For the next nine days, the trade deadline is going to be the focal point for baseball, with all eyes looking at what the contenders are going to add, and what players the selling teams are going to be willing to part with. As far as the Red Sox are concerned, it’s clear that they will be buyers, though what exactly they’ll be targeting and how much they’ll be willing to give up is a different question entirely.
Over the last two days, we’ve looked at the clubs who look like they’ll certainly be sellers. Yesterday we looked at the AL, and today we move to the NL. Our criteria here will be any team that is at least six games out of a playoff spot. Not all of these teams will definitely sell, and others not included could, but this seems to be a good starting point. And while these teams have other players who could be intriguing trade targets, we’re going to focus on what teams can provide for help at first base, in the rotation, in the bullpen, and with a left-handed hitter for the bench. These seem to be the areas where the Red Sox could feasibly look for upgrades, even if they likely won’t all be addressed before the deadline on July 30.
The Marlins were a surprise playoff team last season, but they haven’t had the same kind of luck this season and they will likely be looking at some selling this summer. A complete teardown isn’t in their future, but there will be some nice players available. Starling Marte heads that group, but he isn’t really a fit for the Red Sox. Instead, I suspect the name you’ll hear most from Miami with a Boston connection is Jesús Aguilar. He would step in as the first baseman, and as a bonus he has another year of control after this. He is right-handed, but I’m not sure that matters much if you’re just taking time away from Bobby Dalbec entirely. Aguilar has a 118 wRC+ this season, and put up a mark of 122 in 2020.
Beyond Aguilar, the Marlins likely aren’t parting with any starting pitchers the Red Sox would have interest in, so you then turn your attention to their bullpen. There’s not a ton to like in that group, but Dylan Floro could be an intriguing addition. A former Dodgers bullpen member, and he could provide a different look for a Red Sox relief corps that has been good, but relies heavily on whiffs. Floro can come in for ground balls, and still misses a decent number of bats. He’s had a sub-3.00 ERA in three of the last four years.
The Cubs are going to be the team that gets brought up the most for the Red Sox leading up to the deadline, and it makes sense. It’s not just that they have the best collection of talent that could potentially be available in trade talks, but two of them are former Red Sox players who make a ton of sense for Boston. We’ll start in the bullpen, and with the guy pictured at the top of this page. Craig Kimbrel is going to be the top reliever on the market this year, having a huge year for the Cubs with a team option for next year in his contract as well. Red Sox fans have mixed memories about Kimbrel, and his playoff run in 2018 was certainly heart attack-inducing, but he’s also an elite reliever and would take this bullpen to another level. Whether the price of acquisition will be worth it is a separate question, and I’m not sure the answer to it, but just in terms of talent there’s little doubt to me he’s the biggest impact arm they could add to the relief corps.
There’s also Anthony Rizzo, who was in the Red Sox farm system way back when before being traded to San Diego in the Adrian Gonzalez deal. Since then he’s turned into a star with the Cubs, and should be one of the top position players dealt this year. The price of acquisition shouldn’t be too crazy since Rizzo’s a rental, but he’s also a middle-of-the-order bat. He’s been more good than great the last couple of years, but he still has great plate discipline and solid power, and the jolt of being traded into a postseason race could add a spark to that power and take his game to a temporary new level.
Kris Bryant and Javy Báez are also big names who could be thrown around in trade talks, but they don’t really provide great fits for Boston unless you’re playing Bryant at first base, which he has done 12 times this year. Kyle Hendricks could be available as well, but I’m not sure I see the Red Sox paying that much for a starter.
I’m not sure what the Cardinals are going to do at this year’s deadline. If they do sell, I would expect it to be a smaller version as they look to compete again in 2022. That said, the only two names I could maybe see the Red Sox targeting would be Matt Carpenter and Giovanny Gallegos. Carpenter, admittedly, is not very appealing and the only reason I’d even consider is because he’s a left-handed bat who could come in late in games off the bench. But I’m not sure it’s worth adding him to the 40-man.
The other player here is Gallegos, a former Yankees farmhand who went to St. Louis in the Luke Voit deal. The issue here is not with the player, because Gallegos is a great reliever. This season he is striking out more than 33 percent of his opponents with a walk rate under six percent. He’s been dominant for three years now, and would probably cost more to acquire than Kimbrel. It’s just not clear that the Cardinals will trade him. He’s under control through 2024, so they’ll likely have to be blown away to deal him.
The Pirates are among the clearest sellers in all of baseball. The issue is that they just don’t have a ton of intriguing players to ship out, and the ones they have don’t fit all that well with the Red Sox roster. All of the potential targets here are pitchers. Tyler Anderson is a solid veteran starter who can probably be had for relatively little, but it’s not clear he’s an obvious upgrade over what they already have. Over in the bullpen, guys like Richard Rodríguez and Chris Stratton could be cheap additions that would serve as upgrades over Brandon Workman or Yacksel Ríos. That’s not a bad thing to target, though it’s not moving the needle a ton.
If the Cubs have a challenger for most intriguing seller, it’s the Rockies. They have one of the biggest names on the market this year in Trevor Story, though the shortstop doesn’t really fit with the Red Sox. They also have starter Germán Márquez, who is one of the more underrated starters in the game but will cost a ton to acquire. As I said above with Hendricks, I’m not sure the Red Sox will want to pay the price for that kind of upgrade in a rotation that isn’t really screaming for help. That said, he is under contract at a reasonable price through 2023 with a team option for 2024, so the Red Sox could see this as a chance to not only upgrade the 2021 team but also give the rotation a top-flight arm for the next few years as well.
Márquez is probably a bit of a pie in the sky target for Boston, but Colorado has more realistic targets as well. C.J. Cron leads that group. The first baseman would be among the most underwhelming first base targets, but he would be an upgrade. He’ll strike out a bit and never hit for a high average, but the power is proven to play in the majors and he can draw plenty of walks as well, leading to consistently above-average production. Over in the bullpen, old friend Daniel Bard would be a very fun acquisition, and Mychal Givens and Carlos Estévez could be targets as well.
The Diamondbacks have been one of the worst teams in baseball all season long, and as a result they just don’t have a lot of talent to even consider trading. That said, offensively there are a couple of intriguing buy lows. One would be Christian Walker, a first baseman with a bunch of control (though he’s already 30, so that control is less valuable) but having a down year. It’s not unreasonable to think he can bounce back after being sent to a contender, however. Josh Reddick could also be a nice lefty to have on the bench, though he’s had reverse splits over the last few years.
On the pitching side, Merrill Kelly could be a solid addition to the rotation, but he sort of has the same problem as Anderson with the Pirates. He’s definitely a solid back-end starter, but the Red Sox don’t really need help in that regard. Over in the bullpen, Joakim Soría and Noé Ramirez could be middle relief targets, but they certainly aren’t of the same ilk as guys like Gallegos and Kimbrel, but would at least lengthen the relief corps for Boston.