The Red Sox and Yankees don’t make deals often, but New York is clearly selling in a year where Boston is within 1.5 games of the AL East lead. The last time the two sides made a trade — for Stephen Drew in 2014 — the situations were similar but reversed, as the Sox were out of it and New York was hoping to stay in it. There’s a pragmatism to that scenario, and it could come up again, as the Sox are reportedly one of four teams talking to the Yankees about a Carlos Beltran trade.
The other interested teams are the Indians, Astros, and Rangers, which is not the best news for Boston. All of them have prospects to deal as the Sox do, and Houston is directly competing with Boston for a wild card. You would think they are all also a little more likely to complete a deal with the Yankees, but hey: Boston’s prospect currency would work just as well in New York.
Acquiring Beltran would be huge for the Red Sox outfield and lineup, as he’s batting .301/.342/.538 for the Yankees in 98 games this year. While Beltran is 39, the Sox wouldn’t be committing themselves to something long-term, as he’s in the final year of his contract with New York. Beltran’s 133 OPS+ would rank third on the Sox behind David Ortiz and Jackie Bradley, and his presence in left field would mean Brock Holt can go back to being a utility player, spelling the rest of the lineup as necessary. That’s good for the Sox, their ability to rest players, and for Holt himself, who has seemed a bit more worn down in the second half the last few years.
Pitching is expensive this deadline, and the Sox are in a good position to wait and see if the likes of Drew Pomeranz and Eduardo Rodriguez can settle into their roles. With Clay Buchholz coming around as a reliever after some adjustments to his arm slot and Craig Kimbrel on the way back from the disabled list, the bullpen seems like it’s in a good place, too. That leaves tweaks to the lineup to help cover for the fact that the pitching staff isn’t perfect, and Beltran is about as good of a cover as you can find this deadline.
He likely won’t be cheap, but he also won’t cost the Red Sox one of their prized prospects, because none of the Indians, Rangers, or Astros are going to give up a top-50-type for a rental, either. The Yankees reportedly don’t love what they’re hearing offered for the veteran outfielder, but they also have no reason to hold on to Beltran other than the ability to submit the qualifying offer to him: if they can find a prospect they like in return, then he’s worth dealing.
Ownership could very well stand in the way for nothing more than the appearance of a continued pursuit of a playoff spot, but the Yankees also just dealt Andrew Miller for prospects and are 5.5 games out of the second wild card spot, chasing five teams for one of the two spots: if Brian Cashman can get a prospect he likes for a pending free agent, he’ll convince the Steinbrenners to let go of 2016.