As we continue to barrel towards the trade deadline, the Red Sox continue to look poised to be one of the more active sellers on the market. Given the expanded playoff field, most teams can at least talk themselves into being buyers or at least staying pat, leaving Boston as one of just a handful of teams that are legitimate, no-doubt sellers. And with a bunch of players that could be available in trade — there are maybe three players who would absolutely floor me if they were dealt — there are a lot of potential fits. We’ve already looked at the Blue Jays, Twins, Padres, Brewers and Indians. Today, we look at one of the team’s biggest rivals.
As we talked about in the Blue Jays section, trades within divisions are rare. It is even more rare, it would seem, for rivals to trade. The Red Sox and Rays obviously aren’t Red Sox/Yankees-level rivals, but there is some heat between these two sides over the last couple decades. Despite that, there have been trades between these two sides. In fact, just a couple years ago one of the more important recent deals in franchise history was between these two squads. I speak, of course, of the deal that brought Nathan Eovaldi to Boston in exchange for Jalen Beeks.
Now, there is even more connection between these two sides with Chaim Bloom running the Red Sox front office after being the number two in Tampa Bay. I think that kind of relationship can be overblown a lot, but this is a different kind of year. We all know that trades are going to be more difficult for many reasons, but one of them is a lack of knowledge about prospects. I think it was notable that both return pieces in the Brandon Workman trade were on the Phillies’ 60-man player pool. Anyone who is not in that pool just hasn’t been seen (for the most part) by any scouts since maybe March. They haven’t been seen in affiliated ball for just about a year.
That makes things very difficult. Can you really be confident in trading for a 19-year-old kid when you have no idea what they have been doing for the last few months? If another team is willing to trade you someone like that, don’t you have to question what they know that they’re not telling you? How can you possibly assign a value to that kind of player, never mind one that may be roughly equivalent to the other side? These are all valid questions, but they could be easier to answer in this case. Bloom still doesn’t really know what’s been going on with Rays prospects over the last few months, but he is at least more familiar with their personalities. He knows who would be best at keeping themselves sharp and in shape while away from team coaches. It’s certainly not a slam dunk, but it is a unique advantage he could have in talks with Tampa Bay compared to any other team.
So, that makes the matchup interesting, but it also only works if the Red Sox have anything the Rays would want. If we were to look at a big-time deal, that would come to Christian Vázquez. I’ll be clear that I don’t think the Red Sox would be smart to deal their catcher, but if that is indeed on the table the Rays are an obvious fit. Tampa Bay has a Rubik’s Cube of a lineup with platoons up and down, but the one place where they don’t really have a great strategy is behind the plate. Neither Mike Zunino nor Michael Pérez are quality starters. Vázquez would immediately upgrade their position and solidify their spot at or near the top of the American League. That he is under a team-friendly contract only sweetens the deal for a team like the Rays.
Even beyond that possibility, though, there are other options. The Rays came into the year with a fantastic pitching staff, but they’ve been absolutely decimated by injury. As we speak today, Tampa Bay currently has six relievers on the injured list, all of whom are among the most important relievers on the roster. They are also without Charlie Morton, Brendan McKay and Yonny Chirinos in the rotation. No team is better equipped to deal with pitching injuries, it would seem, than Tampa Bay, but nobody can survive this. The Red Sox obviously don’t have a ton to deal from with their pitching staff, but can’t you just see Martín Pérez going to Tampa and striking out 10 batters per nine or Matt Barnes finally putting it together with the Rays.
I think if we’re being honest it’s more likely than not that a trade does not materialize between these two sides, but there are intriguing reasons to think it might. For one, the Red Sox have some pitchers who could help an ailing Rays staff, and they have a great player at a position of need if they want to get really aggressive. They also have Chaim Bloom, whose knowledge of the Rays system is more important in this 2020 season than it would be in any other year.