With the Winter Meetings inching closer by the day and the Red Sox 40-man roster filled to the brim with an influx of talent that can't all possibly trotted out daily by manager John Farrell, Ben Cherington currently possesses a significant number of assets that other teams can potentially find attractive through the trade market.
The offseason always brings a plethora of trade proposals, both ridiculous and realistic, that one can only hope the front offices of teams can pull off through the personnel shuffle. With this, there are a couple of things you must take into consideration. This thought experiment, inspired by the yearly rankings done by Jonah Keri of Grantland, inspires a train of possibilities that are absolutely limitless.
There are several factors that need to be taken into consideration to come to a reasonable assessment of value when it comes to players. These rules are similar to the ones set forth by Keri in his annual assessment, but slightly tweaked for the sake of depth and clarity on slightly smaller canvas (looking at the 40-man roster of one organization rather than every player in major league baseball).
1. The value of one's contract: These rankings aren't set forth to assess how good someone is. Rather, we are trying to take a look at asset value. Yoenis Cespedes is better player than Xander Bogaerts, at the moment, but Cespedes' contract expires following the conclusion of the 2015 season while Bogaerts is under Red Sox team control for several years. Having Bogaerts under team control through the 2019 season is more valuable than having Cespedes for all of one season.
2. Everyone is in a vacuum: We aren't looking at someone's value relative to the rest of the team. Which player brings the greatest return?
3. Age: The signing of Pablo Sandoval perfectly encapsulates the value of someone's prime years. A player in their prime or heading into their prime is much more valuable than someone who is near the tail end of their career (David Ortiz for example).
4. Positional depth: There is a reason why the Red Sox want to keep Bogaerts at shortstop for as long as possible. Shortstop is a position where there are fewer elite offensive threats. That positional scarcity, as a result, increases Bogaerts' value. It is a lot tougher to find someone who can hit and handle shortstop than it is to find a player that can hit and handle first base. Top major league starters will always be more valuable than top major league relievers. The idea of positional scarcity is duly reflected in the calculation of Wins Above Replacement.
The list that follows is an amalgam of my personal opinion and insight from extensive conversations with multiple scouts, agents and writers around the league regarding player value. So without further ado...
Group 1: "The ride on I-95 from Pawtucket to Boston is underrated"
(Photo credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)
40. Drake Britton (LHP): Britton's 2014 season is like (what is reportedly) Adam Driver's lightsaber in the Star Wars VII trailer: there is something there, but it just leaves you feeling kind of weird. At Pawtucket, Britton posted a 5.86 ERA, but displayed an arsenal that fits the profile of a solid middle reliever. Britton's 2013 DUI will be something that raises a red flag for some organizations.
39. Alex Wilson (RHP): Wilson, who was born in Saudi Arabia, never really stood out at any level of the minor leagues, but chugged through the Red Sox farm system. He was a solid arm out of the bullpen in limited exposure at the major league level in 2014, but his arsenal and advanced age (28 years old) for someone in his position puts him in a precarious position.
38. Tommy Layne (LHP): Layne performed well in his limited exposure at the major league level last season (19.0 innings pitched, 14 strikeouts, eight walks, 1.16 WHIP), but the lefty is 30-years-old career minor leaguer whose career high in appearances and innings pitched came in 2014 with the Red Sox. He could be one of the first people cut if the team needs to make room on the 40-man roster.
37. Steven Wright (RHP, Resident Knuckler): At 30-years-old, Wright is in a slightly different position than Layne. Wright is primarily a knuckle ball pitcher. The success of the pitcher who throws the knuckleball is as unpredictable as the pitch itself. R.A. Dickey did not find success with the pitch until late in his career. Whether it's as a starter or reliever, Wright will likely continue to find work because he has displayed the ability to be successful with the pitch.
36. Jemile Weeks (2B): Weeks is the player that the Red Sox (indirectly) acquired for Stephen Drew and is scheduled to become a free agent after the 2019 season and isn't eligible for arbitration until after the 2015 season. Weeks is a former first-round pick of the Oakland Athletics and certainly has a lot of talent that hasn't been realized at the major league level yet. At 27 years old, Weeks, whose brother is Rickie Weeks, may not turn out to be anything more than a utility infielder at the major league level, but his status as a former top draft pick will continue to give him opportunities.
