No one knows what the Red Sox are actually going to do at the trade deadline. The Red Sox don't even know! That's not a judgment of them, so much as a reminder that, while they may have a plan or certain players in mind, if they knew for sure they could get them, they probably already would have. The trade deadline is kind of funny like that, with a whole bunch of teams waiting until the last minutes to make moves, so for now, all we can do is guess.
With some help from various Over the Monster writers, that's just what we're going to do. Let's not focus on the obvious things the Red Sox could do -- instead, let's try to figure out what deals would come out of nowhere.
Trading Wade Miley
The Red Sox are likely picking up Clay Buchholz's option for 2016, and Rick Porcello will enter the first year of a four-year, $82.5 million contract next season. Eduardo Rodriguez is probably going to enter the campaign with a rotation spot locked down, with the hope being that he's a piece the Sox can build around in both the present and the future. Wade Miley is the only other definite for the rotation at this point, as the only in-house competition for a spot comes from prospects Henry Owens and Brian Johnson. To help offset the risks of whichever one of those might get a chance, though, as well as the risk of Porcello having another poor campaign and those that come with the second season of a 23-year-old pitcher in Rodriguez, the Sox could look to move Miley to open up space for a significant rotation upgrade.
He's the only one who could be moved out of the bunch, really, especially with Buchholz on the DL: Miley is signed for two more years at just $6 million and $8.75 million, with a 2018 option for $12 million. While his season line isn't impressing anyone, that's all thanks to a horrible -- and uncharacteristic -- April in which he posted an 8.62 ERA while walking more batters than he struck out. Since that time, Miley has racked up 98-2/3 innings while averaging over six per start, and produced a 3.65 ERA and over twice as many strikeouts as walks in that time. That ERA is pretty good, too, even without an adjustment for Fenway, as the league-average starter ERA in 2015 is 3.98.
Photo credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
The problem is that the Red Sox would need to find a replacement starter -- one who is a clear upgrade -- and acquire them before (or while) dealing Miley. They can't deal Miley now and then hope that, months later, Cole Hamels is still on the board, or Sonny Gray goes on it, or Johnny Cueto or Jordan Zimmermann are willing to sign to Boston's terms. If Miley was dealt, the Sox would then need to immediately get Hamels -- or have already acquired him -- and have Miley be part of some other deal to bring in pitching. After all, it's very likely that at least one of the near-ready starting prospects would be shipped out to acquire Hamels or whomever.
So, it's much more plausible that the Sox try to get someone like Hamels while keeping Miley around -- he's been the only reliable starter in the rotation besides Buchholz since May began, and if anything, the Sox could use another pitcher like him, not one fewer. He's relatively inexpensive, under control for a few years yet, and except for that early season hiccup, has been precisely what they wanted him to be. There are ways for the Sox to deal Miley and for it to work out, but it might be too many moving pieces to manage during the deadline rush. - Marc Normandin
Getting out of the Sandoval contract
The Red Sox biggest offseason acquisition is now their biggest albatross.It will be impossible to dump that deal on someone else, right? Maybe. But, if there was ever a time to execute The Punto Trade 2.0, now is that time. Pablo Sandoval has underperformed badly this season, but he still has a track record of star-level performance and a deal that is very manageable for teams in this cash-rich environment. If Boston is willing to pay a small portion of that deal and get an underwhelming return back, they can undo their biggest mistake of the winter and free up money for a starting pitcher signing this winter.
The Red Sox should trade for Cole Hamels
Look at the Red Sox rotation. Look at the Red Sox farm system. Now, accept Cole Hamels into your life.
It would be a shocker, but with deals like the Punto trade and the Tigers dealing of Prince Fielder, we have plenty of precedent for something like this. The question is - who is desperate enough to make this move? And what will the Red Sox have to give up alongside Panda to convince another team that the risk is worth it? -- Matt Sullivan
A big Big Papi trade
Originally I was going to do Koji Uehara for this, but we decided maybe that didn't fit the bill for "surprising" well enough. So instead I'm going to go to the other extreme here and aim for the trade that, even though I can see the logic behind it, would stun just about all of baseball:
Trading David Ortiz
At the beginning of the month, I wrote about how Ortiz is an awkward fit on Boston's roster, but that all that could be ignored if he continued his late-June hot streak. Since that point, Ortiz has hit .333/.396/.729, so mission accomplished! If Ortiz keeps on keeping on, then the Sox will be fine with having him on board for another year.
