Since Chaim Bloom has taken over in Boston, the Red Sox front office has yet to go an offseason without trading away a homegrown talented player in his mid-20s who's yet to reach free agency. You know, the type of move the Rays typically make. That trend could end this offseason, but my guess is that it will continue.
Here's the catch: this time it won't be for prospects. When Mookie Betts was shipped off to LA along with David Price in the 2019-2020 offseason, the deal was centered around Boston receiving young talent, including 2 prospects, in return. The Benintendi trade of last offseason also yielded 4 prospects in addition to Franchy Cordero. This isn't to say that Bloom can't pull off another similar deal. Maybe he decides that Hunter Renfroe or Nick Pivetta has peaked and finds a trade partner willing to give up a hefty package headlined by a top 100 prospect. If that's the case, I wouldn't be opposed to such a move. However, that's not what I'm predicting today. After watching the major league roster take a massive step forward despite its numerous holes, accompanied by substantial growth down at the minor league levels, I think Bloom's focus will shift more towards the near future instead of making Boston's long term future the clear priority like he's done during the previous two winters.
This year, I envision the Red Sox using some of their young talent to improve the major league roster. Obviously any trade would require Boston to surrender something, but it's not always as simple as figuring out what the other side wants and parting with that asset. Balancing talent at various positions and building rosters across multiple levels requires delicate maneuvering. Furthermore, some players are simply too important to trade away. By all accounts, Triston Casas is the real deal (I've heard and read a lot of Freddie Freeman comparisons) and might be ready to take over as the full-time first baseman as early as next year. Similarly, Jarren Duran appears to be a key part of the franchise's plans for the outfield moving forward. Giving away elite prospect Marcelo Meyer just months after drafting him would go against everything Bloom has been preaching since he arrived, and Nick Yorke carries so much value internally after his breakout season that it's hard to see the front office moving him. Maybe Jeter Downs could be included in a deal, but his stock has taken a sizable dip after a brutal 2021 campaign at Triple-A, so there's risk in selling low on an important piece of the Betts trade. Not to mention, finding the answer to the second base conundrum only gets trickier by removing Downs from the equation. Beyond that top 5, Boston's remaining prospects might be able to facilitate more low key moves or serve as secondary pieces in a larger deal, but I don't see any other names serving as the centerpiece of a blockbuster.
So who would the Red Sox be willing to part with as collateral for an upgrade to, say, the starting rotation? Part of that depends on which team is negotiating with Boston. Other front offices will have mixed opinions on players, different needs, and in some cases, completely separate priorities. One team stands out as a particularly attractive trade partner. It's an open secret that the Oakland A's are looking to cut payroll (again) this offseason, despite the fact that much of their roster's core are due for arbitration raises. Ever since he no-hit the 2018 Red Sox, I've long opined that Sean Manaea would look great in a Boston uniform. That being said, Chris Bassitt or Frankie Montas could also represent welcome additions. Beyond those names, Lou Trivino might be available and would definitely improve Boston's bullpen. Adding Ramon Laureano could solidify the outfield, allowing Kike to move back to the infield. Even Tony Kemp would fit into the picture, playing mostly at second base with the possibility of serving as outfield depth.
Taking all these factors into consideration, I can't help but imagine Bobby Dalbec in an Athletics uniform next season. Sure, both corner infield positions are currently blocked by Matt Chapman and Matt Olson, but that should change this winter. The former All-Stars (and Gold Glove winners) are probably Oakland's two most valuable assets. Each is due for an increase in salary as they inch closer to free agency. Furthermore, Oakland's farm system recently ranked 28th out of 30 according to MLB.com, and in order to remain relevant (much less competitive) over the next half decade, the A's will need to replenish their pipeline quickly. Given the state of their minor league depth and the financial challenges Oakland faces, it would behoove the A's to trade one (if not both) Matts to highest bidder for a package of multiple prospects. That would open up at least one corner infield spot, if not both, for Dalbec (a former third baseman that currently plays first) who is both a proven major league talent and a cheap controllable asset, since he won't hit arbitration until after the 2023 season.
To address the possibility of Dalbec being traded directly for one of the two aforementioned Matts, I don't see that happening. Chapman, as much as he would improve the infield defense, plays the same position as Devers, and I highly doubt the Red Sox want to block Triston Casas by moving Devers (or acquiring Olson) to play first. Someone reading this might think "make the move for Chapman/Olson, and then use Casas as a trade chip for another deal" but I'm fully bought into Casas as the Red Sox first baseman of the future, and I believe that Boston's front office feels the same way.
Of course, this all hinges on the notion that Oakland will need help at one (or both) of the corner infield positions once they hypothetically move the current starter there. That being said, it's looking less and less likely both Olson and Chapman will be back in Oakland next year, and it's certainly possible that neither one will still be on their roster by Opening Day. One way or another, multiple A's veterans will be moved this offseason. At that point, they'll need to be replaced, and at a lower cost. Presumably, they'll want younger players with multiple years of team control who still possess room for growth. Dalbec checks every box on that list, plus he's somewhat expendable to a Red Sox organization with an MVP candidate at his former position and a future superstar lurking at his current position. Hopefully the A's front office finds Bobby D and his remaining untapped potential as attractive as their pitching looks from where I'm sitting.