35. Dan Butler (C): Butler is the ultimate underdog story as an undrafted free agent. Butler made his major league debut in 2014, riding his glove to a position behind the dish at Fenway Park. Butler's defense, above everything else, is constantly praised by pitchers and staff alike. While his bat will likely not find much success, the 28-year-old Butler may find himself as a backup catcher/defensive specialist somewhere at the major league level in the future.
Group 2: "Remember us? We came from San Francisco!"
(Photo credit: Winslow Towson-USA TODAY Sports)
34. Heath Hembree (RHP): Hembree is a reliever prospect, which automatically knocks down his value. Hembree has a solid arsenal with a lively fastball and an above-average slider that will likely play at the major league level. What the 25-year-old hasn't found is consistency. Until then, Hembree is just one of hundreds of hurlers with good stuff stuck in the minors due to an inability to harness one's arsenal.
33. Edwin Escobar (LHP): Escobar's ceiling is that of a fourth starter in a major league rotation. While he dominated his way through Single and Double-A, Escobar has yet to find consistent success at the Triple-A level. Many talent evaluators (including Farrell) say that the gap between the majors and the minors is as large as it has ever been before. Escobar has the stuff to pitch at the major league level. As a southpaw, he could eventually make his way to the bullpen.
Group 3: "Remember us? We used to be Top-10 Prospects in the Red Sox system!"
32. Bryce Brentz (OF): Brentz has power, which is valued highly in today's game. His struggle to stay healthy over the last two seasons, however, has hampered his development. It was just two years ago that Brentz was regarded as one of the top prospects in the system and was thought of as extremely close to the major leagues. Brentz also possesses an above-average arm from the outfield. His ability to knock the ball out of the park is what will get him a major league job, should he earn such an opportunity.
31. Travis Shaw (1B): Shaw bounced back from a disappointing 2013 season with a solid all-around performance between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket. Shaw can hit baseball far, which his most desirable asset. His durability so far in his minor league career places him above Brentz.
Group 4: EDDY
(Photo credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports)
30. Edward Mujica (RHP): Mujica had a much better 2014 than his numbers indicate. From June 1 through the end of the season, Mujica allowed 12 earned runs in 40 1/3 innings pitched while posting a 1.314 WHIP. The 30-year-old righty is under contract through the 2015 season at $4.75 million. While Mujica has been inconsistent thus far in his Red Sox tenure, he does have a track record of success and is being paid at a reasonable rate.
Group 5: Spaced out
29. Sean Coyle (2B, 3B): Coyle had a strong 2014, dominating Double-A following the promotion of Mookie Betts to Triple-A. Coyle represents an under-the-radar prospect who will likely see significant time at Pawtucket in 2015.
28. Will Middlebrooks (3B): Middlebrooks has power and, at the moment, that's the summary of Middlebrooks' value. The Red Sox discussed trying out Middlebrooks in the outfield in 2014, but injuries halted those plans. Middlebrooks showed that he can hit at the major league level. Middlebrooks has the talent to be a middle-of-the-order bat. Whether or not he ever fulfills that potential is very much in question. There doesn't appear to be room on the Red Sox roster for Middlebrooks following the signing of Pablo Sandoval and some team, maybe a National League squad, could be willing to take a flyer on the former top prospect.
Group 6: Identity Crisis
(Photo credit: Jared Wickerham-Getty Images)
24. Matt Barnes (RHP), 25. Allen Webster (RHP), 26. Anthony Ranaudo (RHP), 27. Brandon Workman (RHP): The Red Sox have too many young starters. Some, such as Workman, may be headed to the bullpen. Barnes and Webster have the best pure stuff of the group, which naturally pushes their value upwards. Barnes and Webster both have plus-fastballs (with Webster possessing more of hard sinker). While Ranaudo displayed the most success at Pawtucket, his stint at the major league level suggested that his non-explosive arsenal may not play as well as it did in the minor leagues. All four of them could end up in the bullpen (I'm of the belief that Webster could become a potentially elite back-of-the-bullpen reliever), but there is very little chance that they will all be starters at the major league level for the Red Sox.
Group 7: So. Many. Players.
(Photo credit: Jim Rogash-Getty Images)
23. Daniel Nava (OF): Nava bounced back from a slow start to finish off a solid season in 2014. His ability to switch hit is valuable and his patience at the plate translates to a strong on-base percentage. While he's mediocre defender, his ability to play all three spots in the outfield makes him an asset. The 31-year-old is under team control through the 2017 season and is arbitration eligible for the first time this offseason.
