A few weeks ago, the Angels sent Adam McCreery, a 22nd round draft pick with a mediocre minor league track record, to the Braves for Jhoulys Chacin. At the time, the Braves were trying to open a rotation spot for a pitcher likely to contribute in the long term, the Angels were trying to find a warm body to slot into their injury-ravaged rotation.
Typically, when an MLB pitcher is traded for a minor leaguer, they are not then viable trade targets three weeks later. But this is not a typical situation. The Angels will not be winning in 2016. They won't even be particularly close when all is said and done. They are well behind in the West, and lack the resources to make improvements as the year goes on.
That second bit is important. Keith Law described the Angels' farm system as the worst he's seen in the eight years he's been ranking them. They need whatever help they can get, and the Red Sox can offer them that. They can make the Chacin trade more than just a three-week exercise in keeping up appearances. They can make it instead a short, profitable bit of wheeling and dealing for a team that has to be in the business of finding ways to generate value where none exists.
It's not hard to blow away Adam McCreery, and do so without touching any of their best prospects. If they offer a package of two or three guys, they might not even have to touch their top-20. Chacin has been on a good run since making it to Los Angeles, but if the Red Sox offer a slight overpay for him now, they can very likely get the Angels to deal well before the deadline, lest they risk having him slip and pitch his way out of the trade market.
If the price would be low here, the return would be pretty low too. He's been a below-average pitcher over the last three years, with an 89 ERA+ and a 4.36 FIP. That ERA+ is right in line with his performance this season, though his peripherals are actually a good bit better. He is not the #2 starter the Red Sox were looking for last year. He's also a free agent in the coming offseason, meaning the Red Sox won't be solving any problems for next year in adding him.
What he is, though, is a viable major league starter in a way that Joe Kelly and (2016) Clay Buchholz are not. And what's more, he might not even be such a significant trade that he prohibits the Red Sox from making another move in the rotation later on. They don't need a fifth starter immediately, but they will for about a month-and-a-half leading into the trade deadline. Maybe the addition of Chacin would amount to little more than a handful of starts with the Red Sox then flipping him yet again. Maybe they're comfortable with their other four arms as their playoff rotation and Chacin as their #5 and simply continue on as is. Either way, adding Chacin takes the Red Sox out of desperation territory and leaves them free to deal or not deal depending on if the market provides a reasonable option.
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There's no need for the Red Sox to make any move for a couple weeks. But as they get closer to the game that will finally require them to use a fifth starter again (June 18th barring unforeseen circumstances), if Chacin is still looking like a reasonable option in a couple of weeks, the Red Sox should not be afraid to spend a bit on a pitcher who might not be a big part of their rotation at the end of the year if that relatively minor expense will save them from punting a handful of games to the likes of Sean O'Sullivan, William Cuevas and the like. If they do go out and add a better starter later on, and can find a way to keep him with the team, he'd even provide some insurance against a 2011-style September rotation meltdown.
The only scenarios where Chacin would be a downright poor purchase are:
1) If the Angels' desperation has driven them to complete insanity where they're expecting a Chacin trade to significantly restock their system rather than simply give it a boost.
2) If the Red Sox have a bigger target lined up already, which would make Chacin the odd man out before he even arrives.
Otherwise, while he might not be the flashy move, or even the ultimate answer in Boston's rotation, he can serve a role for however long is needed. And above all else: keep us from having to deal with Clay Buchholz and Joe Kelly again.