Thirteen Trading Days Before the Deadline
Thirteen trading days before the trade deadline and the Red Sox find themselves 2.5 games back of a wild card spot. According to Fangraphs, the team has a 28% chance of making the playoffs. It feels to me that those two numbers give contrasting sentiments on the team’s current standing. While the final playoff spot is within grasp, the statistical data shows there is quite an uphill battle to go. When front office and coaching personnel talk about “playoff math,” it seems pretty clear what the guiding light is when it comes to which direction, and to what magnitude, trade decisions will be made.
After concluding a terrible series against the Marlins on June 29th, the Red Sox had 11% odds of making the playoffs. Going 11-2 over their following 13 games buoyed that number up to 36%. Unfortunately, these last two losses against the A’s caused a dip back to 28%. I’m sure the team is taking a broader strokes view than daily +/- swings, but this is the reality of the situation.
Two quick points. 1. The Red Sox have nine games to play before deadline, 3 Mets, 2 Braves, 3 @ Giants, and 1 @ Mariners. Things may clearly break one way or another for the Red Sox before teams start really finalizing deals. 2. We have no idea what the market will look like. According to national baseball reporters, teams are still unsure of how this will unfold. The normal trade market has been upended recently with Covid uncertainty, the lockout and new CBA. It was weird last summer, it was nearly dead last winter, who knows how that trends over the next week and a half, and who knows which teams will deem themselves in or out.
As far as I’ve seen, the media speculation about the Red Sox has been that they are interested in a rental starter and a right-handed 7th inning reliever, while looking to alleviate redundancy around the middle infield, find a new home for Bobby Dalbec, maybe move Adam Duvall to another contender, and possibly test the market on Nick Pivetta, who is controlled for one more season when he’ll most likely be paid $7-8M.
This give-and-take approach to make the roster work more fluidly is probably the most likely scenario, though it’s not my preferred path.
Anyone would love to add pitching. Dalbec being buried sucks for him, but he has a 35% strikeout rate in AAA this year; 33% in June, and 40% so far in July, that’s just untenable. He’s cheap depth that you aren’t just going to give away, but if there were anything intriguing at all available for him, you have to imagine that would have already been done. Everyone seems to be in a rush to show Duvall the door, but I still wouldn’t be opposed to signing him for another year, given how bad this winter’s class of bats is. It took forever for his timing to come back after his broken wrist, but he’s put up an .850 OPS over his last nine games, and right-handed barrels are always needed. People seem to be concerned about Pivetta’s 2024 price tag, but if we are remotely close to the tax line next year there are much bigger issues, so that return would have to be quite intriguing.
All that said, I’m ready for the Red Sox to go bigger. The tedious work of getting the house in order is never complete, but the heavy lifting is done. There shouldn’t be any remaining bridge talk, or uncertainty about how invested the Red Sox are going forward, they are going to be in for 2024, and that should start now.
It would be hard to find a stronger supporter of James Paxton than I have been, and working out an extension would always be welcome, but short of that, I would be inclined to trade him in the coming days and use that return as some of the ammunition for additional trades.
The only prospects traded by this administration have been of very little consequence, Aldo Ramirez and his arm that exploded as soon as the Nationals acquired him notwithstanding. It should be time to loosen the purse strings.
There would be no hesitation from me essentially trading Paxton, and multiple Top 10 prospects in the system, for a starting pitcher with additional years of control. Dylan Cease would be the premium outcome, and should absolutely be explored, but the pitcher doesn’t even have to be of that caliber.
I believe the Red Sox big expenditure this winter is going to be on a starting pitcher, ideally Yoshinobu Yamamoto. The Red Sox have had their Pacific Rim coordinator scouting him. However, there are plenty of options to choose from, with Aaron Nola, Lucas Giolito, Blake Snell, Julio Urias, and more due to hit free agency.
If you start lining up a 2024 rotation with: a top free agent, Brayan Bello, this deadline’s trade addition, Garrett Whitlock, and Chris Sale, that is pretty impressive, with lots of current starting depth pushed down the pecking order into bullpen roles.
I would also be looking for a player that can start at second base in 2024, Brandon Drury of the Angels being a good fit with only about $2.8M left to be paid this year and $8.5M next. A Trevor Story and Drury middle infield would be a nice right-handed counterbalance to the rest of the lineup’s regulars, plus it would tamp down the inevitable Marcelo Mayer mania, at least for a while. I believe Mayer should spend the vast majority, if not all, of 2024 in AA and AAA. There should be absolutely no need to rush to promote him, and filling second base with a solid stop-gap rather than an island of misfit toys would be a good decision.
Duran, Yoshida, Story, Devers, Drury, Casas, (RHH OF/DH?), Verdugo, Wong
Very formidable lineup, along with the rest of the roster. There are various ways to achieve similar deals, but this is an example of my preferred path.
Ceddanne Rafaela remains a true wild card in all of this as he sits on a .300/.355/.586 slash line, 76 plate appearances into his time at Triple-A. He could be high quality trade ammunition this week, the starting center fielder or second baseman for the Red Sox in 2024, or get an opportunity and be demoted back to Triple-A based on his swing decisions getting exposed. I have no idea, but he is in play this week for me.
Young players to keep in mind this week: Bryan Mata - currently throwing in Florida - is out of options after this year. Shane Drohan, Luis Perales, and Wikelman Gonzalez will undoubtably be added to the 40-man roster this winter if they are not traded. Others that are Rule 5 eligible include Ryan Fernandez, Brainer Bonaci, CJ Liu, Grant Gambrell, Eddinson Paulino, Allan Castro, Angel Bastardo, and Bradley Blalock. It’s possible we could see some of them as pieces in deals.