Red Sox trade deadline: Breaking down potential fits, needs, best targets, trade chips
The Red Sox are an excellent team, but they still have needs to address before the non-waiver deadline
The Red Sox are indisputably one of the best teams in baseball right now. They're coming off back-to-back AL East titles, and over the winter they made an excellent targeted addition in J.D. Martinez. Chris Sale is a Cy Young contender, and the young/young-ish core of positions players is generally thriving. That said, the Sox and lead operator Dave Dombroski do have needs as we make our way to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Let's get the lay of the land in Boston:
Pretty simple, really. The Red Sox need relief help behind lockdown closer Craig Kimbrel. They could also use an upgrade at second base. That's because Dustin Pedroia's health is an unknown at this point, and thus far Eduardo Nunez has struggled, and Brock Holt is stretched as a regular. Maybe Pedroia gets back at some point and produces at something close to his customary level, but that's a chance the Sox can afford to take.
Best trade targets
First the bullpen:
The 28-year-old Barraclough has been one of baseball's top relievers this season in terms of run prevention. He's likely to regress on that front, but even after a correction he profiles as a useful arm down the stretch. He won't hit free agency until after the 2021 season.
Britton's start to 2018 was delayed because of an Achilles' injury, and he's struggled with his control across a very limited sample of innings thus far. That said, Britton isn't far removed from a four-year run of dominance from 2014-17. The Sox have a definite need for help from the left side, and a healthy and effective Britton would address that need in a big way. There's some risk here, but that risk means Britton should be obtainable at a reasonable cost. He's a pending free agent.
Diekman is a 31-year-old lefty who doesn't have notable platoon issues and who offsets his occasional control issues with strong ground-ball tendencies. He's eligible for free agency at season's end.
The lefty Hand has been the subject of trade rumors for multiple seasons. He's turning in another strong season for the Padres, thanks in part to heavier use of his wipeout slider. Hand's under contract through 2021 (assuming his club option is picked up), and that's why he'll be coveted on the market. As such, he'll be a costly acquisition in terms of talent going the other way.
Iglesias has been a force capable of multi-inning work since becoming a full-time reliever. He's signed through 2020 at reasonable rates and is in his age-28 season. As well, Iglesias' third pitch is a usable changeup, so a shift back to the rotation is also a possibility should the team acquiring him decide to go that route.
Oh soon turns 36, but he's enjoying a nice bounce-back campaign in his first season in Toronto. His contract includes a low-cost option for 2019, which of course adds to his appeal. Oh also has experience closing, should something unexpected happen in Boston.
Soria was perhaps the best reliever in baseball at his peak, and now he's cobbling together a quality second act of his career. In Chicago this year, he's putting together his best work since that aforementioned peak. His deal includes an option for next season.
And now for second base:
A second baseman with right-handed pull power? That's a nifty fit for Fenway. Dozier's numbers are down overall this season, but the Sox could defensibly bet on track record when acquiring a guy who tallied 76 homers from 2016-17. Dozier's eligible for free agency this coming offseason, and he's owed the balance of a $9 million salary. Can the Sox pay the freight? Perhaps Dozier's down season plus his expiring contract push him into their range.
Gennett's reconstructed his swing and approach and become one of the game's top-producing second basemen. Obviously, he'd be an ideal fit for the Sox, but his production in tandem with the fact that he's under team control through next season may make the price to high for the thin Boston system.
LaMahieu's more of a solid stop-gap rather than a needle-mover, but perhaps that's what Boston needs given the possibility that Pedroia is ready to contribute at some point. LeMahieu has also played third in the past, and his right-handed bat could pair well with Rafael Devers from the left side in the event that the former's services are no longer required at second base. LeMahieu, who soon turns 30, is in his walk year.
Here's a sound depth play. Merrifield, 29, over the last two seasons has seen time at six different positions, including second, third, and all three outfield positions. He also boasts a career OPS+ 104, and he has excellent speed on the bases. Merrifield isn't eligible for free agency until the offseason of 2022-23.
Here's where things get complicated for Boston and Dombrowski. Recent/semi-recent deals for Kimbrel, Sale, Nunez, Drew Pomeranz, Addison Reed, and Tyler Thornburg (among others) have thinned out the ranks, and also bear in mind that the injury to Jay Groome and the suspension of Michael Chavis gave the system another hit. Given all that, the names you may see bandied about include Sam Travis, Tanner Houck, Bryan Mata, Darwinzon Hernandez, Cole Brannen, and Alex Scherff. Also, Chavis' suspension recently ended, so he could be in play, albeit at perhaps diminished value. Whatever the case, the Sox will likely have to make appeals based on prospect volume rather than one or two top-flight guys constituting a package. That reality may take them out of the running for the most coveted deadline targets.
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