5 Red Sox Most Likely to Be Traded After Latest Signings
The calendar has not yet turned to December, but the Boston Red Sox have wasted no time making quite the splash in free agency.
First, the Red Sox re-signed closer Koji Uehara to a two-year deal in late October. Then, just last week, the Red Sox signed Hanley Ramirez to a four-year deal with a vesting option for a fifth season and Pablo Sandoval to a five-year deal with a club option for a sixth year.
Add Ramirez and Sandoval to an offense that already acquired Yoenis Cespedes, Allen Craig and Rusney Castillo at midseason in 2014, and the Red Sox have an abundance of outfielders on their team.
Despite what now figures to be a very potent offense, the Red Sox are still badly in need of pitching help. While they're still rumored to be in the hunt for Jon Lester, per WEEI.com's Rob Bradford, among others, they could stand to add pitching help through the trade market, too.
It stands to reason that they'll be most willing to trade from their surplus of outfielders and close-to-MLB-ready prospects, though some additional players could be put on notice, too.
With that in mind, let's take a look at five Red Sox who are perhaps most likely to begin the 2015 season in a different uniform.
5. Shane Victorino, RF
It may seem like a distant memory now, but Shane Victorino was a force to be reckoned with during the Red Sox's 2013 championship run. The talented outfielder hit .294/.351/.451 in 532 plate appearances in 2013, playing absurdly good defense in Fenway Park's enormous right field and stealing 21 bases in 24 attempts.
Victorino's ability to reach base, defend and run were all sorely missed in 2014—a season in which the Red Sox endured a lack of production from their entire outfield. "Shanf" hit just .268/.303/.382 in limited playing time, playing just 30 games thanks to a combination of back and leg injuries.
Unfortunately, Victorino will be 34 for the entire 2015 season and is coming off back surgery. While he still likely has the raw talent needed to start for a first-division club, it's tough to bank on him contributing much.
The Red Sox could elect to start the year with Victorino as their fourth outfielder, but he's expensive ($13 million in 2015) to fill such a role. And as Victorino recently told WEEI.com's Bradford, he still thinks he should be a starter:
Obviously health will dictate that. But if I’m healthy if there’s a better outfielder in right field then show me and go out there and do it. I’m not saying that in a cocky or arrogant way. It’s just how confident I am to know I should be the starting right fielder.
If the Red Sox keep both Cespedes and Castillo to join Ramirez in the outfield, they may be best off dealing Victorino, even if they're unlikely to receive a huge return.
4. Garin Cecchini, 3B/OF
Garin Cecchini picked a bad time to have the worst season of his professional career. After dominating Double-A as a 22-year-old in 2013, Cecchini hit just .263/.341/.371 in 458 plate appearances in Triple-A last season.
His first real offensive struggles came at a time when third base was his for the taking in Boston. And while Cecchini hit well toward the end of the season and even saw a little time in the majors, he clearly didn't do enough to convince the Red Sox that the job should be his.
With Sandoval and a plethora of outfielders now occupying roster spots in Boston, Cecchini is likely to be used as a strong secondary piece in a trade at some point this offseason or midway through the 2015 season.
Cecchini could use more seasoning in the minors, so it would be quite reasonable for the Red Sox to send him back to Pawtucket and let him demonstrate an ability to master pitchers at that level. Yet, even if he succeeds, it's hard to see him breaking into the lineup in Boston.
3. Allen Craig, 1B/OF
Back in July of 2014, it made sense for the Red Sox to acquire Craig from the St. Louis Cardinals as part of their return for John Lackey. The Red Sox badly needed offense, and while Craig was struggling through an injury-filled and ineffective 2014 campaign, he provided the type of upside at the plate that many on the Red Sox's roster lacked.
A lot has changed since Craig's acquisition, however, and the 30-year-old first baseman and outfielder truly doesn't have a spot on the Red Sox's roster any longer.
Craig hit just .215/.279/.315 last season, and while we can reasonably expect some improvement from him if he recovers from his Lisfranc injury, he's also unlikely to match the highest of his 2012 season. Craig's batted ball profile already took a turn for the worse in 2013, as he began to hit more balls on the ground and fewer in the air or on a line.
Craig is far and away the worst defensive outfielder on the Red Sox's roster. And if Boston doesn't trade Mike Napoli, it's tough to see a path to any playing time for Craig. It's possible the Red Sox decide to platoon Daniel Nava and Craig at first base, but it's tough to trust Craig with such an important role after his 2014 season.
The Red Sox probably won't get a huge return for him, but he's owed less than $30 million over the next four years and could become a bargain if he starts hitting again. That should be enough to convince a team to take a gamble on him with a B- or C-level prospect coming back in return.
2. Will Middlebrooks, 3B
The Red Sox gave Will Middlebrooks two-and-a-half seasons to prove he was their third baseman of the future. Middlebrooks was unable to seize any of his countless opportunities, and now the time has come for him and Boston to part ways.
Middlebrooks hit just .191/.256/.265 in the majors last season after hitting just .227/.271/.425 in the majors in 2013. His breakout 2012 campaign is a distant memory, and his inability to lay off breaking balls and mysterious diminishing power have torpedoed his value.
As ESPN.com's Buster Olney reported in September, the Red Sox have told other teams they won't simply "give [Middlebrooks] away," and that's the right stance to take. They could always send Middlebrooks back to Triple-A to begin the year and have him add some defensive versatility—perhaps at first base and in left field—to his game.
But it would make even more sense for the Red Sox to include Middlebrooks as a tertiary piece in some larger deal for a pitcher, as odds are there are a few teams out there who at least believe he can be a potent bench bat.
It's unfortunate that Middlebrooks' time in Boston is likely to be remembered largely as a disappointment, but he's still young enough to salvage his career elsewhere.
1. Yoenis Cespedes, LF
It seems that once Ramirez signed with the Red Sox, the general assumption became that Cespedes would be traded. After all, the Red Sox likely want Mookie Betts to play every day. And with Dustin Pedroia at second base, Ramirez in left field and Castillo in center, right field is all that remains for Betts.
Plus, there have been reports from FoxSports.com's Jon Morosi, among others, that Cespedes' name has popped up in trade discussions already. Given Boston's glut of right-handed hitters and outfielders, that's only natural.
Cespedes had the best season of his career in 2014, according to WAR (via FanGraphs.com), notching a 3.4 mark thanks to a .260/.301/.450 line in 645 plate appearances and a largely neutral defensive rating. Cespedes' OBP has declined since he entered the league, but his right-handed power is rare by today's standards, and he's capable defensively in a corner outfield spot.
One reason the Red Sox may be so willing to move Cespedes is that he could theoretically serve as the centerpiece in a deal for a pitcher, allowing the Red Sox to save their elite young players like Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Blake Swihart. Rather than mortgage their future, the Red Sox could choose to pay in talent that's ready now to bolster their rotation.
Cespedes is a free agent after 2015, so he's not going to land a Cole Hamels or an ace-level pitcher. But in deals for mid-rotation starters, he's a reasonable starting point. While the Red Sox could start him in right field and put Betts in Triple-A and Victorino on the bench, it makes more sense to turn Cespedes into an arm.