The Red Sox have some holes to fill in their bullpen, and while adding prospect Brandon Workman is a step in the right direction, there's still work to be done. According to the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo, that work could come in the form of any number of White Sox relievers, as the Red Sox are reportedly interested in not just Matt Thornton, but also Matt Lindstrom and Addison Reed.
Thornton is a left-handed reliever who has seen his strikeout rates fall this year, but he's historically productive against both lefties and righties, and looked much more like the Thornton of old in June, when he punched out 13 batters against a pair of walks -- he's thrown just 1-1/3 innings in July, so June is essentially the most recent and relevant information available. He's making $5.5 million this year, and has a 2014 option for $6 million with a $1 million buyout. If the Red Sox were to absorb all of the remaining money and agree to pay the buyout if it comes to that, it would likely lower the prospect price for Thornton, which would be appealing to the Sox.
Lindstrom is 33 years old, right-handed, and having a bit of an odd season. His ERA looks fine, but he's walking far too many hitters -- 17 in 35-1/3 innings -- and is punching out below seven batters per nine innings. On the plus side, he's inducing grounders well over half the time a ball is put into play, so he's not incapable of getting the opposition out, and he has a .320 batting average on balls in play, so he hasn't been lucky on balls in play. In addition, Boston's infield defense is far superior to that of the White Sox, and would likely help reduce that.
Lefties have been more problematic for Lindstrom over his career, but he's held right-handed batters to a 651 OPS despite a .328 career BABIP against them. The thing to realize here is that the ball is going in play, but Boston should have the defense to make that a non-issue. Like with Thornton, there is a team option for 2014, this one for $4 million with a $500,000 buyout. He is only owed $2.3 million in total for 2013, half of which is already accounted for, meaning the White Sox might be looking for a better player return here.
As for Addison Reed, he's currently the Chicago closer, is just 24 years old, and won't be a free agent until 2018. While his ERA is 3.94, his peripherals are excellent, and a significant chunk of the blame can be placed on one outing in which he threw three frames in extras while giving up five runs. If you chuck that, his ERA is an even 3.00 for the season.
He will absolutely cost the most of this trio, and given the way things have gone with Red Sox trades for closers as of late, it's totally understandable for fans to prefer one of the other two options, or for the Red Sox to decide to walk away from Reed. He's certainly worth looking into -- if the White Sox will take a package of B-prospects for Reed, that's hard to pass up given just how long he would be under Boston control and the fact he's struck out nearly 10 batters per nine in the pros -- but if the Pale Hose start asking for any of the untouchables, it's time to walk away.
With that being said, the chances the White Sox give up an asset like Reed for a package centered around a few B-level prospects is minimal. But you can't blame teams for asking, just in case it's one of those one out of 100 times moments in July trades.
Buster Olney tweeted out earlier on Wednesday that the White Sox are looking for "major-league ready or near-ready prospects" in a trade. Boston has those kinds of players in spades, and without including the best of the bunch. Drake Britton is in Triple-A now, is on Boston's 40-man, and could intrigue a team like the White Sox in need of prospect help with the space to store it. Michael Almanzar is in Double-A with an 810 OPS as a 22-year-old, and is in need of 40-man protection this off-season to avoid the Rule 5 draft. Bryce Brentz is unlikely to have a job in Boston next year given the outfield's expected production, but he's 24 years old and hitting .272/.321/.487 with 32 extra-base hits for Triple-A Pawtucket. (He is, however, on the minor-league DL with a knee sprain, so he might not be interesting to anyone who normally would have inquired.)
Expendable is not a fair way to describe any of these players, as they all have potential, but it's going to be hard to find room for them on Boston's 40-man in the near future with the influx of talent that needs placement there -- they might be at their most useful for the Red Sox in a deal with someone like the White Sox, as an asset used to acquire things the current successful Red Sox need, all without sacrificing the core of their future.
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