We spent the better part of the last month looking at Red Sox trade targets as we led up to the traditional trade deadline last Tuesday. Well, that day came and went and while the Red Sox made three (very good) moves, they didn’t address the bullpen. This was always assumed to be the one area they would definitely improve, but they opted against it. I already wrote about why that’s not as big of a deal as many are making it out to be, and one of those reasons is the August trading period. Yes, for those that don’t know, the Red Sox can still make trades after July 31 has passed.
This obviously isn’t a new rule, and it has led to some major deals in recent years. Just last season, the Astros acquired Justin Verlander from the Tigers on August 31, a huge move that helped catapult them to a championship. Back in 2012, the Red Sox made perhaps the biggest August trade of all time when they and the Dodgers pulled off the Punto Deal.
In order for teams to make a trade after July 31, any player on a 40-man roster needs to pass through waivers. The waiver order, as always, goes from worst-to-first in the league of the team that put the player on waivers, and if they remain unclaimed after that they go worst-to-first in the other league. Players not on the 40-man roster don’t need to pass through waivers. If a player is unclaimed, they can be traded anywhere. If they are claimed, the team who put said player on waivers can either work out a trade with the team who claimed him, allow the team to take the player and his contract for nothing, or simply pull the player back and pretend nothing happened. There are going to be a lot of players placed on waivers this month. Don’t freak out too much, because it’s almost never worth it.
Anyway, with the rules out of the way, there are some intriguing targets the Red Sox could look to in the month of August if they decide they need another piece or two down the stretch and in October. To me, there are three spots at which they could look to upgrade: Third base, bullpen, and pinch runner. The former is if they are uncomfortable with Devers, and because there are two intriguing veteran candidates potentially available. Relievers because, well, you know. And pinch runner because that is an underrated role late in the year and in the postseason, and it’s something they lack right now. So, let’s look at few options at these positions.
Josh Donaldson, Adrian Beltre
So, I should be clear right off the bat that I think this is very unlikely. Every indication I have is that this team is still very confident in Rafael Devers and want him to be the everyday third baseman. I can’t imagine them changing their mind for either a guy who has been hurt pretty much all year or one who, frankly, hasn’t been that great. That being said, both of these players have experience in a pennant race and have shown in the recent past that they can still be stars. Donaldson in particular is intriguing in that sense, and given his relatively large salary for the year he may not be of interest to teams trying to avoid the luxury tax. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Red Sox had a chance at both of these guys, and it’s possible they could grab one for the last six-plus weeks of the year, but I’d bet against it.
Kelvin Herrera, Kirby Yates, Craig Stammen, Jared Hughes, David Hernandez, Jerry Blevins, Bud Norris, Francisco Liriano, Alex Wilson, Fernando Rodney, Addison Reed, Sergio Romo, Tyler Clippard
If the Red Sox do upgrade anywhere in August, this is certainly where people will want to see it happen. Unfortunately, the reason we see so many reliever trades in July is that it’s hard to pull it off in August, particularly for a team like the Red Sox. For them to get one of the National League relievers, for example, every team in baseball would have to pass on them on waivers. Relievers don’t make enough for their contracts to be inhibitive, so guys like Herrera, Yates and Stammen are likely pipe dreams. Hughes and Hernandez from the Reds may be able to sneak through, and while they aren’t great they are solid middle relievers who could add depth down the stretch.
I’m most intrigued by the left-handed possibilities, though. It’s been clear all year long that this Red Sox team doesn’t believe they need a lefty in their bullpen, and thus far they’ve been proven correct. That being said, it probably wouldn’t hurt, either. There aren’t any Andrew Millers available here, to be clear, but Blevins and Liriano could be interesting and cheap pick ups. Blevins has had a rough year for the Mets, but who hasn’t? As recently as last year he’s been very good in that role. Liriano has been a starter all year, but he transition to the bullpen late last season for the Astros and could feasibly do it again for another contender. If they pull off an August trade for a reliever, I suspect it will be lefty like these two.
Billy Hamilton, Paulo Orlando, Craig Gentry, Gregor Blanco
This can often be an incredibly important but underrated acquisition this time of year. Over the course of a full season, you don’t really want to waste a roster spot on someone whose only value is running. You want to use that on a guy who can fill in and keep players fresh. Late in the season and especially in the playoffs, though, it’s all about having all your bases covered, and having a speedster who can come in late in a game can change everything. Hell, just look at how the Red Sox won on Sunday. Sandy León would not have scored on that play. It’s also hard to find candidates, but I came up with a few.
Hamilton would be the ultimate pinch runner, but I don’t think we’ve reached that point yet. Maybe at this point next year we can finally give up on him as an everyday player, but right now I don’t think the Red Sox will give up what the Reds would want for him for such a nice role. The others aren’t as exciting on the bases as Hamilton — literally no one is — but they could be intriguing in this Rajai Davis/Dave Roberts role. If I had to bet on one of them, it would be Orlando.