With each passing day, the Red Sox look less and less like a contender. As of writing, their playoff odds sit at 26.6 percent, far below the season-high of 80.7 percent they reached on June 30. As they continue to tumble away from playoff contention, the chances that the Red Sox will actually trade for players to help with a playoff run this year are dwindling, but just like their playoff hopes aren’t completely dead, there may still be a trade or two in the offing.
As I wrote yesterday, there are several areas the Red Sox could address via trade to try to right the sinking ship and get back into the playoff-contending business. Yesterday we looked at players they could target at first base and in the outfield. Today we’ll look at pitchers, splitting them up between the rotation and the bullpen.
Like yesterday, for this exercise, instead of just listing every player potentially available, I’ll be choosing three players the Red Sox could target and categorizing them as either an ideal target, a realistic target or a backup target. Ideal targets are the best players who are reportedly available and who would require the largest return. Realistic targets may still require a hefty toll but are more within reach, and the backup targets are those who may be more easily available, whether due to age, performance, contract length, etc. While this is far from an exact science, it should give you a good idea of who the Red Sox may be (or should be) targeting if they decide to buy at the deadline.
Ideal Target: Luis Castillo, Cincinnati Reds
Castillo has been in trade rumors for what seems like forever. The 29-year-old right-hander has made those rumors go from whispers to shouts this season for multiple reasons. First, the Reds are terrible and clearly want to move guys. Secondly, Castillo is putting forth a stellar campaign. Last year, he got off to a pretty bad start before eventually righting the ship and clawing his way to a sub-4.00 ERA for the season. His peripheral numbers were much better and although his strikeout rate dropped quite a bit, he was still a solid starter. He’s looked more like the star he was before 2021 this year, sporting a 2.86 ERA through 14 starts (85 innings) and making his second career All-Star game. Castillo will be eligible for arbitration this winter and then be a free agent after the 2023 season and he’s easily the most sought after starter on the market.
The Red Sox aren’t in many of those loud rumors I mentioned before, but if they are really serious about fixing this team, getting a starter like Castillo into a rotation currently held together by some old tape they found in the bullpen would make a big difference, even if the asking price will likely include at least a couple of the Red Sox’s top prospects.
Realistic Target: Frankie Montas, Oakland A’s
Montas is the same age as Castillo and will also be arbitration eligible this winter before becoming a free agent after 2023. However, there are a few things that make him an ever-so-slightly less coveted trade target. The right-hander had been and up-and-down pitcher for the first five years of his career before 2021, but then he finally broke out, producing a 3.37 ERA and FIP across 187 innings. However, that marked his first season throwing at least 100 innings. Meanwhile, Castillo did so for the third time in 2021. You could argue that means Montas has less wear and tear on his arm, but it also means he is a slightly less proven commodity, even if he has a 3.18 ERA and 3.36 FIP this season and has already surpassed 100 innings pitched. Now, the difference between Castillo and Montas is pretty marginal, but it could be just enough a difference to make Montas a more likely trade target for the Red Sox, especially since Montas has delt with a shoulder injury this season.
Backup Target: Chad Kuhl, Colorado Rockies
José Quintana might seem like a better fit here given his renaissance in Pittsburgh, but let’s go with Kuhl. Remember, the backup option isn’t a huge upside play. Kuhl is another 29-year-old right-hander and he’s been OK this season, nearing 100 innings pitched while producing a 4.48 ERA and 4.59 FIP. His strikeout rate is way too low and his walk rate isn’t great, but he has cut down on his home run to flyball ratio and with the current state of the rotation, the Red Sox could do a lot worse every five days (and they have). Plus, aside from the asking price in a trade being relatively low based on his performance, Kuhl is also a free agent after this season. That means Colorado should be more motivated to move him (although it’s the Rockies, so who knows?) and the Red Sox wouldn’t be on the hook beyond this season if things don’t work out.
Ideal Target: Gregory Soto, Detroit Tigers
As with any trade deadline, there are plenty of relievers available and the range of talent is pretty wide. Soto is toward the upper echelon of the group due to both his effectiveness the last two seasons and where he is in his career. The Detroit Tigers’ All-Star closer has elite velocity, an above average strikeout rate and an 80th percentile whiff rate. In addition, the 27-year-old southpaw is arbitration eligible for the next three years. Soto’s dominance the last two seasons has all the makings of a breakout and with his stuff and his age, he is worth adding for any team looking to improve their bullpen this year and in the future. Of course, because of his potential and his contract situation, Soto won’t be as easy to trade for as some other relievers.
Realistic Target: David Robertson, Chicago Cubs
Robertson has become a journeyman in the last few seasons, and although his run prevention wasn’t that good in 2020 and 2021, his strikeout rates were still right where you want them to be for a reliever. Robertson has gotten back to limiting runs this season with the Cubs while continuing his strikeout stuff, as he has a 1.83 ERA and 3.25 FIP to go with his 31.4 percent strikeout rate. At 37, Robertson, who will be a free agent after this season, won’t demand the same type of prospects it might take to trade for him in years past. Any deal will also likely be softened because of factors like his high walk rate and the fact that his production in 2021 and 2020 wasn’t awesome.
Backup Target: Daniel Bard, Colorado Rockies
Bring Danny home! The former Red Sox reliever turned starter was on the trade radar last season and he’s back again. This time around, Bard has a bit more on his side, at least in terms of surface numbers. The 37-year-old right-hander has a 1.91 ERA and 3.55 FIP this season while averaging more than 98 miles per hour on his fastball and striking batters out at a 27.6 percent clip. Interestingly, his strikeout rate and velocity are both in the same ballpark as last year, when he had a 5.21 ERA and 4.28 FIP. His walk rate is also similarly high as last season, but so far, it hasn’t affected his production too badly.
Despite being the same age as Robertson and also being a free agent after this season, Bard might be a bit easier to trade for than Robertson because of his uneven track record. Remember, he didn’t pitch in MLB from 2014 to 2019 before resurfacing for a brilliant 2020 and then a pretty rough 2021.
Note: All statistics are from before games on July 28.