The Trade You Didn't See Coming

Upon seeing that the FanPost Friday topic was trades, I got excited. Exchanging trade ideas is one of my favorite parts of being a diehard sports fan. One of my good friends calls me the Jerry Dipoto of our fantasy baseball league. Needless to say, this is right up my alley.

At first, I was inclined to look at pitching. Naturally, our rotation needs help, the bullpen could use some additions, and the depth beyond our active roster could stand to gain from improvements as well. I'm sure pitching will be the focus of our efforts in free agency, and there's little doubt in mind that Chaim Bloom is researching which arms from other organizations might be made available on the trade market this winter.

However, this particular trade has nothing to do with pitching. While everyone else focuses on that need, I'm here to talk about the biggest potential hole on the other side of the roster. No, I'm not talking about second base, where the free agent options are bountiful, and Jeter Downs awaits. I'm talking about about that beautiful patch of grass and dirt that Jackie Bradley, Jr. has roamed for the better part of the past decade. My hope is that we bring the 2018 ALCS MVP back on a short-term deal while we finish grooming Jarren Duran for the job. However, I'm writing this post under the assumption that it doesn't happen, JBJ leaves for another team, and Duran is not ready to become an everyday starter just yet.

One of the biggest trades at this year's deadline was when the surprising Miami Marlins became buyers and acquired Starling Marte from the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Marlins would be crazy to decline his $12.5M one-year team option for next season, but the franchise that's been adamant about limiting payroll in recent years might not want to shell out that kinda dough for one player in this current economic climate. Plus, as remarkable as the Marlins played this season despite their midseason COVID outbreak, they are still a couple pieces away from entering the true "Championship Contender" conversation, and Starling Marte is an aging outfielder who's under control for just one more year. The best way for him to help Miami long term is for their front office to flip him for cheaper, controllable assets while his value is still relatively high.

For Boston, Marte represents the perfect stop-gap in center. His defense might not be as good as Bradley's, but his bat will certainly be an upgrade. He can hold down the middle of the outfield while Duran gets some experience in the upper minors and continues to work on his defense. With one year remaining on his deal, there's virtually no risk in adding him. If his performance declines, the damage is done before the 2022 season begins, and Bloom can cut his losses. If he produces at an All-Star level, he would eligible to receive a qualifying offer on his way out the door, assuming Bloom didn't extend him. Put another way: what team wouldn't sign an outfielder of Marte's profile to a reasonable one-year deal, if given the opportunity?

So what does Bloom have to give up to pry Marte away from Derek Jeter and company? The Marlins are certainly looking to get younger, cheaper, and based on the 2020 season, it's safe to assume they're ready to transition from a club that's rebuilding to a club that's competing for a playoff spot. Prospects at the lower levels might still interest them, but they're more likely to be enticed by young major leaguers, or upper level prospects who are on the cusp of cracking a big league roster. The external consensus on their organization is that they have some talented young pitching, but not as many impact bats. With all that in mind, here is my offer:

Boston sends Michael Chavis, CJ Chatham, and Josh Taylor to Miami for Starling Marte.

From Miami's perspective, I don't see how they could turn this deal unless either...

A) they think they're truly ready to contend for a World Series in 2021, and they're ready to gamble Marte's value as a trade asset as well as pay him $12.5M to chase that hunch


B) they receive a better offer for Marte than the one I just laid out. If that's the case, then the other club is probably overpaying for one year of an age-32 outfielder, and I'm OK with losing that bidding war.

From Boston's standpoint, I think this deal makes a ton of sense, even if it doesn't follow Bloom's template for building a "sustainably competitive" club. Besides improving the lineup and filling an immediate need without blocking the club's top prospect at that position in the long term, the Red Sox also open up a couple of spots on the 40-man roster, which is already on the To Do list. Furthermore, I feel comfortable about what the franchise is surrendering to the Marlins in this deal:

  • While Chavis has some value, he doesn't really have a place on this current roster. The Ice Horse didn't exactly seize the opening at second base (or in left field after Benintendi's season ended) and his role is currently up in the air. The power he's exhibited at the plate is exciting, but the strikeouts may have prevented him from solidifying an everyday job in Boston. Can those problems be fixed? Is he a regular starter, a platoon starter, or just a bench player? Might he do better at the plate if he only has focus on playing one defensive position? Time will answer these questions, but Boston may not have the patience to learn the answers. Miami, on the other hand, should be able to offer him the plate appearances that will help him continue to grow, and perhaps allow him to move back to his original position at the hot corner.
  • The fact that CJ Chatham didn't receive a call up this year speaks volumes about Bloom's opinion of the former second round pick. Similar to Brian Johnson on the pitching side of this organization, I was looking at Chatham in 2020 thinking, "If not now, when will he get his chance?" I assume the answer (at least for Boston) is never. Still, Chatham is only 25 years old, and he's hit for average at every minor league level. He was good enough to make Team USA and Boston's 40-man roster in order to protect him from the Rule 5 draft last offseason, so there must be something there.
  • Josh Taylor is a LH reliever who has enough major league experience to prove he belongs entering his age-28 season. He isn't exactly a gamechanger, but he has a career ERA below 4.00 and he's still 2 years away from arbitration. That profile alone should move the needle enough for a thrifty organization like the Marlins to complete the deal.

I don't dislike any of the players I'm sending packing, but I also don't view them as essential. Simply put, I don't think the loss of Michael Chavis and/or Josh Taylor is going prevent us from making the postseason, much less advancing from one round to the next in years to come. However, the addition of Starling Marte would make the 2021 team more competitive, presumably speeding up this mini-rebuild, even if Marte doesn't represent a significant piece of the next Red Sox championship squad.

One final note: as an insurance plan, in the event that Marte produces well for Boston in 2021 while the Red Sox continue to sit at the bottom of the standings, Bloom could still conceivably trade him at the deadline (making it his 3rd trade in 12 months) for prospects. The return might be modest, but turning Chavis, Chatham, and Taylor into even younger pitching prospects could turn out alright down the line, and it certainly sounds like the type of move Bloom would make.