Red Sox's Final Guide, Ideal Targets for 2021 MLB Trade Deadline

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistJuly 29, 2021

Red Sox's Final Guide, Ideal Targets for 2021 MLB Trade Deadline

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    Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

    The Boston Red Sox have made a swift turnaround after finishing in the American League East cellar in 2020, and with a 63-40 record, they currently hold a 2.5-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays in the division race.

    Left-hander Chris Sale is on the comeback trail from Tommy John surgery and could be the biggest X-factor in baseball over the final two months, but putting all their eggs in that basket would be a foolish move for a team with room to improve the roster.

    Additional starting pitching depth and an upgrade at first base appear to be the most likely outside pickups at this year's trade deadline, which is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET on Friday.

    Ahead, we've highlighted one player to address each of those two areas of need, while also taking a closer look at the team's standing as buyers.

Buyers or Sellers?

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    Chaim Bloom
    Chaim BloomMichael Dwyer/Associated Press

    There is no question the Red Sox should be buyers given their standing as division leaders.

    However, with just $1,014,199 of wiggle room under the luxury tax threshold, according to Spotrac, there are financial considerations at play.

    With their luxury tax penalties reset last year after previously exceeding the threshold, the Red Sox would face a 20 percent tax penalty on any dollar spent beyond the $210 million limit. With a chance to contend for a title, that figure is unlikely to be a deterrent in adding more payroll.

    The bigger question might be whether they have the prospect talent to swing any major deals, especially if they decide to make both Triston Casas and Jeter Downs untouchable.

    Assuming they aim for a rental bat at first base and steer clear of the market's top-tier arms in their search for pitching depth, they should be able to put together an attractive enough package of second-tier prospects to get a deal done.

Ideal Target: RHP Merrill Kelly, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    David Banks/Getty Images

    He's not Max Scherzer or Jose Berrios or Kyle Gibson, but don't sleep on Merrill Kelly as a potential impact addition to the Red Sox pitching staff.

    The 32-year-old has a 4.39 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 105 strikeouts in 123 innings for the lowly Arizona Diamondbacks this year, and he has proved extremely durable since returning stateside from a successful four-year stint in the Korean Baseball Organization.

    He would be arguably the second-best pitcher on the Red Sox staff behind Nathan Eovaldi based on his performance thus far, and his 3.89 FIP paints an even more promising picture of future success.

    With a $5.25 million club option for 2022, he is also more than just a two-month rental, and he would allow the Red Sox to potentially decline their own club option on one or both of Garrett Richards and Martin Perez this offseason.

    The D-backs are motivated sellers and it might not take more than a couple mid-level prospects to get a deal done.

Ideal Target: 1B Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs

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    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    Chicago Cubs star Anthony Rizzo began his career in the Boston Red Sox organization when he was selected in the sixth round of the 2007 MLB draft.

    He was ultimately traded to the San Diego Padres in the deal that brought Adrian Gonzalez to Boston, and then dealt again to the Cubs prior to the 2012 season in exchange for Andrew Cashner.

    The 31-year-old has been his usual productive self this year with a 116 OPS+ that includes 16 doubles, 14 home runs and 40 RBI in 92 games. He is also a standout defensive first baseman with off-the-charts intangibles and locker room presence.

    The Red Sox have received dismal production from first basemen this season.

    A group of players led by rookie Bobby Dalbec has put together a punchless .218/.262/.390 line and an ugly 35.6 percent strikeout rate on the year, and outfielder Franchy Cordero has seen some time at the position recently in an effort to provide a spark.

    There is little question Rizzo would be a significant upgrade.


    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference.


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