The trade hot stove might be heating a little earlier than anticipated for the Red Sox following Will Middlebrooks' fractured right index finger. According to a report from Rob Bradford of WEEI, the Red Sox are looking at multiple options on the trade market to potentially fill the slot of Middlebrooks at third base.
As it currently stands, the Red Sox's starting left infield consists of shortstop Xander Bogaerts and infielder Brock Holt. The Red Sox have not engaged in talks with agent Scott Boras regarding Stephen Drew, although the shortstop remains a possibility should the team not find a trade partner and the issues on the left side of the infield continue to subsist.
As it currently stands, the Red Sox rank 25th in the majors for OPS at third base at .592, highlighting an extreme lack of offensive production at the position.
Here are some potential options the Red Sox could look at in the trade market:
The Kung Fu Panda has skittered out of the gate in his ever-so-important contract year. Offensively, Sandoval has been one of the worst third baseman in the game, compiling a wOBA (a statistic used to measure a player's overall offensive contribution) of .261, good for worst in the majors among qualified third baseman. So far this year, Sandoval has hit .213/.274/.316 with two home runs and ten RBI.
Sandoval provides a switch hitting third baseman with the utility to play both infield corner positions. In the past, the 27-year-old has shown the ability to hit for a high average (.293 career overall), get on base (.347 career OBP) and has even shown the ability to come up in the clutch, as displayed in his performance during the 2012 World Series.
Sandoval provides an option that will likely come at a lower cost due to his poor performance so far this year and his expiring contract.
Headley is a name that has been floated in trade rumors on multiple occasions over the last couple of years. The 30-year-old third baseman is playing out the last year of his arbitration eligibility before hitting the free agent market. Like Sandoval, Headley has struggled out of the gate this season, hitting .191/.283/.351 with four home runs, 13 RBI and three doubles in 28 games.
Headley ranked 7th in the majors last year in pitches per plate appearance at 3.96 and has a wOBA of .287. Headley's one great season came in 2012, when he hit .286/.376/.498 with 31 home runs, 115 RBI and 31 doubles.
Frazier represents one of the more expensive players that may be available on the trade market. The 28-year-old is hitting .258 with seven homers, 21 RBI and a .327 on-base percentage. In addition, the third baseman is under team control through the 2017 season.
So far this season, Frazier has seen 3.88 per plate appearance so far this season and has posted a wOBA of .358, third in the majors among qualified third baseman. In his career, Frazier has posted a .251 average with a .321 on-base percentage and a .451 slugging percentage.
This is the longest of long shots, but the idea has been brought up recently, most notably by Chad Finn.
Even at 35-years-old, Beltre remains one of the best third baseman in the game, providing elite offensive production at the plate while continuing to pad his reputation as one of the best defensive third baseman to ever play the game of baseball. Beltre missed some time earlier this season with a quad injury and has hit .252/.317/.400 with three home runs, 14 RBI and eight doubles in 30 games this season.
Beltre represents a luxury and likely would demand a high return from the Rangers, who have been absolutely decimated by injuries to their pitching rotation this season. With the fortunes of the Rangers 2014 season not looking too great, should Rangers general manger Jon Daniels look to trade off pieces to gather assets, Beltre could garner a lot of value. The Red Sox have an abundance of quality major league prospects and have the assets to likely get a deal done. The larger question that looms here is whether or not general manger Ben Cherington is willing to commit to the assets necessary for a deal and two years (potentially three with a 2016 vesting option) to a third baseman who is on the older side.
The most intriguing option to me remains Sandoval. The third baseman has shown the capability to get on-base and hitters who are able to do that in their late-20's generally don't fall off the face of the planet in the way that Sandoval has in the early part of the season. Sandoval has motivation to perform at a higher level to get his pay day this offseason. Along with his bubbly personality, Sandoval provides average defense at third base. Should the cost be something along the lines of a pitching prospect and another lower level bat, the Red Sox should take a flyer on bringing the Kung Fu Panda to Boston.