Monday, November 24, 2014

Uunsubstantiated Hot Stove Speculation

The Boston Red Sox have been busy pulling a Yankees and trying their hardest to win the offseason. According to sources (mine being ESPN.com), the Red Sox have signed both Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, two of the top non-pitcher free agents. While Red Sox fans are busy debating the pros and cons of the contracts, it leaves the Red Sox with a glut of position players. With mainstays Dustin Pedroia at second, Big Papi Ortiz at DH, and presumably Sandoval at third, the Red Sox need to find positions for: Mike Napoli (1b most likely), Ramirez (SS or OF?), Shane Victorino (OF), Rusney Castillo (recently acquired big time Cuban prospect, OF), and uber prospects Xander Bogaerts (SS, 3B) and Mookie Betts (IF/OF). That list doesn't include potential full time players Yoenis Cespedes, Allen Craig, Shane Victorino, Jackie Bradley, Daniel Nava, Brock Holt, and Will Middlebrooks. That's a limited amount of playing time to go around to a big list of players. Which leads me to totally unsubstantiated trade rumors!

While the Red Sox have that glut of position players, they are glaringly short on starting pitchers. While the Sox have some of the deepest pocketbooks in the game, their funds aren't unlimited and the two new contracts might pull them out of the running for the Lester/Scherzer prize. In that case, they are likely to turn to the trade market to acquire some starting pitching while simultaneously resolving their playing time issue. Doug Fister and Jordan Zimmermann have seen their names bandied about in the media as being on the trade block, and you had better bet that the Red Sox are making their calls to find Mike Rizzo's asking price for the two.

If the Nats want to aim high, they can start with asking for Mookie Betts. He has raked in the minors and in his short stint in the majors and is one of the top prospects in all of baseball. He came up as a second baseman in the minor leagues but, with his path blocked by Pedroia, transitioned to the outfield. Wouldn't you know it, the Nationals have a need at second base! A Mookie Betts for Zimmermann would be a pretty good deal for the Nats, but it might be asking too much for the Red Sox. Based what we have seen in recent years, teams have moved away trading top prospects for one year rentals (which Zimmermann would be). I don't know if the Nats could keep the Red Sox on the phone asking for Betts.

The next step down for the Nats would be to counter by asking for Bogaerts, a once big time prospect who has struggled through several position changes in the majors. He is a natural shortstop who has been playing third base (he has expressed his interest in staying at short), and that seems to have affected his swing at the plate as he has put up disappointing numbers at the plate. You would certainly be buying low on him, but Bogaerts could still be a high ceiling play. He is still very young (only 22), and is only a short time removed from the being the star of the Sox farm system. The Nats could keep him at third, bumping Rendon back to second, and also use him as leverage in their discussions with Desmond.

Finally, don't underestimate Brock Holt. Although not as big of a name as Betts or Bogaerts, he played basically half a season for the Sox last year and he couldn't be kept out of the lineup day in and day out. He played practically every position, but is a natural infielder who could adequately handle second base. Obviously, as a return straight up for Zimmermann or Fister, Holt doesn't get it done, but he could be a piece in the puzzle.

While the Red Sox' moves today make for interesting off season fodder, the glut of talent really lies in the outfield. Realistically, the Sox are likely to move Cespedes or Napoli to open up some positions for their recent acquisitions. One thing is for sure, though, the Sox aren't done making moves and now that Sandoval and Ramirez have signed contracts, more dominoes are sure to start falling.

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