Dave Dombrowski finds himself with a pretty heavy task this offseason of turning the Red Sox around. The team has plenty of assets, however, and with the president of baseball operation's past dealings with the Tigers and Marlins, it is to be expected that the Red Sox will make a lot of moves this offseason.
Year after year, the offseason brings both realistic and ridiculous trade proposals to the table that each team hopes to come out on the winning end of. When considering who teams can trade and for how much, a variety of factors play into the potential decisions. This thought experiment, inspired by the yearly rankings done by Jonah Keri of ESPN (RIP Grantland), inspires a limitless train of possibilities.
Several things need to be considered when trying to figure out how much value each player holds to its team. These rules are similar to the ones set forth by Keri in his annual assessment but are 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). These are the general guidelines that I set forth last year.
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. Pablo Sandoval is better player than Sean Coyle, at the moment, but Sandoval's contract ties down the Red Sox for a considerable amount of time and long term money. Coyle is a decent major league prospect under team control, but would likely garner more in return than Sandoval in his contract.
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: Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts 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 wanted 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: "You couldn't find a suitor for us even if you tried really, really hard."
40. Hanley Ramirez (LF), 39. Pablo Sandoval (3B), 38. Rick Porcello (RHP):
There is a lot of uncertainty that surrounds this group of players. Hanley is heading down to the Dominican in an effort to prepare himself to play first base when Opening Day comes around. Whether or not that will be able to make his remaining contract (three years at $68 million with a vesting option for a fourth at $22 million) worth even half its monetary value remains very much in the question. By the end of 2015, Ramirez could not even perform at the plate, the very reason why Ben Cherington signed him in the first place.
Pablo Sandoval remains slightly more promising — and I really mean ever so slightly — because of one reason: his age. At 29 years old, Sandoval, in theory, should still have some years left in his prime and while many measures sabermetric and otherwise suggest that he is trending downwards, the defense can't get any worse than it was last year. There are, however, still four years and $62 million left on Sandoval's contract. That isn't any more tradeable than Hanley's deal.
While Rick Porcello pitched noticeably better towards the end of the season, the 26-year-old was one of the biggest disappointments of the season, especially considering the four-year, $82.5 million extension the righty signed at the beginning of the season. Porcello barely pitched above replacement level (0.6 bWAR) last season and no team will be willing to take on this contract until Porcello shows that he can put things together again.
Group 2: So. Many. Mediocre. Relievers.
37. Roman Mendez (RHP)
I literally had no idea Mendez was on the Red Sox last season, let alone pitched in three games. The Red Sox claimed Mendez off of waivers from the Rangers. He has 8.5 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 67.0 innings at Triple-A, which is semi-promising, but does not hold much value.
36. Jonathan Aro (RHP), 35. Noe Ramirez (RHP)
Both Aro and Ramirez are relatively unremarkable, forgettable relievers. Aro in his brief stint in Boston pitched to the tune of eight runs earned through six innings. Ramirez, on the other hand, came as a slightly more heralded pitching prospect and allowed six runs in 13 innings pitched. Both pitchers throw in the low-90's and probably have ceilings as serviceable sixth inning guys.
34. Robbie Ross Jr. (LHP)
Besides having a disheveled beard, Ross was a dependably mediocre pitcher out of the bullpen this offseason. Ross is much better against lefties than righties (.224/.284/.365 vs. .272/.340/.435) and strikes out a little less than a batter per inning. In all honesty, this was probably Ross' most significant contribution to the team this season.
33. Edwin Escobar (LHP), 32. Heath Hembree (RHP)
Remember these two? They came over from San Francisco in the trade for Jake Peavy. Escobar appeared to make the transition to relieving in 2015 after coming up as a starter. He struggled in Pawtucket, posting 5.15 ERA in 50.2 innings pitched and posting 1.520 WHIP, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio of 0.96 stands out as a negative. Hembree, on the other hand, pitched in 22 games at the major league level, posting a 3.55 ERA (5.58 FIP) in 25.1 innings pitched. As with Escobar, the strikeout-to-walk ratio for Hembree is not great (1.67 SO/BB). As formerly well-regarded relieving prospects, Escobar and Hembree still have some minimal value as trade assets.
31. Williams Jerez (LHP)
The Red Sox just added Jerez to the 40-man roster a couple of ago. Last year, Jerez posted a 2.54 ERA in 41 games while striking out 86 batters in 88.2 innings pitched. As a lefty, Jerez represents a pitcher who could make a contribution relatively quickly should injuries arise. Jerez is a 23-year-old former outfielder and became a pitcher in 2014, striking out 126 batters in 123 innings since the transition. As a lefty that tops out in the mid-90's, Jerez's ceiling represents that of a seventh inning reliever or set-up man.
That's it for now! Part two of the four-part series will come later this week.