But with his bat as hot as it is, Ortiz may actually have turned himself into a commodity worth trading for. He now has a 990 OPS over his last 155 plate appearances, and has a 119 OPS+ on the season. That's an awfully big bat to be wasted on a team headed for another last place finish, and in an offense-starved game where teams like the Angels and Astros are getting below-average offensive production from the one spot in their lineup which doesn't have to worry about defense at all, there's almost certainly a market out there.
Of course there'd be a market for Papi if the Sox offered him up. (Photo credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)
Trading Ortiz would do a few things for the Red Sox. There'd be the actual return from the trade, obviously, but it would also free up some salary for 2016 and, perhaps the greatest gift of all, solve the question of what the hell they're going to do with Hanley Ramirez.
But it almost certainly won't happen. And it shouldn't happen, either. David Ortiz is David Ortiz, and David Ortiz belongs on the Red Sox. I think we'd all be shocked if this happened as much for Boston's willingness to trade him as for Ortiz' willingness to accept said trade. But hey, that's what this is supposed to be about. - Ben Buchanan
Succeed in acquiring a young Mets' pitcher
I thought it was unrealistic to believe the Red Sox would trade for Zack Wheeler, but then the Mets said he was available, and he seems to be a perfect fit. It's a nice (relative) buy low opportunity for the Sox, but who, pray tell, do we sell? I'd love to say "sell high" and dump Brock Holt on them, but our All-Star is too good for that noise. So how about Pablo Sandoval and/or Rusney Castillo? Maybe Castillo alone? We have some hidden hitting, the Mets need it, and we need arms. Help us, Sandy Alderson -- you're our only hope.
I mean, it's not like we're asking for, to pull a name out of a hat here, Jacob deGrom or anything. -- Bryan Joiner
No Trades Happen
While no one really knows exactly what the Red Sox are planning on doing this week, pretty much everyone agrees they are going to do something. Whether that means just dumping some of their expiring veterans, trading youth for long-term help, or a little of both, at least one trade of some kind should happen at some point. Is there any scenario in which July 31st comes and goes and Boston's roster is exactly the same?
Let's run through all of the possible trade candidates and look at reasons they could stay. We'll start with the bullpen, and it's easy to see no trades coming from here. Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa and Tommy Layne are all under control for next year, and there aren't obvious replacements in the system. The Red Sox could easily prefer to build 2016's bullpen around that trio. Mike Napoli is the next obvious guy. While some teams will surely be willing to take achance on him, we all know that his value has been substantially lowered this season.
Red Sox trade targets: Carlos Gomez
Carlos Gomez is really good at baseball. If the Red Sox got him, they would be better at baseball.
Boston may look at this situation and decide they're better off hoping he can get hot in the first week or two in August and make a waiver deal at that point. It's not as if there are any big-time first base prospects knocking on the door, especially with Dustin Pedroia on the disabled list and Brock Holt covering second. Shane Victorino and Alejandro De Aza are in a similar situations, although the presence of Jackie Bradley and Rusney Castillo make that a little different.
As far as the second kind of trade, in which Boston dips into it's farm system to boost next year's roster, there's plenty of reason to wait to start that process. If they can't find the right deal this summer, there is no incentive to rush this move. Trade prices could be lower over the offseason when selling teams have to compete with a strong free agency class. Furthermore, the front office could decide their strategy of avoiding the top of the starting pitcher free agent market is misguided and go that route this winter.
So, there are certainly scenarios in which the Red Sox disappoint us all and stand pat this July. With a lot of struggling and/or mediocre players at their disposal, the team may be better off holding on to their good players and waiting until August to make a move. Do I think it will happen? No. But this is about surprises, and this is a surprise for which I can see a realistic path. - Matt Collins