The Red Sox are not going to be buying for 2015 specifically at the trade deadline, but they will most likely be buying -- regardless of Boston's place in the standings, since the days of Theo Epstein, they've tended to attempt to bring in one piece or another for the future where they can. In order to do so, though, they will need to move prospects, veterans, and maybe even the players whose careers are in-between those two points.
With just 10 days to go until the non-waiver trade deadline comes and goes, let's take a look at the players the Red Sox could move, by breaking them up into tiers and trying to gauge how realistic it is that general manager Ben Cherington will actually send them packing, and for what. If nothing else, it should serve as a reminder of how much even a going-nowhere 2015 team can manage to accomplish in the time remaining to them.
The Top Prospects
Boston's best prospects are their future, but not every single one of them needs to actually put on a Red Sox uniform for them to contribute towards that goal. If the Red Sox are to acquire someone like Cole Hamels, Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel, or even cost-controlled help a tier below them like Tyson Ross, they are going to need to give up a legitimate prospect or two, at least. And that's okay! Prospects are meant to be promoted where they fit and traded for someone who will when they cannot. In an ideal world, the Red Sox build an entire homegrown lineup and rotation of high-quality players, but the ideal does not reflect the reality of the game for a number of reasons.
Chances are good that Yoan Moncada is going nowhere, since the Sox beat a number of other teams to him in the 2014-2015 signing period and he's been as advertised since coming to Low-A Greenville. It's also unlikely last year's first-round picks, Michael Chavis and Michael Kopech, are dealt, as Chavis has struggled in his first season of pro ball, and, good as Kopech was, he's currently suspended for using an illegal stimulant.
Photo credit: Kelly O'Connor
There are still plenty of major prospects the Sox could move, if they so chose. Manuel Margot is the most obvious one for drawing other teams' attention, as he has a lofty ceiling but also a relatively high floor, thanks to his defense and an offensive game that should prove productive even if he never develops home run power. Rafael Devers is another major prospect, recognized nationally, who Boston could trade. Now, we know you just recoiled at the mere thought of dealing Devers, but this is simple trading math: if the Sox don't want to trade someone like Margot or Devers for an established, significant, non-rental player, then they don't get that player.
You might be fine with that. However, even if a deal were to include Margot or Devers for someone like Hamels, the Sox would likely also need to trade Henry Owens or Brian Johnson, or both. And probably more. This can be interpreted two ways: someone like Hamels is too expensive for the Sox to bother with, or, the price for keeping Mookie Betts and Blake Swihart and Eduardo Rodriguez while remaining active on the high-end of the trade market means Margot and/or Devers and a whole lot of solid quantity are available.
Don't expect the Red Sox to empty out the top level of their farm in the next 10 days, but don't be surprised if they pull off one trade that costs them one of the prospects you've grown far too fond of far too quickly. Ease up on that prospect hug a little for now, just to be safe.
The Sox don't have many high-quality veteran assets that they can move. David Ortiz isn't going anywhere, and Dustin Pedroia remains a huge part of the organization's future even though he'll be 32 next summer. Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez are likely to improve on their 2015 performances, and it's not as if the Sox have obvious replacements for them on hand, anyway. Koji Uehara, however, has a year left on his deal, and could be a major piece at the deadline much like Andrew Miller was a year ago for the Red Sox.
Miller brought Boston back Eduardo Rodriguez last July, giving them the top pitching prospect in their system in exchange for a free-agent-to-be. Uehara has a year of control left, and while he would be hugely valuable in Boston's pen in 2016, the Sox should at least be open to moving him. If another team is willing to pay up for him, giving the Sox even more potential major contributors for their future, then dealing Koji now and figuring out how to plug that hole later would make a lot of sense.
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The fact he's not a rental is in Boston's favor: if they don't get a must-take deal for Uehara, they keep him, and have his 2016. If they get a deal they absolutely can't refuse, then hey, at least he only had the one season left after this, and who knows how much longer the 40-year-old plans to stick around, anyway.
