The Red Sox made their first move of the offseason when they brought back Steve Pearce, and it’s very possible that is the lone addition they will make as far as position players go. On the pitching side, however, we know there is still a ton of focus. Boston is poised to add at least one reliever into the fold, and it’s very possible they bring on two. They also have an open rotation spot up for grabs, and while it’s possible they’ll give that to an internal option that would be surprising. For the most part, these pitching holes have been connected mostly to free agents, with departing players like Craig Kimbrel, Joe Kelly and Nathan Eovaldi getting plenty of love. There are also external names like Adam Ottavino, David Robertson and Charlie Morton getting some attention. Obviously, free agents aren’t the only way to acquire these names.
Contrary to his reputation, I think Dave Dombrowski would like to hold on to as many prospects as possible this winter and focus only on the money, but if a good trade is out there he’ll never pass on that. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the rebuilding teams around the league and see who they could have that’s of interest to the Red Sox. Today, we’ll look at the American League before getting to the National League on Wednesday.
- The Mariners traded James Paxton to the Yankees, but they have another big potential trade chip in Edwin Diaz. They’ve said he isn’t going to be traded, but if they’re serious about a rebuild then he’s someone who should be dealt. Diaz is one of the best relievers in the game, he’s young and he’d cost a fortune. I’m not even sure the Red Sox have enough to get him. If he is available, though, you can guarantee Dombrowski would at least have a conversation. He’d be the ideal back-end addition, even if it’s pie-in-the-sky at this point.
- James Pazos is a more realistic target, but he’s still intriguing. The lefty has put up solid numbers in terms of run prevention in the past, and the big question is if he can get back to his strikeout numbers of 2017. If he can, there are strikeouts and ground balls to be had there, and that’s what you’re looking for in relief. Pazos wouldn’t be free, but he shouldn’t cost a huge package.
- Alex Colomé and Juan Nicasio are veteran righties with closing experience, though they aren’t exactly top-tier relievers at this point. Colomé should be familiar to most reading this as he spent most of his career with the Rays, and he looked much better over the second half with Seattle. Nicasio, meanwhile, had a brutal ERA but his peripherals suggest that was very fluky. He could be a really good buy-low target.
- Wade LeBlanc and Mike Leake are not going to be the sexiest names out there, but if the Red Sox whiff on some of their top starting pitching targets they could fill the back of the rotation. Leake is more unlikely because he’s owed $15 million this year with an $18 million option in 2020 with a $5 million buyout, but he’s still a solid league-average-ish starter, though a very boring one. LeBlanc was shockingly solid last year and signed a team-friendly, option-laden contract.
- I’ve been relatively vocal about my belief that the Red Sox should get a left-handed reliever, and the Rangers have one in Alex Claudio. He’s not your protoypical big-stuff reliever that strikes everyone else, but rather a command/control guy who generates consistently weak contact. It’s not exciting, but prior to last year it yielded strong results for a three-year stretch.
- On the rotation side, Mike Minor is probably the most intriguing potential trade chip in Texas’ rotation. The lefty has bounced back and forth between the rotation and bullpen over the last few years, but he was a solid-average pitcher in the Rangers rotation last year. With two more years at just under $10 million on his deal, I wouldn’t pay a lot but I’d at least keep the option open.
- The top potential trade chip in Detroit is in the rotation with Michael Fulmer. The righty burst onto the scene two years ago with a huge rookie season and had a solid follow-up year, but 2018 was a disappointment. He battled some injury and command issues, but at only 25 years old (he’ll be 26 by Opening Day) he’s still an exciting pitcher young enough to dream on. He’d be one of the costlier names on this list, but he could be worth it, particularly with all of the pitchers the Red Sox are potentially losing over the next couple of years.
- In the bullpen, Shane Greene is the best name that could be available. The Tigers have Joe Jimenez waiting in the wings and they’d presumably like to try him in the closer role sooner than later, but Greene is in the way. The righty isn’t a slam dunk closer on a contending team, but he’s a solid piece to a bullpen in any role, and if he’s getting ground balls he’s an underrated asset.
- Further down the pecking order we have an old friend in Alex Wilson. He is another reliever who isn’t really an exciting name but he’s had a track record of success. In a way, Wilson is the right-handed Alex Claudio in that he doesn’t really miss bats but he also doesn’t walk guys and doesn’t allow hard contact. If he could be had for cheap, he would be a solid addition to the depth chart even if he shouldn’t be the top acquisition of the winter.
- The top name potentially on the market for the Royals is Whit Merrifield, who is the only non-pitcher on this list. It’s nearly impossible the Red Sox trade for him between the cost he’d demand along with the fact that Boston seems happy to give Dustin Pedroia a chance to come back. Still, I know I’d get yelled at for not including him and I don’t want that.
- A more realistic, but still somewhat costly option would be Danny Duffy. The left-handed starting pitcher has had real success over his career, though he lost control at times in 2018 and scuffled to a disappointing season. He has three more years on his extension, so the Royals don’t have to trade him now if the offers aren’t quite there after a down year.
- Kansas City is in a position where they should be trading any good relievers they have, but they don’t really have a ton of those. One name who emerged in 2018 was Wily Peralta, though it’s tough to know how much to buy it. After starting his whole career he was solid in terms of ERA last year but couldn’t really throw strikes. If he could be had for next-to-nothing he could be intriguing, but not for much more than that.
- The White Sox are in a weird spot where they are almost done with their rebuild so they don’t want to trade anyone who can help in 2020 and beyond. They may even want to win this year. That being said, I think they’d listen on a few names including Nate Jones. He’s a risky target given his injury history, particularly with the Red Sox’ bad luck in trading for relievers in recent years. If he’s healthy, though, he could be a legitimate late-inning arm that wouldn’t cost all that much in a trade.
- Trades within the division are always tough to pull off, but the Orioles are in such a deep rebuild that they really shouldn’t care about who they trade with. It’s all about the return for them. As bad as Baltimore is, they have some names that could be cheap and useful. On the starting side there are Alex Cobb and Andrew Cashner. I’d want no part of Cashner, to be honest, but Cobb is a prime bounce-back candidate who could benefit from simply getting a full spring training this year. I’d at least call on him if I missed out on Eovaldi and Morton.
- In the bullpen, Richard Bleier and Mychal Givens are the top names. Givens is someone they may want to keep to flip at the deadline after he potentially builds up some value, and Bleier could be the same after ending his year on an injury in 2018. If either is available, Dombrowski would be smart to at least inquire about the prices.