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Unexpected Trades the Boston Red Sox Could Pull off This Offseason

Ben Carsley@BenCarsleyContributor INovember 5, 2014

New York Mets starting pitcher Zack Wheeler throws against the Cincinnati Reds in the first inning of a baseball game, Sunday, Sept. 7, 2014, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)
Al Behrman/Associated Press

The Boston Red Sox are poised to make major additions to their team through free agency this winter.

They head into the hot-stove period with a ton of money to spend and a ton of roster spots to fill, and odds are they won’t be afraid to aggressively acquire players in order to compete once more in 2015.

Everyone fully expects the Red Sox to add a starter or two. The Sox may end up signing a third baseman and could use upgrades in their bullpen and bench, too.

Yet if the Red Sox are going to go from worst to first again, they’ll likely need to address some of the holes on their roster through trades. With logjams in the outfield and at first base, a bevy of young right-handed arms and a few blue-chip prospects remaining, the Sox are equipped to make all sorts of interesting deals.

We’ve all heard about Giancarlo Stanton and Cole Hamels ad nauseam, so let’s instead take a look at a few less obvious deals the Red Sox could explore this winter. Keep in mind that these ideas aren’t necessarily endorsements, but they do offer intriguing options for a team that needs major work.

Carlos Gonzalez

The Rockies shocked the baseball world by offering Michael Cuddyer a qualifying offer on Monday, according to MLB.com’s Thomas Harding, giving them an abundance of outfielders for the 2015 season.

This has naturally led to speculation that one or more outfielders will be traded, and a popular name that’s popped up, per ESPN.com’s David Schoenfield and others, is that of Carlos Gonzalez.

One of the most well-rounded players in the game, Gonzalez is just one year removed from hitting .302/.367/.591 with 26 homers and 21 steals in 436 plate appearances. He’s a capable defender in left field and would serve as the type of explosive left-handed hitter the Red Sox need to complement David Ortiz in a righty-heavy lineup.

Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

Gonzalez is a star when healthy, but that “when healthy” part is quite the caveat. His injury history on Baseball Prospectus is longer than a Charles Dickens novel, and he played in just 70 games last season after playing in only 110 in 2013.

That being said, Gonzalez has just three years and $54 million remaining on his contract, meaning he can provide surplus value even if he doesn’t play 162 games a year. The Red Sox are one of the few teams financially equipped to take on such a risk, and they have the young players the Rockies would likely want in return, too.

Let’s get one thing straight: The Rockies aren’t going to just go for a pure salary dump here. Acquiring Gonzalez would likely either cost the Red Sox Mookie Betts, or perhaps Henry Owens and Blake Swihart. They’re not getting a potential superstar for Allen Webster, Will Middlebrooks and spare parts.

The Red Sox may very well decide such a cost is too steep for their tastes, which would be a reasonable decision based on their focus on building from within. But signing an ace, trading for Gonzalez and then flipping Yoenis Cespedes as part of a package for a No. 2-3 starter would be an interesting way to rebuild the Red Sox in short order.

 

Mat Latos

Of the "unexpected" trades listed here, this one is admittedly the most expected. The Red Sox and Reds have been linked together in trade rumors for a while now, as Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe has discussed, and the fit is an obvious one.

The Reds need to save money and have an abundance of pitching. They lack a strong third starter in the outfield, and their offense suffered with the subtraction of Shin-Soo Choo last season.

Both Johnny Cueto and Mat Latos are slated to hit free agency after 2015, and the thinking is that the Reds will need to extend one and trade the other, as they don't have the finances needed to secure both. That opens the door to a potential trade with many teams, but the Red Sox are as good a fit as any given what the Reds need.

Cueto is coming off a terrific season and very well could have won the NL Cy Young award in a world in which Clayton Kershaw didn't exist. But Latos also had a fine year after missing some time early in the season with arm troubles.

Al Behrman/Associated Press

Latos pitched to a 3.25 ERA in 102.1 innings, and while his strikeout rate dropped precipitously from previous years he allowed fewer walks, too. He'll be just 27 when the 2015 season begins, and there's no reason not to expect a No. 2-starter-level performance from him for the next few years. Pitching in a hitter's ballpark clearly doesn't bother Latos, and he has the stuff to pitch in the AL.

There are two substantial barriers to pulling off a Latos trade, though, and they’re both significant enough to derail any potential deal.

For one, Latos’ velocity declined last season and has been in decline since he came into the league in 2009, according to FanGraphs. In some ways that’s to be expected, but if Latos keeps losing velocity, it’s entirely possible he’ll be less effective. Any team trading for him would need to be reassured that Latos is healthy and will hold up for five or six years.

Secondly, the cost of acquiring Latos is difficult to pinpoint, but it would likely be significant. Latos only has one year of control remaining, but whoever deals for him has the inside track on extending him to a multiyear deal. Add in his youth and high level of performance, and the Reds are going to want a significant haul in return.

If the Red Sox can center a deal around Cespedes, that’s one thing. But the Reds may want the conversation to start with Betts, which could be a deal-breaker. Still, Boston has enough talented young players and interesting young arms that a deal seems within reach if both sides show interest.

Zack Wheeler

You'd never know it based on all the repetitive trade rumors/ideas you see, but the Red Sox have more options this offseason beyond just trading for Cole Hamels or Chris Sale. The Red Sox match up well with any team that has excess pitching and needs young talent or outfield help in return, and the New York Mets fit that description to a tee.

The Mets finished 2014 with the 14th-best starters ERA in the majors with a 3.66 mark. They figure to return most of their rotation from a year ago, with Matt Harvey replacing Bartolo Colon. New York should have Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee joining Harvey in the rotation and have prospects like Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero waiting in the wings.

Kathy Willens/Associated Press

Yet the Mets finished just 22nd in the league in runs scored last season, and their outfield was a big part of the reason why. Juan Lagares and Curtis Granderson figure to have roles in the outfield moving forward, but the Mets could use a starter with some thump and a platoon partner for Granderson to be truly effective.

The Red Sox may have the inventory the Mets are looking for. Between Cespedes, Betts, Shane Victorino, Daniel Nava and Allen Craig, the Mets would have plenty of outfielders to choose from should they decide to deal with Boston.

Both teams could settle for a boring swap involving, say, Craig and a prospect and Niese, but why not aim bigger? If the Mets make Wheeler available, the Red Sox would be compelled to give up real talent. And while trading for pitching is always scary, Wheeler would provide Boston with the type of young, high-upside arm it sorely lacks.

Wheeler has yet to blossom into a star, but the 24-year-old went through 185.1 innings with a 3.54 ERA last season, striking out more than a batter per inning and cutting his walk rate from 2013. Command will always be a bit of an issue, but he has the raw stuff to be a No. 2 starter, even in the American League.

It would likely be a little tricky to find an appropriate middle ground between the two teams for a deal centering on Wheeler. Starting with Cespedes likely wouldn't be enough for the Mets, and Betts may represent too steep a price for the Red Sox.

But it's certainly a deal worth exploring, as the Mets have the internal pieces to replace Wheeler, and the Red Sox need to shed outfield depth.

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