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Examining The Potential Red Sox Trades

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In case you missed this shortest saga of drama this past weekend, here is the long and short of it:

Gordon Edes writes an article citing a variety of potential trades illustrated to him by a major league source.

Theo Epstein denies the rumors, calling them just plain false.

And that's pretty much all there is to it.

Of course, as Edes later tweeted: "there's a big gap between what a team is willing to talk about and what it's willing to do." It's almost always, after all, in the best interest of the team to not have any of its trades talked about until they actually happen. It keeps the players involved from coming away upset with the team should the deal not go down, and as Theo has always emphasized, the more a potential signing or trade is talked about in the media, the harder it is to get things done.

So what if these rumors are real? Are the trade ideas any good? Let's take a look.

One thing that has been lost amidst all the big-name pickups leading into the 2011 season is just how deep the team is. The addition of Carl Crawford makes Mike Cameron--typically a 4 WAR player--the fourth outfielder. Jed Lowrie could start at one position or another on most teams after his performance last year. And, oh yes, the bridge year is over, meaning the high minors have a bunch of players deserving of a shot should one of the big league players go down with an injury. 

Are they deep enough, though, to dump some of their top backups off in the trades that Edes suggest?

The Red Sox would move pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, who has a full no-trade clause, if they could add to their young catching inventory, the source said. Veteran Tim Wakefield is on the bubble, according to the source, and might be available for left-handed relief help. The Sox would also consider moving one of their two veteran right-handed hitting outfielders, Mike Cameron or Darnell McDonald, with interest in Cameron expected to increase as he plays more.

...

The source said the Red Sox would also listen to any offers on veteran shortstop Marco Scutaro, who at the moment is projected as Opening Day shortstop. The Red Sox have options in Jed Lowrie and top prospect Jose Iglesias, who could play defensively on the big league level right now.

The question is: Are these players valuable to us, and is it reasonable to trade them?

The Pitchers

Any time Daisuke's name comes up in trade talks it inspires some excitement amongst the fans. Red Sox Nation's relationship with the pitcher is such that, through all the excitement, disappointment and drama, they're no longer capable of seeing him as just a decent--or even good--fifth starter.

With Tim Wakefield, the effect is almost the opposite. For years, we've been able to assume that Wake would be able to step in and provide effective innings out of the pen or in the rotation, at least when taken over the course of a season. Recently, though, he's been a lot less reliable. Not only have his results been worse, but he's been a lot more fragile. 

As annoying as it might be to admit, Daisuke is valuable to the team. We can probably expect an ERA in the .4.40-4.80 range, which is, if nothing else, stable. That's the sort of thing a team like this with a potentially world-beating offense needs out of their fifth man, especially if Matsuzaka's tendency for short outings can be made up for by the improved bullpen.

Tim Wakefield, on the other hand, doesn't really offer that much. We can find both long relief in the bullpen and decent backup starters elsewhere. Neither Alfredo Aceves nor Felix Doubront are sure things as major league starters, but at least Doubront is more reliable health-wise, and both have the potential to produce results quite a bit better than we can expect from Tim Wakefield.

Of course, there's also the question of overall depth. In years past, the Sox have had plenty of trouble with filling out their rotation even when they seemed overstocked to begin with. With both Daisuke and Beckett presenting a reasonable injury risk in recent years, the Sox could find themselves stretched to their limits with a bit of bad luck. But again, would Tim Wakefield really be a major improvement over whoever the Sox got off the mid-season free agent or salary dump market? Really, the greatest problem with trading Wakefield would probably be the fan response.

Oh, and of course finding a trading partner.

While the same thing that makes Daisuke of reasonable value to us makes him a decent trade option for some other teams, there's not much incentive for a team to trade for Wakefield. A National League team might be able to find some use for him given the relative unfamiliarity of the league his knuckleball, but it's hard to imagine the lefty they're looking for in return would prove a better option than either Dennys Reyes or Andrew Miller, both of whom are fighting for a spot in the Red Sox bullpen.

Verdicts:

Daisuke - No

Wakefield - We wish

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The Hitters

It's hard not to consider Marco Scutaro and Mike Cameron as luxuries for the Red Sox. Both are starting-quality players in the MLB, and with Cameron already on the bench and Jed Lowrie having given a good deal of proof that he's an everyday player as well, the Sox have a great deal of flexibility. But just because they're luxuries does not mean their importance should be taken likely.

When it comes to Cameron, the value he brings to the team is most obvious when we take into account the status of J.D. Drew. While Drew was one of the healthiest players on the team last year, he's always been considered something of an injury risk, and at his age, things aren't getting any better in that department. Having Cameron there to share a limited part of the load should keep both players healthy and effective as the year goes on.

Perhaps more important, though, is his ability to hit southpaws. One of the knocks against the Sox this year has been their lefty-heavy lineup. With David Ortiz, J.D. Drew, Carl Crawford, and Adrian Gonzalez all having displayed some significant splits in recent years, having a guy on the bench like Cameron with his career .381 wOBA against lefties is big. Considering how healthy and impressive Cameron has been so far this spring, it's not too much of a stretch to say that having him on the bench will, plain and simple, win the Red Sox some games in 2011.

The Jed Lowrie/Marco Scutaro situation is rather more complicated. For one thing, there's the question of who we should be talking about trading. Edes' report says Scutaro, and in what will be no surprise to most of you, I agree. While it's impossible to tell how much of Lowrie's 2011 season is going to carry over to future years, just the mere possibility that he is the player he seemed to be then is so potentially valuable to the Red Sox that they have to give Lowrie an extended shot. There's just too big a difference in value between what he would get in a trade, and what he might be.

But then what about trading Scutaro?  

It could, potentially be done. But it would also have to involve Darnell McDonald, who was the final player mentioned.

After all, without Marco Scutaro, the Red Sox are without any backup infielders. And while Jed Lowrie would still offer his versatility as a backup to first, second, and third even if he were starting as shortstop, it would be quite a change to the defense of the team should he not only have to fill in for another infielder, but have someone fill in for him. That's something the Sox would probably rather avoid.

The "good news" is--at least as it relates to this trade--that the Sox don't really need to have only one backup infielder, because there's not a lot that Darnell McDonald really does for the team. Mike Cameron fulfills the role of the lefty-killer off the bench, and is a superior defender to McDonald. And dropping McDonald likely wouldn't be a major hit to depth either given the ready availability of outfield prospects like Ryan Kalish who would be ready to take over should injury strike.

By trading both Scutaro and McDonald, the Sox could get some good value for a starting quality player, and then pick up some decent, more specialized backup infielders (one middle infielder with a better glove, one corner infielder with a better bat), or perhaps look into using a versatile player who has shown promise like Nate Spears from the minors.

The question is, what would make that deal worthwhile for the Sox? They would likely have to get a pretty decent piece for this team as it is, likely in the form of a strong reliever--preferably a lefty. That's not too unrealistic a return, either. While Sox fans will tend to underrate Marco Scutaro due to the increased expectations after his 2009 season, he was actually an above average starting shortstop in 2011 despite playing through an injury. There are plenty of teams that wouldn't mind having Scutaro in their lineup and on the field every day.

With Jonathan Papelbon looking like a disaster in spring training, and some question marks as to who will fill in the back of the pen, if said reliever comes packaged with someone to help back up Jed Lowrie, this could definitely be something the Red Sox look into. Given all the moving pieces, though, it might just be better to leave the situation alone until it proves itself to be broken.

Verdicts: 

Mike Cameron: No

Marco Scutaro/Darnell McDonald: Worth looking into