullpen all but unhittable for up to three innings. With Jonathan Papelbon rebounding and Daniel Bard hurling a team record 23 consecutive scoreless innings, the addition of another power arm would be tremendous.
The Sox aren't getting Carlos Beltran, and that's a good thing. If they are going to ignore their pitching needs in favor of acquiring a bat, it should be someone cheaper and more versatile, able to provide bench depth and solid play rather than superstar quality.
Cuddyer makes a little more than half of Beltran's salary but can play up to five positions. He's got enough power to be a home run threat, is hitting .297 on the season and can defend almost anywhere. Best of all, he wouldn't command the suite of prospects that Boston would have to cough up for Carlos.
Likelihood: Medium. The Twins would move Cuddyer for a reasonable cost, but Boston won't be the only interested party. And because pitching remains the primary concern, the Sox might not be the biggest players when it comes to arranging a swap.
Potential Impact: Medium. In a lineup like Boston's, Cuddyer would be a pretty average hitter. But his extreme versatility would make him very valuable, particularly in the event of further injuries.
Because top-tier starters are few and far between, not to mention hard to get, Boston might set its sights on a back-of-the-rotation type of player.
Seattle has a few guys who fit the bill. Erik Bedard's name has been thrown around, but his injury history makes him too big a risk. The Sox would be better off with Fister or Vargas.
Fister is enjoying a breakout campaign at age 27 while Vargas is having his second consecutive solid year at 28. First is the cheaper of the two, making around $400,000 in 2011 compared to Vargas' $2 million.
Likelihood: Medium. This is the type of deal that would make sense for Boston. Neither guy would command a top prospect; a couple of mid-level players would do. Maybe an arm and a bat.
Potential Impact: Medium. Either guy would see his numbers take a hit by moving to the AL East, but both could be decent options to take over for Tim Wakefield at the back of the Boston rotation.
An ERA around 4.00 and a respectable WHIP may not be sexy, but for an offense like Boston's, it would be sufficient.
Like San Diego, Oakland has a number of talented bullpen arms, and will almost certainly be moving them at the deadline. Unlike the Padres players, these relievers are affordable.
It wouldn't be a shock to see Boston bring in closer Andrew Bailey or former closer Brian Fuentes. Both have the chops to pitch in pressure situations.
As an organization, Oakland has a good grasp of player values, and the Sox could probably acquire one of these guys for a pair of mid-level prospects.
Likelihood: High. There is a very real possibility that Boston will go in this direction. They could retain their best prospects and still improve the bullpen for the stretch run.
Potential Impact: Medium. Bailey or Fuentes would become a bridge from the starters to Daniel Bard. Both are reliable, high quality arms who could close a game in a pinch.
This wouldn't be a blockbuster move, but it would be a solid decision.
Enjoying a strong season at age 28, Pence is on the verge of an arbitration hearing that will be very expensive for the Astros. Free agency would soon follow, and it's hard to imagine Houston stretching to ink him long term.
That means that if the team wants to avoid investing millions more, Pence could be on the move.
The outfielder is a multi-tool player with speed and power that could give the Boston offense yet another significant weapon. However, of all the players included in this article, Pence's price might be the highest.
Boston would almost certainly have to send a pair of top 10 prospects plus one or two more players to Houston.
Likelihood: Low. Pence would be a great add for any team, but the Sox have other, bigger needs. It's tough to see them going all out even for a talent like Pence.
Potential Impact: High. If he did somehow join the club, Pence would give the Boston offense an embarrassment of riches. Terry Francona would have too many good bats and not enough places to play them.
**UPDATE 11AM: SI's Jon Heyman reportedly confirmed that the Astros won't deal Pence. But until the deadline passes, speculation will surely continue.
Boston's interest in Jimenez was hot news late last week. He represents a pitcher in his prime, under control for several more seasons with extremely affordable salaries for the life of the deal.
Jimenez will average less than $6 million a year through 2014.
The downside here is what he would cost. Boston would have to package a group of elite prospects, think at least three of their top 20. And even that might not be enough.
It's debatable whether or not the Rockies are serious about making Jimenez available at all.
Likelihood: Low. With little motivation to sell him, Colorado will demand an exorbitant price.
Potential Impact: High. In terms of upside, Jimenez is probably the best arm out there. He has ace potential, though in the AL East he'd probably be something more like a number three starter.
Jimenez would make the Boston rotation extremely formidable for the next few years.
There is, of course, another option for baseball's most explosive team: Do nothing.
In all this talk of potential wheelings and dealings, it's easy to forget that Boston leads the toughest division in baseball, is averaging 5.5 runs per game and is about to get two of their top arms back.
Thus far in July, the club is 16-3 and lately has been winning without Lester or Buchholz.
Boston might be just fine on its own. It has the talent and chemistry to make the postseason as is, so don't be disappointed if the Sox stay quiet at the deadline.