This might be where the majority of Boston's deadline dealings occur. Shane Victorino isn't having a great season by any means, but if the Sox are willing to pay a chunk of his contract, they should be able to move him to someone who is in a position to take a chance on Shanf returning to form. Mike Napoli would likely be more difficult to move, but again, if the Sox are willing to cover enough of his salary, someone will bite -- Boston already owes them the money, and neither is going to receive a qualifying offer as a free agent, so paying for their ticket out of town doesn't seem like a ridiculous expectation.
Plus, moving them would open up the roster for more of the kids to get their opportunities. Jackie Bradley would probably get his last chance to prove he belongs in the majors for more than his glove, Allen Craig could get time at first base on a regular basis to see if there is anything worth salvaging there, maybe Hanley Ramirez even ends up at first once Napoli is gone -- the time to figure all of this out is over the last two months of 2015, when the Sox are playing for 2016.
What would the Sox get back? Probably not even as much as they did last July for Jake Peavy, when Edwin Escobar, a top-100 prospect entering the season, was part of the return. That's okay, though, because the Sox would gain in other ways, and at this point, you take what you can get when it comes to this type of player.
The Young, Cost-Controlled Talent
Jackie Bradley could have a spot in Boston's outfield after Victorino is dealt... unless the Sox also deal Bradley. His glove is tremendous and worth betting on, especially at a time when he's mashing at Triple-A. The thing is, though, that the next time he fails at the major-league level might also mean the last time anyone is willing to take his minor-league performances seriously, so there is a balancing act to be had here, one that could be decided by what the Sox see offered for JBJ.
He's far from alone in the group of young players who could be shipped off, but he seems the most likely, given Boston has no plans of moving Mookie Betts anywhere, and Rusney Castillo is still young enough to have faith in. Deven Marrero hasn't hit much at Triple-A, but he has a plus glove, so someone simply looking for an upgrade defensively at short, or a team in a position to play the long game and buy on a prospect they can afford to see struggle could come calling. It's likely the Sox let Brian Johnson at least pitch this season to find out what he can do rather than deal him, as they did with lesser pitching prospects like Anthony Ranaudo, Brandon Workman, and Allen Webster in the past -- if Johnson is going to be dealt, it would probably be over the offseason.
There are also the players who are not on the 40-man roster but are eligible for the Rule 5 draft this December. Marco Hernandez, acquired from the Cubs as the player to be named later in the Felix Doubront deal, is probably a future utility player, but one who can play shortstop. Pat Light is a former first-round pick who has turned his career around in relief, and while he's struggled a bit at Triple-A, that might not be enough to stop a team from plucking him from the roster this winter.
There is no real rush to move these players now, but if a team is willing to take one or two of them to make a deal work in the present, then maybe it happens.
Digging deeper into the system, you get prospects like Javier Guerra, who has broken out offensively for Low-A Greenville after entering the year as a defense-first shortstop. The 19-year-old has obvious upside, but also obvious flaws, and is way too far from the majors to start penciling into a future Sox' lineup. He might also be just what the Sox need in order to convince a team to part with a significant piece. Guerra wouldn't do it by himself, not even close, but he's a prospect who would likely be an add-on to a deal involving the likes of Margot, Devers, or Owens. Again, that's the price of not moving Betts, Rodriguez, or Swihart -- if not quality, then quantity.
There are some other players the Sox could maybe move -- it's possible a team is desperate enough for relief help that they want Craig Breslow or Alexi Ogando, or maybe someone shocks Boston and makes an offer for Ryan Hanigan that is too good to pass up under the assumption Christian Vazquez will be back in the mix next year. There's also Alejandro De Aza, but as the Sox gave him up for a maybe reliever after he was designated for assignment by the Orioles, chances are good he won't bring a ton back, either. For the most part, the above seems like the possibilities to be dealt with something intriguing coming back.
Now, they are just possibilities, so don't go thinking that you'll wake up in August without any of the prospects you love around. Just, you know, be prepared for that possibility, as the Sox look to improve upon what has been another disappointing summer.