Previously, I discussed some of the available starting pitchers on the free agent market. Now, I will be talking about some teams that may be willing to deal this offseason and who just may be on the trade market. Admittedly, it is much harder to forecast who may or may not be available in a trade, because sometimes the most obvious trade candidate stays put (see Giancarlo Stanton prior to his extension), and someone that was supposedly untouchable is traded days later (Josh Donaldson last offseason.) This post will not go much into what it would take to get certain players because it depends on the needs of each specific team as well as the statuses’ of their farm systems. Having said that, the Red Sox have deep pockets, great prospects, and a team president that is ready to deal, so trades should be expected this winter.
All stats used in this piece are courtesy of ESPN Stats and Info.
San Diego Padres
One team that appears to be primed for dealing is the San Diego Padres. After GM wunderkind A. J. Preller completed a total overhaul of his roster with moves for Matt Kemp, James Shields, Wil Myers, and Justin Upton last season, there was a level of excitement surrounding the Padres for the first time in a long time. However, just as the Red Sox, these moves all but backfired on Preller. Now, in need of yet another makeover, Preller may be ready to deal. There are a few names on the Padres roster to keep an eye on as a Red Sox fan.
Two players that were discussed as part of potential deadline deals were starting pitcher Tyson Ross and closer Craig Kimbrel. Tyson Ross is a pitcher better suited as a number two or number three starter. Ross will be 29 on opening day and is coming of a pretty successful season in arguably the toughest division in baseball. In 2014, Ross had a spectacular year, recording a 2.81 ERA despite only a 13-14 record. Last season, he regressed slightly but still put up respectable numbers. He finished 2015 with a 3.26 ERA, a 10-12 record, four innings shy of 200 innings pitched, and 212 strikeouts. Ross does not throw particularly hard, but does have a decent fastball averaging 93 mph. He won’t necessarily blow batters away, but he will mix his speeds and locations well to keep batters unbalanced. One concerning aspect of Ross’s game is that he walks a lot of batters. His walk numbers have increased each year since becoming a full time starter in 2013. Craig Kimbrel represents an entity that the Red Sox are severely lacking: a late inning reliever that throws heat. Kimbrel’s average fastball velocity is 96 MPH. He is also only 27 years old. The Red Sox have heavily relied on the arms of Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara and are in desperate need of a young arm for the back of the bullpen. Uehara has been a great closer for the Red Sox but is 41 years old and struggled all 2015 with injuries. Kimbrel would be an ideal anchor for the pen. He converted 39 of 43 save opportunities and struck out 87 batters in 59.1 innings.
Another name to monitor from a Red Sox stand point is James Shields. Last offseason, before Pablo Sandoval signed with the Red Sox, he was offered a very respectable contract from the San Diego Padres. The Red Sox were also in pursuit of James Shields before he decided to sign with the Padres. Both players have contracts that they did not live up to in their first season with their new clubs, and I would not be surprised if there was a deal to be made including Sandoval and Shields. The hope there would be that a change of scenery would be beneficial for two players that have had experience of success.
The Indians surprised a lot of people for much of the 2015 campaign. They have one of the most well rounded starting pitching rotations in the major leagues, anchored by former Cy Young winner Corey Kluber. They also have some young pitching that may be available this offseason for a price. Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar are two players that are very much available this offseason and would immediately improve the Red Sox rotation. Neither pitchers had particular outstanding numbers, but they are both young and very talented. Carrasco is 28 years old and is a high volume strikeout pitcher. He had a respectable ERA of 3.63 and have over 200 strikeouts in 180 innings. He also pitched three complete games last season for the Indians and made 30 starts. Although his numbers are not as great as some of the other pitchers available this offseason, he does not have as much wear and tear on his arm. It is important to remember that last season was the first season of his career as a full time starter. In his major league career, he has only pitched 556 innings, which is a lot less than most 28 year old starting pitchers. The more intriguing name on this list for me is Danny Salazar. Salazar is a 25 year righty who won 14 games for Indians last year. He also had a WHIP of 1.13 which was good for eighth in the American League among qualifiers. Salazar also ranked seventh in the American League in strikeouts by starting pitchers. Most importantly, he has less than 350 innings pitched in the big leagues so he is a fresh arm that has proven that he can perform at this level.
There is one player on the Reds that should have all of Red Sox nation day dreaming of: Aroldis Chapman. Chapman is available this offseason. Like Kimbrel and Ross, the Red Sox were in discussions for a deal to bring the big left handed Cuban to Boston. Chapman has a lifetime ERA of 2.17 and over 500 strikeouts in 319 innings. Like Kimberl, Chapman is 27 years of age. What separates Chapman from the pack is the fact that he is a left hander and the fact that he can touch 100 MPH on a consistent basis. Aroldis Chapman is the Dellin Betances of the National League. Having a left handed power arm in the back of any bullpen is an enviable asset. I mention left handedness as an advantage because that helps create mismatches late in games when teams are trying to catch up on the score board. Chapman has also converted 69 of his last 74 saves dating back the last two seasons.
Billy Beane is notorious for dealing budding stars before they are due for their big payday. Hopefully, Sonny Gray is another in a long line of young stars traded away. Admittedly, this seems very unlikely to happen. The A’s have already said that they could not foresee trading away Gray this offseason, but they said the same thing about Josh Donaldson last year, and he is probably going to be the 2015 AL MVP. The A’s would need a king’s ransom in return to be compelled to even entertain the thought of trading Gray. He is the youngest starting pitcher who is even potentially available. In three years as a starter, his average ERA is 2.88. Gray is an established ace, has an affordable contract, and ranked in the top ten in the American League in many major pitching categories. The only question with Sonny Gray is what would you, as Red Sox fans be willing to give up. My best guess is that it would probably take a combination of Owens/E-Rod, Mookie/JBJ, Margot/Devers, and maybe even more.
The reigning National League Champions proved a lot to the baseball world last season. Most importantly, however, they proved that they have a lot of young pitching, and they are all good. The combination of Harvey, Thor, deGrom, Matz, and The Big Sexy (Bartolo Colon) was lethal for just about every team, including the Royals. Personally, I chalk three of the four losses in the World Series to the bullpen and the fact that the Royals never give up, never surrender, just like Tim Allen in Galaxy Quest. Having said all that, I think there are three names that may be available that would shore up the Red Sox rotation: Matt Harvey, Jon Niese, and Zack Wheeler. There was lot of drama surrounding Matt Harvey last season concerning his innings limit and the micromanaging agent, Scott Boras. I do not particular like Harvey’s attitude but his skills are undeniable. He is a bonafide ace, and due to the surplus of young pitching on the Mets, they may ultimately elect to trade him before extending him. Zack Wheeler is almost a complete unkown. He has had a big amount of success in the past, but he is coming off Tommy John’s surgery. It takes a full year for recovery time to come back from Tommy John’s but it also takes another year to return fully to previous performance. Luckily, many pitchers end up playing better than ever once fully recovered from the surgery. Wheeler is also only 25 years old, so the Mets may understandably be reluctant to trade him. Lastly, Jon Niese is someone I think the Red Sox should at least consider. Yes, he will be 30 on opening day, and yes he struggled at times last season. However, I believe he could be a strong number three starter. He also likely would not command as many prospects in any potential trades.