With the trade deadline just around the corner, it is a good time to take stock of the Boston Red Sox’ inventory. This season has been a major disappointment for Boston. Brandon Magee gives us his 2015 Red Sox trade deadline primer to let us know what the team has to offer.
As the Boston Red Sox stumble out of the second-half gates, the non-waiver trade deadline looms later this week. The Sox are now mired in last place in the AL East, ten games back of the New York Yankees, and in last place in the American League, 8 ½ games back of the Minnesota Twins for the second wild card (and the entire American League to jump over to get there). As a result, thoughts turn to selling assets to teams more likely to make the playoffs. What do the Red Sox have to offer to any potential playoff clubs?
The first place to look for potential movers is at players scheduled to be free agents at the end of the season. The Red Sox have a few, notably first baseman Mike Napoli, outfielder Shane Victorino, and relief pitchers Justin Masterson and Craig Breslow. None of the names are as exciting as some others who may be on the move from other teams, like Cole Hamels, James Shields or Yoenis Cespedes, but they could be pieces of the puzzle that bring a championship team together.
The best of the bunch is likely Shane Victorino, a consistent performer, when healthy, for the Red Sox. Of course, good health has been illusory for Victorino the past two seasons, after appearing in 136 games in 2013 to help lead the Sox to a World Series Championship. Since coming back from his latest DL stint on the Fourth of July, Victorino has seven singles in 30 at-bats, splitting time in right field with Alejandro De Aza (another player who could be on the move). Victorino is not likely to bring back a major player or prospect if traded; however, it would open up right field for Jackie Bradley Jr. who has been performing very well in AAA Pawtucket. Given the need to find at least one starter for the outfield next season, it seems the time is right to give Bradley another chance, and to give Victorino another chance at a ring.
Mike Napoli, another of the 2013 World Champs, has been analyzed in detail on this site, as he is in the midst of the worst offensive season in his Major League career. Whether he’s toast, or just largely charred, remains a question. What is not a question is his status on the Red Sox in 2016: He won’t be back. Unlike Victorino, there are no obvious internal candidates to replace Napoli as the full time first baseman. Brock Holt, Daniel Nava, Travis Shaw and David Ortiz have all seen time there this season, but for various reasons none are a logical candidate to replace Napoli long-term. While the Red Sox will be looking for a full-time first baseman for 2016, perhaps on a short-term contract while waiting for Sam Travis to make the jump, it makes no sense to keep Napoli around if someone else would like to have him. Boston’s patchwork quilt of 1B options should be fine to adequately finish out the season.
As far as the pitching staff goes, the Sox bullpen has been a cause of much agita over the season, with 2016 free agents Justin Masterson and Craig Breslow not bringing much relief to the Nation. The 35-year-old left-handed Breslow has been equally mediocre against lefties and righties, negating his previous reputation as a shutdown LOOGY and limiting his trade potential. The 30-year old Masterson has been downright ugly in both starting and relief appearances this season. Masterson is likely the better trade target, however, as his relative youth and past success in the majors could foreshadow a slightly better future. However, neither have a future in Boston beyond this season and both could be designated for assignment if they are not traded.
There are no shortage of other candidates for a trade in the pen. Alexi Ogando has bounced back from his horrible 2014, and with the exception of an elevated home run rate, is putting up peripherals that are right in line with his those from his best seasons in Texas. Another potential mover that would be difficult to take from a fan perspective, Koji Uehara, with a single year left on his contract after 2015, could also be in play. The Red Sox have a bunch of younger bullpen arms that have made appearances this season – Noe Ramirez, Jonathan Aro, Matt Barnes and Heath Hembree – and it would make sense to utilize the rest of the season to see which of these pitchers may be useful to the Red Sox in 2016.
The 2015 trade deadline will probably not be a time for optimism among Red Sox fans. The Sox are unlikely to either bring a superstar player in or ship one out. In fact, given the Red Sox players most likely to be dealt, it’s unrealistic to expect the team will receive anything of great value. But, that doesn’t mean that the trade deadline is unimportant; opening up playing time to some of the team’s minor league prospects is critical to the franchise. As the focus becomes about 2016, the Red Sox’ offseason plans will be greatly informed by what we learn about the youngsters in 2015.