As the trade deadline draws nearer, we've spent a good deal of time focusing on who the Red Sox might trade for. Now, though, I'd like to shift your attention to the other side of things: who could the Sox use to make said trades?
While most years you can just throw together packages of prospects based on vaguely defined values, the Sox have an interesting situation coming up this offseason that could, in some cases force their hands--all thanks to the 40-man roster.
The Red Sox' 40-man is currently completely full, with all 40 positions filled even without counting Daisuke Matsuzaka and Rich Hill, both of whom are currently on the disabled list. This is pretty typical during the year, and won't pose any problem until the offseason and the Rule 5 draft, when certain players not protected by the 40-man roster can be snapped up by other teams.
For the Sox, the following players of note (in my mind) would fall into that category:
Drake Britton, Cesar Cabral, Chih-Hsien Chiang, Tim Federowicz, Stephen Fife, Ryan Lavarnway, Che-Hsuan Lin, Will Middlebrooks, Manny Rivera, Jason Rice, Reynaldo Rodriguez
Of those, Reynaldo Rodriguez seems like the only player not likely to be selected by another team. Chiang, Lavarnway, and Middlebrooks would be obvious selections at this point, given their performances this year. Guys like Fife, Lin, and Federowicz would make solid additions to bad teams as backups with some potential. Cesar Cabral was already chosen last year, a team could take a shot on Manny Rivera in the bullpen, and if a team like the Astros actually passes up the possibility of adding Drake Britton free-of-charge, even if they'd be stuck in an awkward position with his placement, I'd be shocked.
So what do we do to make room? We make trades! Not blockbuster deals, but the Balcom-Miller or Salty type of deals that so often go overlooked at the deadline.
As it stands right now, the Red Sox' 40-man roster features:
The 25-man roster (12 pitchers, 2 catchers, 6 infielders, 4 outfielders, and a designated hitter -- the extra outfielder/infielder can be switched)
4 disabled players (Buchholz, Jenks, Lowrie, and Drew)
11 backup players/prospects (Atchison, Bowden, Doubront, Tazawa, Williams, Weiland, Exposito, Iglesias, Anderson, Kalish, Pimentel)
Of these, the Sox will see J.D. Drew, David Ortiz, Jason Varitek, Jonathan Papelbon, Tim Wakefield, Marco Scutaro Dan Wheeler, and Andrew Miller to free agency or retirement. The final three do have options, and I don't expect Miller's or Wheeler's to be picked up. I'd like to assume the same of Scutaro, really, but the Sox don't have a clear answer for short since Navarro has lost his range there and Iglesias is a mess at the plate. For now, I'll go ahead and say he stays.
Of the remaining players, I'd only really expect Ortiz to be brought back, and I'm going to work under the assumption that he will be. For the rest, we have to ask whether their spots can be filled by any of the backup players, or if there will need to be free-agent acquisitions. If it's the former, then that's one 40-man spot "freed up".
Of the six, only some of the pitchers seem reasonably replaceable. Felix Doubront, Kyle Weiland, and Junichi Tazawa should hopefully be enough to fill the 5-6-7 spots in the rotation, with Doubront forced into the fifth starter spot or a spot starter/long-relief spot (think Masterson/Aceves) given his lack of options. Still, though, the Sox are likely to want at least eight starters, and it's hard to imagine Stephen Fife even putting himself on Weiland's level next year, so I'd guess there's two spots freed up there, with a FA signing in between.
Other than that, though, Drew would need to be replaced by a backup OF since Josh Reddick seems to have claimed his starting position. It's unlikely the Sox would want to put either Kalish or Lin in that position rather than getting them consistent Pawtucket playing time. There's no answer for a high-end reliever like Papelbon, or really a major-league ready backup catcher unless you expect Lavarnway to get the shot to start 2012. I'd be skeptical of that, personally.
There are also players who can just be let go. Yamaico Navarro has largely made Drew Sutton redundant, for instance.
That leaves us with six guys who still need a home. Here's our revised 40-man,
25-Man Roster (25)
Pitchers: Alfredo Aceves, Matt Albers, Daniel Bard, Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, Bobby Jenks, John Lackey, Jon Lester, Franklin Morales, Felix Doubront, FA reliever, FA starter/long-relief
Hitters: Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, Adrian Gonzalez, Jed Lowrie, Darnell McDonald (or FA replacement), David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Josh Reddick, Marco Scutaro, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Kevin Youkilis, FA Catcher, FA outfielder/infielder/utility guy
Backups who serve legitimate depth roles (6)
Kyle Weiland, Junichi Tazawa, Yamaico Navarro, Ryan Kalish, Ryan Lavarnway, Scott Atchison
Protected Prospects (14)
Lars Anderson, Michael Bowden, Drake Britton, Cesar Cabral, Chih-Hsien Chiang, Luis Exposito, Tim Federowicz, Stephen Fife, Jose Iglesias, Che-Hsuan Lin, Will Middlebrooks, Stolmy Pimentel, Jason Rice, Manny Rivera
That means five of the last group need to go one way or another--maybe four, if you feel comfortable putting one of the relievers up there for Atchison.
Of the group, Lars Anderson and Michael Bowden are the kind of guys who've just been hanging around so long that it's hard to imagine Triple-A results really making much of a difference. Then there's Luis Exposito, who doesn't really seem terribly likely to ever put any up in the first place. All three can go.
Stolmy Pimentel's stock is way down after a lost year, so the Sox would be foolish to trade him now. They may as well see if he can fix whatever went so terribly wrong and get back on track. The same can be said of Britton, though to a lesser extent. Both should stay.
Cesar Cabral and Manny Rivera are also unlikely to really bring anything back in a trade, even at the lower-levels, since teams would rather not have to go through the same trouble as us and give something up for the privelege. Both should stay.
Will Middlebrooks is currently the projected future of the franchise at third, and Chih-Hsien Chiang won't have received credit from other organizations for his tremendous season-to-date. I'd love to get someone to bid high on Jose Iglesias, but I think teams will use his poor offense to try and get a bargain on him. All three, in my mind, should be safe.
Stephen Fife, Tim Federowicz, and Che-Hsuan Lin each represent the sort of guy who would have things to offer to some teams looking for decent back-ups, but wouldn't bring in much at all. At the same time, it's hard to see much more coming out of the first two. Of the three, Lin should stay.
Bowden, Anderson, Fife, Federowicz, and Exposito aren't interesting or exciting names, but we're not really talking an Ubaldo Jimenez deal here. Put a few of these guys together, and get some A-level guy with a decent ceiling but a low chance to reach it. Or package them with the backups in order to get some marginal upgrades. If they don't, the Sox could well just lose these guys and have nothing to show for it. Value is value, however small.