There are only two days until MLB’s trade deadline, and, thus far, the Red Sox haven’t made much noise in this year’s market. The consensus seems to be that Boston already has the pieces in place to make a deep post-season run.
My money says Theo Epstein will hold fast, reluctant to cough up prospects from a thinned out farm system. In fact, the most coveted young stars from Boston’s minor-league ranks were already dealt prior to the 2011 season. Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo and Reymond Fuentes were packaged to San Diego for slugger Adrian Gonzalez.
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Kelly was the top pitcher in the system, Rizzo the best power prospect, and Fuentes was being likened to Jacoby Elsbury. All three ranked in the top 10 of Baseball America’s evaluation of Boston’s prospects. One could argue Theo’s acquisition of Gonzalez elevated the Sox to immediate World Series contenders.
Who knew they actually had to play the games before taking home the title? After a disastrous April and a slew of injuries, Sox Nation was clamoring for answers. Over the past three months, the ship has righted ,leaving just a few needs going into the stretch run.
The most glaring hole could end up being the rotation, dependent on the health of Clay Buchholz. Veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield and Andrew Miller have been serviceable through July, but there are doubts as to whether either can hold up.
Rumors about who may be available to fill potential rotation gap have been swirling. Sox scouts have been spotted in Colorado and Seattle, watching Ubaldo Jimenez and Erik Bedard, respectively. The asking price appears to be too high for Mr. Epstein.
Seems it would take one of their blue-chip prospects to pry away either pitcher. Suddenly, hot Ryan Lavarnway is bound to be on the wish lists of potential trade partners. Between double-A and triple-A, he is batting .317 with 27 HR and 78 RBI. Former LSU star Anthony Ranaudo seems to have made a recovery from a nagging forearm injury that allowed him to drop to the Sox in the first place. Pawtucket has two other arms that would draw major attention in Kyle Weiland and Felix Doubront.
I’d wager it would cost two or perhaps three of these guys packaged with some lower-level prospects to even dream of Jimenez or Bedard. Should Theo pull the trigger on either, Jimenez would be the better option by far. I believe he’d be under contract control through 2013 at somewhat of a discount.
Another need is a fourth outfielder. Crème-puff J.D. Drew has landed on the DL, leaving a vacancy in right field, currently filled by hot swinging rookie Josh Reddick. Mike Cameron would have filled the gap, but the team cut ties with the veteran earlier this season. Currently, Darnell McDonald is grabbing some at-bats, but he doesn’t seem like the solution.
One stopgap could be Ryan Kalish, a possible trade candidate himself. Soxprospects.com lists him second overall in the system, but a feeble .236 BA with Pawtucket suggests otherwise. With Beltran bound for the Bay Area and the price tag on Michael Bourne fairly high, the Sox may chase more of a mid-level OF.
Chances are a less exciting that recent call-up Yamaico Navarro and/or pitcher Stolmy Pimentel could probably land them a Jeff Franceour or a Josh Willingham, or is that Ty Wigginton? Either way, they are about the same player. Neither will win you a pennant, but they could provide some pop towards the bottom of the order. A right-handed bat may come handy if Reddick cannot maintain his .429 BA against lefties.
Finally, there is the old left-handed reliever. Has there ever been a playoff run by Boston where they haven’t been scouring other teams’ rosters for lefty bullpen help? Names like Mike Myers, Alan Embree and Scott Sauerbeck come to mind.
This year’s coveted southpaws are names like Craig Breslow and a pair of Fish — Randy Choate and Mike Dunn. Competition for these guys may be fierce, but I wouldn’t expect it to cost a top-level prospect to land any of them.
With these deficiencies in mind, here are some predictions for the Sox, as the deadline looms closer.
Least likely — Jose Reyes and his expiring contract does not end up in Fenway, Theo sticks with Marco Scutaro and oft injured Jed Lowrie, with defensive phenom Jose Iglesias available come September call ups.
Likely — The Sox make no trades with the Pirates. Often a trade partner, the Buccos are in contention this year and look to be buyers rather than sellers.
Most likely — Unproven talent, high-ceiling single-A or double-A prospects packaged for lefty reliever. Blocked by Will Middlebrooks they send 3B prospect Korbin Vitek and late-blooming OF Chin-Hsien Chiang to Chicago, getting Sean Marshall as part of the fire sale.