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A Trade to Help the Rotation

It's no secret that the Red Sox rotation is a mess. Hell, it's pretty much the main story surrounding a franchise that's less than 24 months removed from a world championship.

By now, anyone following the team probably has a pretty good grasp on the chain of events. After Rick Porcello left for the Mets in free agency, Chaim Bloom sent David Price and half of his remaining contract to the Dodgers in the Mookie Betts trade. Then Chris Sale's elbow required Tommy John surgery, removing him from the equation until June of next year at the earliest. Eduardo Rodriguez contracted COVID-19, which resulted in heart complications that led to a recent myocarditis diagnosis, and the only healthy starter remaining from last season is Nathan Eovaldi. Free agent acquisition Martin Perez occupies the number 2 slot in the rotation currently. Beyond that, it's someone named Ryan Weber and then a carousel of names that's as subject to change as the cast of Saturday Night Live.

The problem might be too drastic to solve entirely before the end of this season. The trade market probably won't be very active for multiple reasons. For starters, only players in the 60 player pool are eligible to be traded. Also, players can opt out of the season at any time, effectively serving as a no-trade clause. Finally, there's no guarantee that the season will make it all the way to the end. What's the point of making a trade in order to help a team in 2020 if the ultimate prize is completely unobtainable?

The beauty of this trade proposal is that it helps each team in both the short term and the long term. Truthfully, it could happen tomorrow and it would be a good deal for both sides, or it could happen this December and it would still make sense. From each team's perspective, the transaction addresses a weakness by dealing from a position of strength, and it carries a relatively low risk while netting an established MLB talent.

Boston receives RHP Austin Voth from the Washington Nationals in exchange for INF Michael Chavis.

From the Red Sox point of view, this deal makes all the sense in the world. Voth is a cheap starting pitcher who remains under team control through the 2025 season, one more year than Chavis himself. The former first round pick definitely belongs on a major league roster, but he hasn't exactly blown away his competition at any particular position. Capitalizing on his value now in order to improve the pitching staff might be the best way Chavis can help the team that drafted him.

I won't pretend that giving away Chavis wouldn't hurt. He took a few years in the minors to figure things out, but last year's debut proved that he has the power to earn a spot on any 40-man roster in the league. His 18 home runs had him in the Rookie of the Year conversation at one point, and he possesses the ceiling of an above-average utility infielder capable of playing first, second, and third base on defense.

With that being said, Boston's infield is somewhat crowded these days. It should go without saying that Bogaerts owns shortstop, which is the one infield position that doesn't suit Chavis particularly well anyways. Chavis only began learning to play first and second base because his original position, third base, is blocked indefinitely by Rafael Devers. First base is partially occupied by Mitch Moreland, allowing Chavis to play there against LH pitching in a platoon. However, top prospect Bobby Dalbec is expected to challenge Chavis for that role soon. Not to mention Triston Casas has been crowned the Red Sox first baseman of the future, according to prospect gurus across the internet. Second base remains open for competition, but with Jose Peraza on the roster and Jeter Downs being groomed to take over eventually, the path to regular playing time for the Ice Horse presents more obstacles than opportunities.

The Nationals, on the other hand, feature an infield that's highlighted by shortstop Trea Turner, along with some veterans who leave something to be desired, and some unproven prospects. At third base (the position Chavis played throughout most of his minor league career) Asdrubal Cabrera is getting most of the starts for now, but Carter Kieboom is slowly transitioning into the vacancy left by Anthony Rendon. Kieboom - the Nats consensus top prospect entering 2020 - should be able to succeed offensively at the major league level, but holding down the hot corner defensively will be new to him, as he played mostly shortstop (along with second base) in the minors. The current starter at second base is Starlin Castro, although Kieboom could be viewed as an improvement over him if third base proves to be a poor fit. The aforementioned Cabrera and Howie Kendrick (AKA 2019's Steven Pearce) can also be plugged in at second base, but whether or not any of them represent an improvement over Chavis is debatable. Eric Thames, along with Cabrera and Kendrick, will take over first base duties in Ryan Zimmerman's absence, but there doesn't appear to be an obvious long term solution there.

The defending champs have an outfield that includes Juan Soto, Victor Robles, and Adam Eaton, with the competent Michael A. Taylor serving as a solid 4th outfielder. Their pitching staff features 3 relievers with closing experience and 3 starters who have received Cy Young votes, including one two-time winner of the award. However, the infield (aside from shortstop) appears to be a weakness that only becomes more uncertain after next season. In a best case scenario, Kieboom handles third base well enough to keep him there, number 2 prospect Luis Garcia takes over at second base, and Turner stays healthy (allowing Kieboom and Garcia to stay at their new positions) but that hinges on a lot of "IF"s and it still leaves first base wide open, as well as a concerning lack of depth at second and third.

Washington's rotation is loaded at the front with Scherzer, Strasburg, and Corbin, followed by veteran Anibal Sanchez and Voth. Behind Voth, Erick Fedde has spent most of his professional career as a starter, and starting pitching prospect Wil Crowe appears to be knocking on the door. The Nationals clearly have a surplus of starting pitching, which every team would obviously love to have. However, parting with a back end starter to replace some of the pop lost by the departures of Bryce Harper and Rendon in the form of a versatile depth piece at their 3 weakest infield positions might help add balance to their roster.

As for Boston, did I mention how badly they need starting pitching? Even once Sale and Rodriguez return next season, Voth would still represent the 4th or 5th best starting option on a fully healthy Red Sox team. That's probably his ceiling, based on his 4.53 career FIP, but it would be a significant upgrade, not to mention a relatively inexpensive one for a team that has spent a lot of money on its rotation over the past half decade.