The offseason is now close to being in full swing. Free agency doesn’t officially begin until next week and transactions may be slow this winter given basically every team’s desire to now spend money after the shortened, fan-less season, but eventually moves will happen. The Red Sox should theoretically be among the busier teams considering all the help they need. They’ll be active in free agency, but also in the trade market. And after a poor season, they may look to trade prospects for major-league help but also to trade major leaguers, either for other major leaguers or prospects.
That is the focus of this week’s staff roundtable in which I asked which major leaguer people would shop if they had to choose one this winter.
Seems like the answer here has to be Andrew Benintendi. If Chaim Bloom was willing to part with any of Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, or Christian Vazquez, he would’ve done so when their stock was highest at the trade deadline. I can’t foresee/don’t want to see Eovaldi being moved, and any of the Sox’ other starters/relievers likely won’t net much of a return.
Which leaves Andrew Benintendi as a prime candidate to be shopped. I’m not quite sure what kind of a return you could get for Benny, especially with his injury-shortened down year, but I’m also not sold on him suddenly being abysmal. Benintendi obviously struggled mightily in 2020, but he played in just 14 games, and I can’t bring myself to overreact to that small of a sample size. Are potential suitors thinking the same way, or are they viewing him as a lost cause? If it’s the former, I think he’s a great candidate to be shopped. However, if it’s the latter and the offers are lackluster, perhaps it’s best to hold onto him and hope he re-gains his old form.
As much as I would hate to see it, I would see where trade talks involving Andrew Benintendi would lead. It might not be the best time to trade him as he has had one and a half seasons of poor performance but as a young hitter he could bring in what the team needs, which is young pitching.
(Ed. Note: Mike misunderstood the question, but we’ll roll with it!)
While I’d like to imagine Chaim Bloom pulling a bunch of levers and getting the Sox back on track for 2021 with an impressive trade to consolidate some talent into an impact player, this isn’t a “win now” moment. That said, the 2021 team doesn’t have to be terrible and may actually be reasonably good considering the core of Xander, Devers, and Verdugo. A trade for Lance Lynn would go a long way towards getting the Sox out of the cellar of the American League. With just one year and $8 million remaining on his contract, the 33-year-old bounced back in Texas after a few rough seasons. With a strikeout rate of 25% and a walk rate of around 7% the past two years Lynn would be a big step up over most of the 2020 starters like, say, Zack Godley. It’s not the biggest splash, not a long term commitment, should cost too much, and would go a long way towards giving the Sox a solid five-man rotation that looks rather thin behind Nathan Eovaldi.
Well, the first two that came to mind were J.D. Martinez and Andrew Benintendi. I think I would shop Martnez. I’m not ready to ditch Benny just yet and some contender would love Martinez, especially if the DH is in the NL. I don’t think the Red Sox will be competitive next year and Martinez would have the option of opting out again following 2021, so the chance’s he’s here for the next Red Sox team that is competitive seems low. Someone needing a power bat to get them over the hump would probably give something decent-ish in return especially if the Red Sox are eating a portion of his salary, like they were rumored to be doing in talks at the trade deadline this past year.
As much as I’ve enjoyed J.D. Martinez’s normally phenomenal hitting and as much as I’d hate to see him go, he stands out as a logical choice. As I’ve written before, I think the Red Sox are in for a somewhat lengthy rebuild (at least by Red Sox standards), and that could mean Martinez would be wasting the remaining years of his prime anchoring a lineup for a losing team while taking a spot that could be used to help develop younger guys. Assuming the Red Sox won’t be very good next season at the very least, if they could get some decent prospects in return for Martinez’s bat in the meantime, that could help in the long term. It could also give Martinez a chance to play for a competitive team since it’s more likely a contender would seek him out. In that way, it could be a win-win for both sides. Of course, there are plenty of variables involved with this route, including Martinez opting into his contract and a team wanting to take him on after a less-than-stellar 2020 from the 33-year-old.
