The challenge of realize what seemingly amounts to an impossible dream is figuring out how far you're actually willing to go to achieve that dream, short of selling your soul to the devil. (Now, on the other hand, if I could sell the souls of the folks over at Pinstripe Alley and Rays Bay, we might be getting somewhere. . . .) The problem is that the starting point would be the kind of deal the Sox offered to the Padres for Adrian Gonzalez three offseasons ago. And Adrian Gonzalez is no Mike Trout, so the deal would have to be that much more tempting to succeed.
In any event, you pretty much need to be prepared with just about everything short of selling your firstborn to pry a player the calibre of Mike Trout from the clutches of the Angels. They would be more or less set at center field for the foreseeable future, barring major mishaps. However, there is one area where the Angels have already announced their clear interest, and where the Sox have many, many tempting goodies to offer in exchange: starting pitching.
In fact, rather than wait for any of the prospects to reach full maturity, I'd start off by giving them the last year of Ryan Dempster's contract at a steep, steep markdown—paying no less than half of his bill for next year. (I wouldn't go so far as giving him to the Angels for free—but I'd come pretty darn close!) That solves them the problem of having an innings-eater immediately.
Now, there's still two problems. One, the Angels would be out a starting center fielder. This is not such a serious problem, however, as the Red Sox would now have an extra fielder or two to spare, namely Jonny Gomes and Jackie Bradley, Jr. While Bradley is currently the incumbent in center, the presence of Trout makes him immediately expendable, while Gomes is already part of what has to be the most ridiculously redundant platoon in all of baseball (forming the most stats-resistant and second-most hirsute part of the dreaded four-headed Nacarpmesoli monster). On the other hand, we are already giving up two MLB players on the roster, so the cost of including Gomes would be to reduce the number of prospects the Angels get to round out the deal. I'll assume that the Angels pass on Gomes, and move on to the prospects.
Well, OK, not quite. There's one more order of business to discuss: the possibility of signing Stephen Drew to a new contract. If he is successfully re-signed, then Will MIddlebrooks now becomes the odd man out in the left infield. While I love the energy and spirit Middlebrooks brings to the team, realistically he's not going to see that much playing time with the rise of Xander Bogaerts and Drew establishing himself at shortstop for a few years. Therefore, he would become dangling trade bait, and I'd be willing to put him on my hook in this fishing expedition and see if the Angels will bite.
One of the more wonderful "problems" that the Red Sox have is that they're loaded with pitching at the upper levels of the farm system. However, as already noted, the Sox will probably have two positions to fill in 2015, so they can't completely empty out the coffers for Trout. I think that, again, the Angels will want a pitcher who will be ready to start in 2015 once Dempster's contract expires, or as insurance in case Dempster falls apart earlier in the year. So that means that we need to give up the likes of an Anthony Ranaudo. It's potentially a big loss, but the key word is potential. What exactly has Casey Kelly, another former top Sox pitching prospect, accomplished since being traded to the Padres? Given that Trout has already established himself, while Ranaudo is still a question mark, it's an exchange I'm willing to make.
I'm also prepared to part with one or two additional swingmen and relievers to sweeten the deal. Let's start with Rubby de la Rosa. He's probably bullpen-bound anyways, but now he'd serve the purpose of helping the Sox catch one of the best players in the game. I'd also offer up another reliever such as Drake Britton from Pawtucket, who already has meaningful experience at the major-league level.
Things get trickier at the lower minor-league levels. Of course, the Angels would want to restock their lower levels, too, if they're giving up their franchise player. I'd give them their choice of three other minor leaguers at AA or below, not named Trey Ball or Mookie Betts. (If they wanted Gomes, then this part of the deal would be off the table.)
So, to summarize, my offer to the Angels to lure Trout to Boston:
- An almost free year of Ryan Dempster
- Jackie Bradley, Jr.
- Anthony Ranaudo
- Rubby de la Rosa
- Drake Britton
- Will Middlebrooks, if Stephen Drew is re-signed.
- Their choice of: Jonny Gomes or three minor leaguers at AA or below in the system (not Mookie Betts or Trey Ball).
In all, that would give them a replacement at the position lost, solidify their starting rotation for 2014 and offer help beyond, and give them some additional bullpen options that have the potential to allow the Angels to avoid shooting themselves in the foot (maybe). With the additional option of a additional major leaguers, or one of the top lower-level prospects, or a veritable buffet at Salem, Greenville, Portland, and Lowell (plus the GCL and DSL rosters), they'd have a chance to rebuild for the future on the cheap. I think it would make a strong enough package that the Angels would have to consider—without us harvesting the Red Sox farm system to extinction levels.