As we look ahead to the winter to come and what the Red Sox could have up their sleeve as they try to build a winning team again. Most of the focus has been on the free agent market, which makes some sense of course. For one, it is much more clear who will be available in free agency compared to trying to parse who may or may not be available via trade. It also requires less creativity to think of potential free agent signings than potential trades. Plus, in a vacuum teams would always prefer the free agent because they only cost money while a trade requires parting ways with prospects.
That said, trades do still happen and they will happen this winter as well. While Chaim Bloom and the rest of the front office will certainly be active on the free agency market to some extent, it would also be silly to think they will avoid trades even as an organization trying to build its farm system back up. They won’t close the door completely on any possibility. In fact, it’s very possible they sort of move in both directions on the trade market this winter, potentially trading away from the prospect depth to add to the major-league roster while also possibly trading away major-leaguers for prospects.
With that in mind, we here at OTM have spent the last two weeks looking at the farm system in its entirety, going position by position. For the most part, that was just to get reintroduced to a group of prospects, most of whom weren’t with the team all summer. But in addition to that, it was also a chance to see where the team has depth from which it can deal, and where it may want to add if possible. Granted, in trades for prospects teams will generally look for talent over position, but it’s still a consideration.
The biggest takeaway for me in doing this series and the area from which I think the Red Sox can be most comfortable dealing is up the middle in center field. They certainly have an opening long-term at the major-league level as Jackie Bradley Jr. hits free agency, but they also have three of their top names there. In fact, you could make an argument that Jarren Duran, Gilberto Jimenez and Jeisson Rosario are three of their top ten prospects. On top of that, they have some lower-level names who could break out with recent top international signees Eduardo Lopez and Juan Chacon. Now, they obviously shouldn’t just give any of these players away, but if they want to make even a mildly big splash on the trade market this winter, they’ll have to deal from their top ten or so prospects. From that group, they would most easily be able to swallow losing one of these top three center fielders.
Along those same lines, third base is another position of depth from which the Red Sox could deal from. To be fair, this also has to do with the major-league roster, since Rafael Devers should be there long-term. Obviously there are some questions regarding his ability to stay at the position long-term, but there is also Bobby Dalbec who could slide over if needed. This one isn’t as solid as center field both because of the Devers questions (as well as contact questions with Dalbec) and because there isn’t the same level of talent in the minors. That said, guys like Hudson Potts, Brandon Howlett, Ceddanne Rafaela and Blaze Jordan are solid second pieces who could intrigue other teams in talks, and losing one wouldn’t destroy the outlook at this position.
As far as the other side of the coin, as I mentioned above in any trade in which the Red Sox would be acquiring prospects, the level of talent is more important than the position. That said, if things were close between a couple of options and one involved them adding to their catching group, that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. Connor Wong is a solid prospect, but there are questions with his ability to make contact, and even if his bat does work out he’s better suited as utility type who can play behind the plate some but also fill in on the infield. Beyond him, there’s not a whole lot to be excited about at the position. It should be noted, though, that catching prospects are incredibly hard to come by and generally bust more often than other positions.
The Red Sox could also use some help in the corner outfield. While they have a lot of talent in center, they are all the same kind of prospects and not really ones you look at as sure bets to transfer to a corner. Specifically, none of Duran, Jimenez or Rosario have big power that you’d like in a corner. Ideally, Alex Verdugo and Andrew Benintendi can hold down the positions for a while anyway, but being able to get some insurance, especially if they hit from the right side, would help ease some potential long-term questions.
And then, of course, they could always use some pitching help. There isn’t an organization in baseball who couldn’t find room for more starting pitching prospects, to be fair. That being said, I actually think the Red Sox are in as good of a position as they’ve been in a long time with their starting pitching prospects. There is still plenty of development needed for these arms and they lack a true top-tier talent, but with guys like Bryan Mata, Jay Groome, Noah Song and Thad Ward there are talented arms who could be relatively close to the majors. Again, there is clearly room for addition, but also reasons to be excited.
As we said at the top, free agency is a cleaner and easier path to improvement for any team, and particularly one like the Red Sox who are trying to build their farm system up. That said, they can’t avoid the trade market all together, and whether they want to add or trade away prospects there are positional groups that have extra depth, and others that could use some real help.