It’s heresy, but I’d actually be shopping Xander Bogaerts. It’s not because I dislike him or want to get rid of him. He’s the best offensive player on this team, and he would be near impossible to replace in the next few years. With that said, I am am on the pessimistic side of things.
Bogaerts can opt out of his contract after the 2022 season. Assuming that the free agent market recovers after 2022 (by which point, hopefully we will be beyond the grasp of COVID), there’s a good chance Bogaerts can score more money on the free agency market. He will be opting out of four years and $80 million, which I definitely think he can surpass in free agency.
I’m not sure the Red Sox will be a winning team in the next 3 seasons. They may be, but it’s not the guarantee I would have once expected out of the core the Red Sox had in place. By trading Bogaerts, the Red Sox would be able to reload their farm system in just one trade. It would be destructive to fan interest, and in a post-Mookie world, I can’t imagine the Red Sox would want to risk a second case of trading the star player of the team. That said, it is pretty fun to think about what the Red Sox could get back.
Maybe this is apostasy, but I think the Sox should try trading Chris Sale. No one is going to want to pay so it’s irrelevant, but I don’t think everyone’s favorite pool noodle fits the new Sox timeline. J.D. Martinez is another guy they could offload, but I have more faith he puts it back together than I do for Sale, who, yes, is coming off Tommy John surgery and thus probably not exactly a hot item. Maybe I didn’t think this through. Get ‘em next week I guess!
After falling asleep with this email on my chest and dreaming about my response to Matt’s question, it’s time to put my premonition down on paper.
This is a weird question because I don’t think this team should be shopping any Major Leaguers. They should be adding pieces, not subtracting. They should be claiming Brad Hand, trading for and extending Francisco Lindor, and scooping up every top tier talent that gets non-tendered.
If you put a gun to my head and make me pick a talent, I’m picking Alex Verdugo. It’s nothing personal, I just don’t like watching him play. He’s also at a point in his career where you can trade him and get pretty much whatever you want. Teams covet cheap competence over expensive excellence so maybe you can flip Verdugo as part of a package for a Francisco Lindor and figure out what to do with Xander later. One could also look towards Milwaukee in a package for Josh Hader to fill out the bullpen the Sox desperately need help with and pick up Kris Bryant after he gets non-tendered.
I think the right answer here is probably Andrew Benintendi. I’m still a believer in him as a good (not great, but good) player moving forward, but I think trading him could add solid players at areas of need and open up more possibilities for the roster. I’m mostly just worried they’re going to roll with him in center field next year, which is dumb to me, and this would avoid that.
But that’s also a common answer, so I’ll also throw Bobby Dalbec’s name out there. Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t be tripping over myself to trade him if I was in Boston’s front office. That said, their top prospect is a first baseman who is looking like a fast mover and it’s not all that difficult to find a solid stopgap (a Mitch Moreland type) for a year or two to pave the way for Triston Casas. Dalbec may have shown enough to have some team intrigued, and if someone is willing to part with good pitching it’s something I’d at least explore.
The player I would consider shopping this winter, over all others, is Andrew Benintendi. Benintendi is a young and talented 26-year-old left fielder in need of a change of scenery. He is owed just $5 million this year before entering his final year of arbitration in 2022. Over his three years as a full-time healthy starter from 2017-2019 he was worth 8.4 fWAR with 49 home runs, 51 stolen bases and a 108 wRC+. Last season’s injury shortened season was about as ugly as it gets for a 52 PA sample as he posted a pathetic 43 wRC+. Do teams see him as that player? I honestly don’t believe they do and if they do that’s foolish.
I think Benintendi can bounce back, and in fact I expect him to do so. I do, however, think that the Red Sox would be best served to trade him for pitching and fill his spot in LF with a free agent like Marcell Ozuna and or Michael Brantley. This move would improve the team and give Beni a much needed change of scenery. As one of the few teams with the ability/want to spend this winter the Red Sox are in a unique position to maximize value while others are looking to save money.