The Red Sox need help in their rotation, and that will be true even if they end up being the ones to successfully sign Jon Lester this month. This is why they're reportedly keeping tabs on Jeff Samardzija, now that the A's have made it clear they're a little unsure of their present-day ability. This also means it's time for analysts and reporters to start speculating on who would be in any trade package between the Sox and the A's. ESPN's Buster Olney chimed in early Tuesday morning to consider the role Red Sox shortstop prospect Deven Marrero could play in such a swap, but is there actually anything to that idea other than that the A's need a shortstop?
The short answer is "maybe", but short doesn't explain a thing. Marrero is a good prospect, but he's not a great one. His bat could end up being league-average for a shortstop in the majors, which is to say it's probably not good but it's likely good enough for the position. His glove is plus, and that's the real attraction, as a cost-controlled shortstop who can bring value on defense and hit just enough to avoid being a problem is a useful piece in today's game. With Xander Bogaerts at shortstop for the Sox for at least a few years, Marrero is expendable, and probably more useful to the Sox in a trade than on their roster.
The Jays just picked up a shortstop in Franklin Barreto, but he'll be just 19 in 2015 and hasn't played above High-A yet. Maybe he crushes Double-A and finds himself on the fast track to the majors for 2016, but betting on that with anyone is difficult, so avoiding someone like Marrero who could maybe be plugged in now-ish doesn't make a ton of sense. This is especially true when you consider that Marrero will still have that glove of his in a year if trade-happy Billy Beane decides to make more swaps of his young players for even younger ones.
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The thing is, though, that Jeff Samardzija is well-regarded around the league, and is one of the few solid number two starter options available. There will be other suitors, and Marrero is nowhere near enough of a prospect to pry Shark from the A's by his lonesome. The Sox would likely also have to throw in someone of equal or higher value from the upper levels of the system, as well as maybe a risky but tantalizing low-level arm. That's probably still worth it for Samardzija, and that comes from someone who isn't entirely sold on him in the AL East, but the main point is just that Marrero probably isn't the key to a deal. Part of one? Sure. But it's doubtful he's got enough stock on his own to make Beane happy.
Is Jon Lester worth $150 million to the Red Sox?
With word out once again that Jon Lester is looking for around $150 million in a new deal, it's time to figure out where the Red Sox should draw the line.
It's easy to see Beane also wanting to take a shot on Jackie Bradley Jr., in spite of his offensive struggles. Bradley has a lot of work to do at the plate, but he's still just 25, and the A's play in an enormous ballpark. If Bradley hits anywhere in the zip code of league-average for a center fielder, he would be a valuable piece for the A's because of his incredible arm and even better range. Garin Cecchini is probably a man without a position in Boston now that Pablo Sandoval is at third and Hanley Ramirez is in left for the foreseeable future. Maybe Cecchini has a place at first base with the Red Sox -- emphasis on maybe, as it's still unclear how productive he'll be in the future -- but the options are more limited than they were just a couple of weeks ago. Cecchini isn't Kevin Youkilis, a player Beane famously lusted over, but maybe he'd be willing to go for the Lite version in exchange for a one-year rental.
Marrero plus someone like those two might appeal to Beane. Maybe Beane would prefer one of the various young starters Boston has on the 40-man, maybe even one whose future seems to be in relief: the A's have a quality track record of turning borderline pitchers into useful starters with a little coaching and a lot of O.co. Either configuration might also not be anywhere close to what he's looking for -- this is Beane we're talking about, and he maybe more than anyone else tends to complete deals that only make sense a few years down the road when he looks smart and everyone who questioned him looks less so. All that seems to be true is that Marrero won't be able to bring Samardzija back by himself, but the Red Sox are loaded with pieces they might not necessarily need anymore in addition to him. Something can surely be worked out if the two sides want it to be, and that something just might include Deven Marrero as Olney opined.