With just six days remaining until the July 31 MLB trade deadline, the AL-East leading Red Sox are in the process of evaluating two different things: Their top team needs and what they'd be willing to give up in order to fulfill those needs.
I think the general consensus around Red Sox Nation, at least around OTM, is that the Sox are in desperate need of pitching. Whether it be for a starter, or a reliever, or even both.
This trade market seems to be favoring the sellers, as most teams such as the Phillies and Mariners are refusing to give up hope, despite possessing valuable commodities. Guys like Hisashi Iwakuma and Cliff Lee, who would likely bring back their respective teams large returns, will likely stay put at the trade deadline.
The Rangers had to give up three top prospects for a half season rental of Matt Garza. The Orioles had to give up a top five prospect for the rental of Francisco Rodriguez. If teams are having to give up this kind of prospect overhall for rentals, it proves even more that this truly a sellers market.
We've all heard the names that are being tossed around for the Red Sox: Jake Peavy, Bud Norris, Yovani Gallardo, Edison Volquez, Jesse Crain, Matt Lindstrom and even Luke Hochevar (?!?). All of these guys, if traded, will likely cost the acquiring team a hefty package.
The only player on that list that I believe worthy of an overpay for is Peavy; the complimentary starter that I believe the Red Sox will need if they want to hang onto the top spot in the A.L. East and make the postseason.
The difference with Peavy, among other top pitchers that have already been traded, is that he isn't a rental. He would give a team the second half boost they need, as well as an extra season of team control. Not to mention, he would likely net that team a draft pick as compensation if he were to walk after 2014.
But focusing on the now, the Red Sox truly need Jake Peavy more than any other club. With the Rays creeping up behind them in the standings, the Red Sox are going to need pitching to shield off Tampa Bay's A.L. East surge. They already have the superior offense, they just to at least match the Rays in terms of pitching.
With Clay Buchholz' health in serious question, the Red Sox are in need of a capable No. 2 or 3 starter to help "hold down the fort". With John Lackey and Felix Doubront pitching well and Jon Lester possibly turning the corner, the addition of Peavy would give the Sox four quality starters to work with. Not to mention, the addition of Peavy would take pressure off the Red Sox to keep running a clearly hurt Ryan Dempster out to the mound. They could DL Dempster, and allow him to come back when he's ready, either to rotation or to the bullpen.
Can you imagine a playoff rotation when everyone is healthy/on their game? Buchholz, Lester, Peavy, Lackey with safety net Doubront and a healthy Dempster out of the pen? That can match any team's playoff rotation, when they are on their game.
As for what the Red Sox would have to give up for the top pitcher on the trade market, it's likely going to be a lot. Especially since Peavy has another season of team control. After much deliberating, I came up with this:
Red Sox Would Receive: SP Jake Peavy
I'll probably get hounded a bit in the comments section for including Cecchini, and maybe even Ranaudo.
The way I see it, the Red Sox should take advantage of the season Ranaudo is having, and sell high on him. He's had numerous injuries he's dealt with, and sort of fell from grace over the past couple of seasons. Why not sell him when his stock is potentially at his highest? He could easily find his 2011 and 2012 struggles once more, and be just another guy again. The White Sox would likely want a pitching prospect for their top MLB pitcher, so Ranaudo seems to be a smarter choice than a guy like Matt Barnes, who is part of the untouchable Triple B group (Bradley, Bogaerts, Barnes).
With Cecchini, it's not as simple. The Red Sox are in a logjam at third base, and Jose Iglesias is finally proving to us that he can hit at the major league level. If he stays and takes over at shortstop full time, it's likely that Xander Bogaerts, once thought to be shortstop of the future, could be the third baseman of the future. Maybe even the starter in 2014. For Cecchini, he's likely going to be blocked by Bogaerts and may end up stranded in AAA, much like Lars Anderson was a few years back. I still think that Cecchini, who's hitting very well in Portland, is going to be a good MLB player, I just don't know where he fits if both Iggy and Xander are starting and producing on the left side of the infield.
I know that many believe that it should be Will Middlebrooks, whose struggles continue down in AAA, should be the one to go. He's a third baseman too, he should be as expendable as Cecchini. Well, I think it's very possible that Middlebrooks ends up following in the footsteps of Kevin Youkilis. No, not being traded to the White Sox, but being shifted from third base to first. That is, if the Red Sox let Mike Napoli walk in free agency. Potentially, the Red Sox will have a a youthful infield of Bogaerts (3B) Iglesias (SS) Pedroia (2B) and Middlebrooks (1B) for years to come. As a Red Sox fan, that makes me very comfortable for years to come.
You can tell that I still have a lot of optimism that Middlebrooks will figure it out and he'll come back as strong as he did when he burst onto the scene in 2012. He's shown us that he can produce at the major league level, something Cecchini hasn't shown us yet. I'd rather have a guy who has proven himself at the MLB level and is going through struggles than a promising prospect who is hitting very well, but could just end up being a utility infielder or backup at the MLB level.
As for the White Sox, most of their top prospects are outfielders, not infielders. They would certainly welcome a guy like Cecchini, who is still at least a season and a half away form the major leagues. If their current third baseman, Conor Gillaspie, continues to underperform, the White Sox would be wise to look for a third baseman who they could continue to groom and maybe morph into a pretty good starter at the major league level.
As for Vazquez, I just don't see how he fits up here. I know that we've got issues at catcher with Salty's inability to fully grasp the position defensively, much like Varitek did, but I don't think Vazquez is the answer. The White Sox have depth issues at that position, and would certainly welcome an extra catcher. I like the Red Sox' chances of going after a complete catcher like Brian McCann in the offseason than I see Christian Vazquez taking hold of the position.
That package, for me, gets it down for Peavy. I just don't know what Kenny Williams or Rick Hahn are thinking they would want for Peavy.
It's a trade that I believe Red Sox need to make, if they want to seriously contend for a World Series. If the bullpen does not improve, they can always improve it in August with a guy like Crain, when he comes back healthy.
But for right now, the contending Red Sox need to overpay and "go get their guy", and that guy is Jake Peavy.