22. Jackie Bradley Jr. (CF): Bradley is one of the more interesting players to come through the Red Sox system in recent years. Bradley is, unquestionably, among the best defensive outfielders in baseball, but the 24-year-old has struggled to hit at the major league level consistently. Some talent evaluators said that Bradley moved away from his approach at the major league level and questions of stubbornness bring up concerns as to whether or not Bradley will find success in Boston. Bradley's glove, alone, will likely find him major league work in the future. His ability to find success at the plate will determine whether or not he is a starting or backup outfielder.
21. Garin Cecchini (3B): Cecchini flat out knows how to hit. He hits the ball to all fields and is patient at the plate. While there are defensive questions (he played several games in the outfield at Pawtucket in 2014 to expand his portfolio), the main concern for Cecchini is his lack of power. At a position where power is among the more abundant, Cecchini's struggle to hit the ball out of the ballpark is a major question moving forward. His ceiling, at the moment, appears to be that of an average major league starter.
Group 8: Reliever Party!
(Photo credit: Justin K. Aller-Getty Images)
20. Junichi Tazawa (RHP): Tazawa is one of the better relievers in baseball and is under team control through the 2016 season. While he reportedly expressed interest in becoming a starter again, the 28-year-old reliever's arsenal best translates as a shut down reliever.
19. Koji Uehara (RHP): Uehara constantly reminds people that he is old (will be 40 years old to start the 2015 season) and his new two-year, $18 million deal isn't the safest contract, given the righty's age and the general volatility of relievers. If Uehara once again shows that he can be a consistently dominant reliever, he is worth every penny of his new contract. This ranking is not an indictment on Uehara's ability; it is rather based on the fact that Uehara now has a hefty contract for an older player at a position of high volatility.
Group 9: Like that middle schooler trying to establish their value in society
(Photo credit: Jim Rogash-Getty Images)
18. Rubby De La Rosa (RHP): De La Rosa has great stuff and displayed on multiple occasions that he can be an effective starter. Whether or not that holds up over the course of a season is very much in question, given his reliance on his change up and the (somewhat alarming) lack of swing and miss on his fastball. Some evaluators suggest that De La Rosa is best suited in a closer's role. As a 25-year-old pitcher who is under team control through 2018 and equipped with a plus arsenal, De La Rosa represents the brightest of the Red Sox pitching prospects due to his potential ceiling as both a mid-rotation starter or closer.
17. Brock Holt (1B, 2B, 3B, SS, OF): Holt is everywhere. His ability and willingness to play anywhere besides catcher and pitcher framed Holt as a "poor man's Ben Zobrist" in the eyes of many. Holt's versatility alone makes him a valuable asset at the major league level. Whether or not he can repeat his 2014 performance at the plate is still a question mark, but the 26-year-old's versatility combined with the fact that he is under control through the 2019 season makes him a prized player.
Group 10: Damaged goods
(Photo credit: Tom Szczerbowski-Getty Images)
16. Allen Craig (OF, 1B): Craig insists that he wasn't injured in 2014, but many evaluators said that it looked as if the 30-year-old did not look the same as he did pre-injuries It was not long ago that Craig was one of the better hitters in the National League and very well-deserving of the five-year, $31 million contract he received from the Cardinals prior to the 2013 seasons. Craig is due $5.5 million, $9 million and $11 million in 2015, 2016 and 2017 respectively with a $13 million team option for 2018. Craig could represent a buy-low option for first base or the outfield for some teams and his reasonable salary in 2015 could entice some team to roll the dice.
15. Shane Victorino (OF): Victorino thinks that he should be starting for the Red Sox in 2015. His injury history, however, suggests that he can't be completely depended upon to finish a season from beginning to end without some bumps in the road. Victorino is headed into the last year of the three-year deal signed prior to the 2013 season and is due $13 million. Victorino, when healthy, is a dynamic player and while the Red Sox would likely have to eat some money to get a solid player in return for him, his expiring contract makes him a more attractive asset than Craig.
Group 11: The long lost Molina brother
(Photo credit: Bob DeChiara-USA Today)
14. Christian Vazquez (C): Catchers who are good defensively will always have value. Vazquez is more than just "good" defensively. Vazquez, who works with the three Molina brothers in the offseason, has been compared to fellow Puerto Rican Ivan Rodriguez due to his lightning quick release on throws and his innate ability to frame pitches. The Red Sox are extremely confident that Vazquez' bat will translate at the major level, regardless of what the statistics say.
