The Red Sox have a shortstop of the future already in Xander Bogaerts. Sure, his bat hasn't quite developed as expected yet, but he's taken steps forward with his glove that make him at least an average shortstop until that time comes, and that's important. It also means that shortstop prospect Deven Marrero's value to the Red Sox is likely through what he can bring back in a trade, and once again, Boston should look out west to Billy Beane and the A's for Marrero's new home.
This offseason, the question was whether or not Marrero -- along with some other prospects of note -- could be enough to bring Jeff Samardzija from Oakland to Boston. It wasn't just the Red Sox side asking that question, either: The A's needed a shortstop, the Red Sox had Marrero and a need for quality pitching. Beane would end up acquiring Marcus Semien from the White Sox for Shark instead, and while that's worked out on the offensive side of things -- Semien is batting .314/.359/.513 for a 141 OPS+ -- he's been a mess defensively at short. Semien has already cost the A's half-a-win defensively according to FanGraphs, and while you should take advanced defensive metrics with a big ole handful of salt, small sample or no, the fact Semien has made 15 errors in 40 games makes you wonder if the problem is he hasn't been penalized enough.
It's not a huge shock that the transition hasn't been smooth: Semien had played just six games at shortstop in the majors prior to 2015, with most of his time coming at third and second while with Chicago. The A's could use him at second now, as Erik Sogard is currently at the keystone, and even when Ben Zobrist returns from injury, the outfield is unsettled and Zobrist is only in town for the rest of 2015, anyway: if the A's are trading pitching for Marrero, it's likely as a play for 2016. It might seem early for Beane to think that way, but the A's are already 11.5 back in the AL West and eight games back of the wild card, sitting in dead last in the AL. If things don't reverse course soon, they'll be out of it even if they're a solid club -- as it was expected they would be -- the rest of the way.
So, Marrero doesn't necessarily need to be big-league ready at this very moment for the A's to be interested in acquiring him to play shortstop. His bat isn't ready -- he's hitting .261/.333/.391 for Triple-A Pawtucket -- but his glove is plus and has been major-league ready. Really, his glove has pushed him through the minors with his bat dragging behind, so it wouldn't be surprising to see Marrero's production at the plate in the majors surpass what he's done in the minors, or, at least, match what he's done in the upper levels. Marrero knows how to draw a walk, he can put the ball in the gaps, and he's a good baserunner: he could be at least average offensively at short because of all that, and with a plus glove to boot, that's a useful player.
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Throw in that acquiring Marrero would push Semien to a position where his bat wouldn't be compensating for his glove, and suddenly, the middle of the A's infield would be an asset.
Samardzija is gone, sure, but Scott Kazmir, another impending free agent, is not. Kazmir exited the majors in 2011 after a brutal season with the Angels, but after working his way back through a trip to the independent leagues, he was able to return to the majors in 2013 and has been valuable since, especially in his season-plus with the A's. Kazmir has a 103 ERA+ since returning to the majors, and 110 during his time in Oakland, with a very strong start to 2015 making him look like the promising, early 20s Kazmir from those Devil Rays days. Except this time, he's got experience and efficiency on his side.
If the A's continue their slide, or, at least, fail to recover from it, then a Kazmir trade is inevitable. With Oakland already so far back, Kazmir might not need to wait until July to be dealt, either: Beane famously likes to use the first two months to see what he has with his team, and if he sees that it's time to move Kazmir and focus on making 2016 a more pleasant time, then he'll do so promptly. The Red Sox, who currently have knuckler Steven Wright in their rotation alongside with project arm Joe Kelly, could use Kazmir to help halt their own slide.
Clay Buchholz and Rick Porcello have recovered from rough starts to the season, and Wade Miley seems to be mostly back in working order, too. Kelly is going to get time to sort through his post-Yadier Molina life, and while Wright is a nifty piece to have to replace Masterson in the short term, he's not someone the Sox should avoid an obvious upgrade for. Kazmir would just be a rental, but if the Sox can get him soon, he would be one who spends more time with the Red Sox than he does without in 2015, giving him the starts to make a major impact on Boston's still-breathing season.
Will Marrero be enough? That's difficult to say right now, as it's not like the Sox are the only team who needs a pitcher. There are a few things worth considering here, though: Beane has proven time and time again that if he wants a specific player, he'll make things work with the team who has him -- see the Semien deal for the most recent evidence of this phenomenon. If Beane wants Marrero, he's going to get Marrero so long as the Sox are willing to move him. The Sox have plenty of other prospects to make this work, too, if the shortstop by himself isn't enough.
Marrero could be a pretty good big-league player if his bat is even average for a shortstop, but the Sox have a shortstop of the present and future already, and a need in today's rotation. Giving up Marrero for Kazmir would make all kinds of sense, even if it also costs the Red Sox another mid-range prospect or two. The A's might even be fine acquiring relief prospects alongside Marrero, given the disaster that is their 2015 bullpen, or with plucking someone from the lower levels as they have in the past when dealing with Ben Cherington and the Sox.
Depending on how large the hypothetical deal ends up, someone like Jackie Bradley Jr. could end up in Oakland to patrol their massive outfield, joining with Josh Reddick to guarantee no ball ever drops nor any runner advances. There are plenty of fits here, even if Marrero doesn't end up being the whispered key to a deal for pitching with the A's, and the Red Sox should explore them in order to get their season back on track. If the A's aren't ready to listen yet, they might be ready to do so very soon.