It's no secret that the Red Sox are in need of help. Even if you believe that their recent stretch of horror is not indicative that the end is night--and there's certainly reason to believe that--there's no denying that their rotation is in bad shape. They might have one more shot at finding an internal answer in Aaron Wilkerson, but even if that works out, they're still one man short and can't really rely on Eduardo Rodriguez being back at any point this season.
The ideal scenario is simple: the Red Sox find a couple good trades. One for a starting pitcher, one for a left fielder, maybe throw in a reliever. But the ideal scenario might not exist, because the key word there is "good," and for a trade to meet that criteria, the value given can't be much higher than the value received.
For the Red Sox, especially when it comes to their greatest need, it might be hard to make that happen. Everyone wants pitching, and there's few teams that are really interested in giving it up. The top tier is especially thin, and for the Red Sox perhaps the most prominent member of that class in Julio Teheran is a particularly poor fit for their park and division. The middle-tier is pretty much non-existent. And that leaves the bottom-tier--guys like Jeremy Hellickson, Bud Norris, and Ervin Santana--in remarkably high demand.
Now, it's not clear how well that high demand will translate to actual trade returns for the teams that hold their contracts. The price for a player like this would typically be a lottery ticket or two from the low minors, but with so much competition, it's not hard to imagine that price rising into fringe top-100 prospect territory. It's possible that teams will draw a pretty firm line in the sand on how much they're willing to pay for players who just aren't that good, even if the alternative is doing absolutely nothing. But whether other teams do or don't, I would argue that the Red Sox should, even if it leaves them high-and-dry.
At the end of the day, the question for the Red Sox has to be how much making one of those mediocre guys their #4 would contribute to their postseason push. And I think the reality is that the impact of such a move will be dwarfed by completely unrelated variables. Does David Price pitch to a 2.50 ERA the rest of the way like he had for the two weeks leading up to his last couple of starts? Does Eduardo Rodriguez get back to 100% before September? Especially in the day and age of two wild card teams, these deals just aren't all that likely to decide whether or not the Red Sox get to play Game 163.
They're still worth something, mind. Just not even the second-tier of Red Sox prospects after the top-four. This includes guys like Sam Travis, Michael Kopech, and perhaps Mauricio Dubon and Michael Chavis at this point. Everyone probably has their own two or three guys they'd probably count in that group with Travis and Kopech. Players who are not in top-100 lists right now, but you can imagine joining that conversation by the time 2017 rolls around.
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The argument for trading these guys is that their absence is not likely to make or break future Red Sox teams. There's no roster spots reserved for these players like there is for Andrew Benintendi. But the fact of the matter is that these guys are important not just for what they might do in a Red Sox uniform, but what they mean to Boston's ability to trade in years to come. The Red Sox' farm system is strong, but it's also pretty damn top-heavy. That leaves them with relatively little flexibility to make deals for that middle-tier of players that's just kind of non-existent in 2016.
The draft will hopefully help with that some. And maybe by season's end a few more guys have jumped up into that group. But thinning out an already thin bunch and getting so little in return is just hard to countenance. All this holds true for left field, too, with the market thinning out with injuries to the likes of Jon Jay.
The one thing that really throws a wrench in all of this is David Ortiz. This is his last season, and it feels wrong to do anything less than everything possible to get him to October one more time. But if that's going to be your motivating factor, then it's a reason to trade from the top-four to bring in an impact arm, not to overpay for someone who's only going to move the needle so much, and not really help once October actually rolls around.
This certainly isn't about actually making zero trades, shutting the book on 2016, and moving into 2017. It's just about not looking at the Red Sox roster, seeing the holes, and deciding that they must be filled at all costs. If the likes of Hellickson are taking top-100 talent to acquire just because the market is so sparse, that doesn't mean the value they bring to the team actually increases along with their cost.
There is a world where the Red Sox manage to make it to October even without adding any starting pitchers, and at this point, the only worlds which leave them with a significantly better chance involve big trades for high-quality arms, not medium-sized ones for low-quality arms. With an incredible young core, this team is built to win for a while now, and it just seems bad to deprive future teams of significant trade assets for less-than-significant help now.
If there's a good trade to be found out there? If these arms still cost the lottery tickets they should? Get it done, Dombrowski. If not? Don't bend over backwards trying to pretend a bad market has good answers.