Pawtucket manager Kevin Boles raved about Vazquez' bat during the 2014 season.
"We started to see the adjustments where he started to use all fields and the frequency of contact has been something that is on his side also," Boles said. "The walks-to-strikeout ratio greatly improved last year and we're looking to see that again. People know who he is and I think the other organizations and the other teams, they give him credit that he's a hitter, that he has a chance to become a quality bat and not jut a defensive specialist behind the plate."
Group 12: The reason behind your receding hair line
(Photo credit: Kim Klement-USA Today Sports)
13. Clay Buchholz (RHP): Buchholz is like the relationship of Ross and Rachel in Friends. Sometimes it's the absolute best and something you take great pleasure in watching. At other points, it just makes you want to pull your hair out in absolute frustration. Buchholz has the talent to be one of the best pitchers in baseball (which he has been at points in his career). He, however, is too frequently terrible (and oftentimes injured) to be relied upon. Buchholz is under team control for three more seasons at $12 million with two team options in 2016 and 2017 for $13 million and $13.5 million respectively. Given the cost, contract structure and Buchholz' inconsistency, he's second among the current starters in trade value to...
Group 13: The consistently average starter under team control
(Photo credit: Patrick Smith-Getty Images)
12. Joe Kelly (RHP): Kelly isn't really anything spectacular on the mound (although I cannot give enough props to him for wearing prescription Oakley sports glasses on the mound). He has an above-average arsenal and is relatively young at 26 years old, but Kelly isn't someone who is expected to develop into a top flight starter. Where Kelly's value comes in is the fact that he's under team control through the 2018 season at a reasonable cost. Established major league pitching under team control is consistently undervalued and Kelly has shown that he can be a solid (if unremarkable) pitcher at the major league. The face he's under contract for another four years at a team-friendly price makes him the most valuable starter on the Red Sox, for now...
Group 14: Ol' Reliable
(Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA Today Sports)
11. Mike Napoli (1B): Napoli is under contract for just one more season at $16 million at the age of 33. Napoli is one of the better all-around first basemen in baseball. While there are some injury questions with Napoli (he's only played more than 119 games once in the last four years), there is no doubt that he is a gritty player who fights through pain. While he will strike out a lot, his power makes him a valued asset.
10. David Ortiz (DH, King of the Castle): Ortiz is a top-two designated hitter in all of baseball at the age of 39. It's hard to imagine Ortiz finishing his career with any other team given that A) he can only play for 50 percent of teams in baseball and B) there is a lack of emphasis on the DH position. Year after year, everyone has come to expect at least 25 home runs and 90 RBI out of Ortiz (barring injury) and 2015 will be no different.
Group 15: The next (potential) top-of-the-rotation lefty
(Photo credit: Kelley L. Cox-USA Today Sports)
9. Eduardo Rodriguez (LHP): It looks like the Red Sox came away like robbers in the Andrew Miller trade. Rodriguez came to the Red Sox as one of the top prospects in Baltimore Orioles system, but his struggles through June in 2014 diminished his value. After coming to the Red Sox, Rodriguez displayed a dazzling arsenal featuring a 93-94 mph fastball that has touched 96 and 97 in starts. Rodriguez also hurls a changeup, which serves as his top secondary pitch, and a solid slider that flashes as an above-average offering.
Multiple evaluators said that Rodriguez is the top pitching prospect in the organization and has a mix that suggests, for some, a ceiling of an ace, a claim that has not really been touched with Henry Owens and Brian Johnson, the other two top southpaw pitching prospects in the Red Sox organization. That the Red Sox acquired an arm that projects so highly for a reliever is a rarity and could prove to be the steal of the 2014 trade deadline.
Group 16: "We just signed long-term contracts for mucho dinero."
(Photo credit: Bob DeChiara-USA Today Sports)
6. Hanley Ramirez (LF), 7. Rusney Castillo (OF), 8. Pablo Sandoval (3B): All three players are talented players who signed market value contracts, with Castillo's deal the highest chance of being a bargain. Ramirez four year deal could prove to be a steal given the 30-year-old's ability to be among the best hitters in baseball at times. Castillo displayed his raw talent in his brief stint with the team at the end of the 2014 season. How good Castillo can be very much remains a major question. Sandoval represents the rare player who hit free agency in their (hypothetical) prime and could potentially get another long-term deal when he hits the market again at the age of 33.
