After roughly 25 percent of the 2015 MLB season, the Boston Red Sox are 19-21. Despite the uninspiring start, Boston remains just 2.5 games out of first place in the American League East. Assuming they avoid an utter collapse, the Red Sox can expect to be buyers heading into the July 31 trade deadline.
Who should the Sox pursue? Here are three possible deals that could lend some momentum to a late-summer playoff push.
Christian Vazquez, Henry Owens, Deven Marrero and Bryce Brentz to the Oakland A's for Stephen Vogt and Scott Kazmir
Oakland is 14-28 and rapidly falling out of contention in the AL West. The A's also have a history of trading away major league talent for low-cost prospects.
Stephen Vogt is a 30-year-old catcher currently batting .307 with nine homers and 30 RBI. He's making just $512,500 this year and isn't eligible for free agency until after the 2019 season. On Wednesday, ESPN baseball analyst Buster Olney told WEEI in Boston that the Red Sox would be wise to make a play for Vogt, who could be a "tremendous stopgap" while they wait for Blake Swihart to develop.
Swihart is only in the majors because of injuries to Christian Vazquez and Ryan Hanigan. The 23-year-old is batting .170 so far and could clearly benefit from more seasoning in Triple-A.
Through eight starts, Scott Kazmir is 2-2 with a 3.08 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP. He has a base salary of $11 million and will be a free agent at the end of the year. Oakland will likely be eager to move Kazmir before losing him to a higher bidder in the offseason. The lefty would undoubtedly bolster a Boston rotation that currently owns a combined ERA of 5.05.
If Swihart is their catcher of the future, the Red Sox should be willing to part with Vazquez to get Vogt. Henry Owens has long been considered Boston's best pitching prospect, but he's struggling with his control this year with 30 walks in 42.1 innings for Triple-A Pawtucket. SoxProspects.com recently dropped him below fellow PawSox lefty Eduardo Rodriguez in its rankings.
Oakland was reportedly interested in shortstop Deven Marrero last winter, and of Bryce Brentz, ESPN Insider Jim Bowden writes: "The A's would love to get Brentz back as a second player in this type of trade, a talented player who is blocked by the Red Sox's wealth of outfielders." Bowden discusses the possibility of Boston shipping Joe Kelly and Brentz to Oakland for Kazmir.
Red Sox fans will scoff at the idea of losing four prospects in this deal, but that's the type of offer it takes to acquire a pair of quality players without giving up any big leaguers in return.
Garin Cecchini to the Milwaukee Brewers for Matt Garza
Matt Garza signed a four-year, $50 million contract with the Brewers before last season. Through eight starts in 2015, he's 2-5 with a 5.72 ERA and a 1.58 WHIP.
CBS Sports' Jon Heyman states that Milwaukee seems "especially interested" in trading Garza. Heyman also writes: "Garza is another veteran right-hander who could help someone, but with $35-million-plus to go through 2017, one rival exec says, 'I'm not sure anyone would want him.'" The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo believes the Brewers are "ready to sell" on Garza as well.
Considering his contract and Milwaukee's apparent eagerness to part ways, the price for Garza would not be high. In Garin Cecchini, the Red Sox possess a third-base prospect with nowhere to go behind Pablo Sandoval. On the other hand, the Brewers have 36-year-old Aramis Ramirez manning the position. Ramirez will also be a free agent at season's end.
Why, exactly, should the Red Sox have an interest in Garza? He was fairly decent in 2014, posting a 3.64 ERA while holding opposing hitters to a .233 batting average. Garza is also only 31 years old and has proven he can succeed in the AL East. With the Tampa Bay Rays from 2008-2010, he went 34-31 with a 3.86 ERA in 94 starts.
Shane Victorino to the Houston Astros for Their Best Offer
The Astros are a shocking 27-14, the No. 1 record in the American League. They've managed to get there despite a .231 team batting average, the second-lowest in baseball. Right fielder George Springer is hitting .195, while designated hitter Evan Gattis is batting just .196. Shane Victorino could fill in at either position.
Among MLB's younger teams, Houston is a prime candidate to be in the market for a veteran leader with postseason experience. Victorino is in the final year of his contract, so the financial commitment for the Astros would be minimal—less than $5 million of his $13 million salary for this season.
While other trade scenarios involve the Red Sox focusing on this year at the expense of the future, this move might benefit them in both cases. At the moment, Cuban talent Rusney Castillo is toiling away in Pawtucket. Victorino's departure from Boston would clear room for Castillo to take over in right field, as well as likely bring a minor leaguer or two back to the organization in return.
Mark Vandeusen is a Featured Columnist covering the Boston Red Sox for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @LucidSportsFan. Unless otherwise noted, all statistics via RedSox.com and contract information via Spotrac.com.