Jake Peavy is gone.
And, just as important, who is coming?
Boston’s freefall in the American League East standings has made the Red Sox a seller, no doubt, heading into Thursday’s trade deadline.
Boston traded Peavy to the San Francisco Giants on Saturday for two Triple-A pitchers: left-handed starter Edwin Escobar and right-handed reliever Heath Hembree.
More pitching prospects? For a franchise supposedly loaded with young pitchers?
You have to figure more moves are on the horizon, and some of Boston’s young pitchers may be included in big deals.
And then there are other veterans who could soon be gone.
At the top of that list appears to be Jon Lester, the Red Sox ace. By not signing Lester, 30, to a contract extension, Boston has signaled it does not want older pitchers on big-money, long-term deals.
Besides Lester, Boston has seven other players who will be eligible for free agency after this year – relievers Burke Badenhop, Craig Breslow (if Boston does not pick up his 2015 option), Koji Uehara and Andrew Miller, catcher David Ross, shortstop Stephen Drew and outfielder Jonny Gomes. And outfielder/first baseman Mike Carp has requested a trade.
Uehara and Miller are certainly worth keeping – they are 1-2 on the team in walks/hits per inning (WHIP) at 0.74 and 0.94. Much is made of Uehara’s age (39), but his forte is a splitter, not a 95 mph fastball. Mariano Rivera did alright into his 40s (44 saves last year at the age of 42).
Ross is also an asset as a mentor for young catcher Christian Vazquez (and eventually Blake Swihart).
Someone will want Gomes, a clutch hitter in big moments. Drew can shore up someone’s defense.
All of the free agents could of course be traded, and then re-sign with Boston after the season. Lester has even stated he would consider coming back if traded – but would the Red Sox give Lester what he wants?
Boston also might consider dealing left-hander Felix Doubront, who has been sent to the bullpen after taking a step back this year (2-4, 5.19 ERA). He is eligible for arbitration, and the Red Sox may not want to pay millions for unfulfilled potential – especially with so many young pitchers waiting their turn. But a contender may see Doubront as an asset this year, with promise for future seasons.
Boston has four starting pitching prospects with major-league time – Brandon Workman, Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster and Steven Wright – and several with lots of promise, including Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes, Henry Owens and Brian Johnson (not to mention some in Class A).
Plus, you can add the two pitchers Boston just got from the Giants. Escobar, 22, was rushed to Triple-A (5.11 ERA) but projects to be solid. Hembree has 18 saves, 46 strikeouts and 13 walks in 391/3 innings.
All of these pitching prospects are touted. The key for Boston’s front office is to figure out which ones will fulfill their promise.
Another minor leaguers who could be on the block is catcher/first baseman Ryan Lavarnway, just coming back from wrist surgery. He moved to first base with Vazquez and Swihart emerging, but he caught in a rehab game with Pawtucket on Friday.
Lavarnway and others could be add-ins to other deals.
Now for the second part of the trade equation: Who would the Red Sox want?
Let’s start with the big fish (as in Marlin): 24-year-old outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, who is batting .296, with a .937 OPS and 23 home runs. He will become a free agent after the 2016 season, and no one expects Miami to keep him. The Marlins’ history with soon-to-be pricey players is to deal them sooner to get more in return.
A trade for Stanton could wait until the offseason, but let’s look at two questions for Boston: Would the Red Sox send a boatload of players for Stanton? And would Boston look to lock up Stanton long term?
The Red Sox obviously have the pitching prospects to trade, and they might even gamble by dealing one of their up-and-coming stars (Xander Bogaerts?).
But would they offer up such a bundle of players if they’re only getting a player through 2016? Would Boston offer a huge extension? Look at the six-year deal Mike Trout signed with the Angels – $33.25 million per season over the final three years.
Another trade target for the Red Sox could be Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels. That may have you shaking your head, wondering why Boston would not sign its own 30-year-old pitcher (Lester) to a big contract, but then trade for a 30-year-old who inked a six-year, $144-million deal with Philadelphia.
The difference is that Hamels has only four years left on his contract ($90 million), with one option year. Lester is not likely to sign with Boston for only four years.
If Boston trades Lester, it is going to want at least one big prospect back. Here are two contenders who may be interested:
• St. Louis was reportedly interested in Peavy but did not want to deal top prospects. The Cardinals might be willing when it comes to Lester. Boston could use a power-hitting outfielder. St. Louis has outfield depth in the minors: Stephen Piscotty (.297 average/.779 OPS, six home runs) and Randal Grichuk (.272/.830/19 home runs) in Triple-A and James Ramsey (.297/.901/13 home runs) in Double-A.
• The Dodgers are looking for someone to help push their high-priced team to the World Series. That could be Lester. Los Angeles’ top prospect is outfielder Joc Pederson (.327/1.053/21 home runs) in Triple-A.
With hopes in 2014 fading, the tools needed for success in 2015 and beyond could be acquired this week.