The Red Sox currently sit at 34-40. They are 7 games back in the loss column and 6 back in the WC hunt. Unfortunately, due to a combination of injuries and a lack of depth (or production) in the outfield, they have dug themselves too large of a hole. The time has come to start thinking of the Sox as sellers at the trade deadline.
In this post, I will look at potential trade destinations for Jon Lester. I believe Lester would be the second most sought after pitcher at the deadline, sorry Samardzija (FYI: Price, Lester, Samardzija). With Lester, a team is acquiring a post-season ace as well as a front-line starter who can lead a staff. A trade would help the Red Sox address their lack of front-line OF and 1B prospects.
To determine potential trade partners for the Sox, I looked at WC and divisional standings from 6/19. I also used Fangraphs database to rank teams by xFIP. For those unfamiliar with xFIP the definition can be found here : http://www.fangraphs.com/library/pitching/xfip/
I firstly eliminated teams below a certain record threshold. In the AL, I eliminated all AL East teams, due to the unlikelihood of an inter-divisional trade. I then eliminated any team more than 2 games out of the wild card. In the NL, I eliminated any team below 5 games back in the WC. Again, all standings were taken from 6/19.
According to Fangraphs, the current average xFIP is 3.95 and 3.69 for the AL and NL, respectively. Therefore, I eliminated any team with a starting pitching staff team xFIP below 3.6. Those teams should be considered to have elite pitching staffs. As a side note: Lester currently has an xFIP of 3.06. Last year, his xFIP during the postseason was 3.5.
I also utilized the numerous team pages on SB Nation to determine if pitching was the biggest trade need for each remaining team. This part of my analysis was the most subjective, as it relied on SB Nation writers as well as my own analysis. For this portion, I numbered the need for a starting pitcher. A one means the team has a strong need for a starting pitcher, a three entails a neutral need, and a five means they do not have a need for a starting pitcher. Obviously a team with a five could still end up trading for Lester, but these teams would be the least likely.
I purposely downgraded the teams that are the furthest away from contention. While Lester would address a positional need, I would be surprised if they traded top prospects away for the potential to make the playoffs.
The table can be viewed at the bottom of the post, due to formatting issues.
According to my subjective analysis, the most likely teams for a trade for Lester would be the Los Angeles Angels and Miami Marlins. Also in the running are the Detroit Tigers and Milwaukee Brewers. I am quite partial to a trade with the Brewers especially considering they have a bunch of # 2's and the ineffectiveness of Matt Garza. I think a trade with Detroit would more likely take the form of a trade for a RP. I may potentially write a similar post and dive into potential trades for the Sox' relief pitchers.
The most exciting part of this post, what would the Red Sox receive in return? The Red Sox currently have holes in the outfield and do not have any top 1B prospects. They have a surplus of starting pitching in AAA, I would be surprised by a trade for a pitcher above AA.
To determine what the Sox would receive in return, I analyzed recent trade deadline SP trades. Comparables include the 2008 rental for CC Sabathia, 2012 trade for Zach Grienke, 2010 trade for Cliff Lee, 2013 trade for Matt Garza, and 2012 trade for Ryan Dempster. In each of these trades, the team received back a consensus top prospect as well as two middling prospects.
Top Outfield Prospect: Jake Marisnick. Other potential prospects: Jose Urena and Nick Wittgreen. The Marlins line up well the Red Sox due to their surplus of outfielders. Marisknick offers all five tools. He would require some roster shifting, as he currently starts for Miami.
Urena (according to FishStripes) offers plus velocity and plus control. He is 22 years and and currently plays for Miami's AA team. Wittgreen is projected to be a closer and could give the Sox even more relief depth. He currently plays for Miami's AA affiliate.
Intriguing prospects: Tyrone Taylor (#1 Prospect Single A) Tyrone is an OF, would address a position of need for the Sox. However, he currently plays in single A which means he would be three or four years away from reaching the majors. Jimmy Nelson has the best pure stuff in the Brewers system, but I would be surprised if the Red Sox traded Lester for a AAA pitcher. A combination of Taylor and Nelson seems a lot for a rental. The Brewers top OF prospects are too young to be the base for a trade. The Brewers would need to find a third trading partner.
The Angles have a relatively barren farm system and their best prospects play at 2B and 3B. These are not needs for the Red Sox. One potential caveat would be a three team trade. Perhaps the Angels would acquire Lester and would trade CJ Cron as well as another prospect to a third team.
Detroit's biggest need is RP, so I would be surprised if they would part with a top prospect to shore up their starting pitching. However, Verlander's ineffectiveness has neutralized what has typically been a strength for the Tigers. They are currently an average starting pitching staff according to xFIP. The big trade asset would be Nick Castellenos. However, I would be surprised if the Tigers traded Castellenos following the trade for Kinsler.
I would be very intrigued by a trade for Joc Pederson of the Dodgers. The Dodgers currently have 4 major league outfielders for 3 spots and that doesn't include Joc. He could be the base for a trade with the Brewers or Angels. I would be surprised however, if the Angels brought in their regional rival for a trade. He has the arm strength and range to play RF at Fenway.
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