Group 17: As good as gone
(Photo credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA Today Sports)
5. Yoenis Cespedes (OF): Cespedes looks as if he will be traded this offseason, given the team's influx of outfielders. His combination of athleticism and power will be attractive to many teams and his expiring contract voids a team of having to make a major commitment to the 29-year-old outfielder. While the fact that he cannot be offered the qualifying offer slightly lessens Cespedes' trade value (as the team will not be able to receive a first-round pick as compensation should Cespedes leave via free agency), the power potential that he brings to the plate will likely help bring at least a mid-rotation starter to Boston.
Group 18: Why you gamble on athletic high schoolers in the MLB Draft
4. Blake Swihart (C): Swihart represented a gamble when the Red Sox selected him in the first round of the 2011 MLB Draft. At the time, Swihart had only been catching for a couple of years, but the team believed that his athleticism would help him improve quickly behind the plate.
They were right.
Swihart is now the top catching prospect in all of baseball with a set of tools at the plate some compare to Buster Posey (albeit with a lower ceiling). Swihart hits for average, has a solid approach at the plate and is developing power. Boles raved about Swihart's defense in 2014.
"[Swihart] is very athletic behind the plate," Boles said. "Love his energy, too. Love his charge. Gave the signs, looking in for signs, he was on time the whole outing. Just the pace and tempo and watching him throw in between innings, watching him bounce around, he is just a high-energy kid and like his athleticism behind the plate. Presents the ball very well, showed coverage, gained ground when blocking."
Swihart's potential to be a franchise cornerstone makes him among the organization's most prized assets. The scarcity of hitting at the catching position in today's game only further accentuates the potential value Swihart brings to the table.
Group 19: The (Pretty-Darn-Close-To) Untouchables
(Photo credit: Elsa-Getty Images)
2A, 2B. Mookie Betts (OF, 2B), Xander Bogaerts (SS): Betts and Bogaerts, by all reports, are not being traded this offseason. The team has already rejected an offer from the Philadelphia Phillies' that would involve Betts in a package for Cole Hamels. Unless Chris Sale is put on the table by the Chicago White Sox (and the Blue Jays' trade for Josh Donaldson should serve as a reminder that nobody is completely untouchable for the right price), Betts is not going anywhere.
Bogaerts is the top positional prospect the team has developed since Hanley Ramirez. While he struggled at the plate overall in 2014, Bogaerts looked like a player ready to emerge as one of the best shortstops in baseball for some stretches in 2014 (April through mid-June and September). There is next-to-no chance that someone other than Bogaerts will be the starting shortstop for the Red Sox on Opening Day 2015. Bogaerts is currently working out in Arizona at Athletes Performance Institute with...
Group 20: LASER SHOW
(Photo credit: Jim Rogash-Getty Images)
1. Dustin Pedroia (2B): Established major league talent will almost always trump the potential of a prospect. At 31 years old, Pedroia is one of the best all-around players in baseball. With an eight-year, $110 million deal through the 2021 season (with salary decreasing starting in the 2018), Pedroia will likely never become a contract albatross given current trend of salary and contract inflation.
Who is a trade fit for Yoenis Cespedes?
There have been many potential landing spots thrown out for Yoenis Cespedes, but how many of them make sense?
Pedroia, year after year, provides Gold Glove-caliber defense, hits for average, gets on base, displays extra-base power and runs the bases well. The leadership that Pedroia brings to a clubhouse is unquestioned. While there are concerns with how sustainable his style of play is, Pedroia continues to bring a solid offensive production and projects to post 4.5 WAR in 2015 according to Steamer projections, making his $12.5 million salary an absolute steal.
Does Pedroia have the intrigue of potential that both Betts and Bogaerts bring to the table? Not in the slightest. That, however, shouldn't undermine the fact that the is extremely underpaid given his consistent production year after year.
Consider this: Robinson Cano posted 5.2 WAR last year, 0.7 wins more than Pedroia. Cano, however, made $24 million, nearly double Pedroia's salary, and calculated out to $4.61 million per win. On the other hand, Pedroia calculated out to $2.78 million per win at a time when the market price for a win was roughly $6 million, suggesting that he was underpaid by nearly $14.5 million in 2014 given his levels of production offensively and defensively.
Not only does Pedroia remain among the best second basemen in baseball, he is currently and projects to be among the best values monetarily year after year. At a time when the value of potential is so high, Pedroia represents the manifestation of realized potential.