The offseason has given way to spring training, and the regular season is right around the corner, but that hasn't stopped the Cleveland Indians from trying to wheel and deal their way to a better team. With under two weeks to go, Nick Cafardo is reporting that Cleveland (among other teams) "loves Boston's young outfielders," and "have been pitching a trade" for the likes of Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. in trade talks.
For those who just did a sharp intake of breath, or immediately curled up into the fetal position in fear of losing Mookie Betts, rest assured, the Red Sox are not looking to send him anywhere. Cafardo describes the young star-in-the-making as "untouchable," which he should be in any trade talks that don't include one of the top young players in all of baseball coming back the other way. The Indians do have that sort of player--hi, Francisco Lindor--but deals like that just don't tend to be made. Why upset a good thing, after all?
Jackie Bradley Jr. represents a more realistic target for the Indians. It wasn't a year ago, after all, that the Red Sox would've loved to have any serious interest in the dynamic young center fielder. Since then, though, they've been given reason to believe that Bradley might be able to cut it at the plate in the majors after all, be it with an .850 OPS or a .700. The former figure would leave Bradley one of the best players in the game, but the latter wouldn't be bad at all given that he's one of the best defenders to set foot in Fenway's outfield in recent years. Dave Dombrowski is plenty familiar with that, as Bradley almost seemed to make a point of putting on a show for the new President of Baseball Operations when he attended his first Red Sox games.
Still, it's a trade that can be made, as Cafardo suggests, but one that would be difficult to swing. Four months ago, there would be a much better opportunity. The Red Sox would have time to react, switch up some plans, and replace Bradley with another strong center fielder (or move Betts to center and replace him in right). As is, their outfield bench options are solid, particularly if trading Bradley opens up a space for David Murphy, but a Murphy/Young platoon would leave the Red Sox with little help on the bench, and in trouble should they lose one of their better defensive outfielders.
Which brings us to the final option, and one that Cafardo mentions as an afterthought: Rusney Castillo. The reality is that the Red Sox don't have a great trade chip there. He's semi-young and fairly cheap, but not so cheap that the Indians were willing to pay him that sort of money when he was on the open market in 2014. Given that since that point he's only added injury questions to the mix, Cafardo is likely right in saying the Red Sox would have to eat some money, but the possibility exists they'd like to cut bait on that particular gamble and turn to more reliable options, even if it means sacrificing upside.