It’s been a tough season in Boston. If the Red Sox were to sell, would their top slugger be available?
The Red Sox, as of 7/21, possess a record of 55-46. By the time the defending World Series champions lost their 46th game last year, they had already amassed 97 wins – far more than they have this year. Very few expected the 2019 Red Sox to replicate last year’s production, but little predicted that they’d be this mediocre. On the other hand, the Yankees are blossoming into the powerhouse Sox Nation feared they would, and are on pace to win 106 games (two less than the Red Sox did last year), despite being heavily hindered by injuries in the early part of the season. The Twins, Astros, and Dodgers are all on pace to win over 99 games as well. Boston sits three games out of a wild card spot.
Furthermore, Dave Dombrowski and the Sox ownership panel, has shown an unwillingness to spend much more money. Even though the Red Sox are choosing to improve their team at the deadline, it is hard to imagine they will acquire the players necessary to revamp their 2019 season.
At this point, it may be considered generous to call the Red Sox’s playoff chances a coin flip. If they do manage to make the playoffs, winning the Wild Card game will be yet another 50% chance. Based on their current play, it would be improbable that they’d knock off the #1 seed, which will most likely be the Yankees that they are 1-6 against this season. No Sox fan is realistically hoping for a World Series title this year, or even a pennant. With very slim chances of doing anything significant this season, should the Red Sox be selling at the deadline?
Of course, it is very uncommon for a team eight games over .500 to sell, especially after keeping almost all of their key players from a title winning season. Furthermore, the Red Sox have already started buying this season, with the acquisition of RHP Andrew Cashner. They need not undergo a full rebuild though. They only need to give up on the 2019 season, in order to gear up for a 2020 title run. At the end of the year, Rick Porcello’s contract will be off the books, as well as Pablo Sandoval’s and J.D. Martinez’s. Then, the Red Sox may find a replacement for Porcello through free agency. Perhaps, Porcello could even return to the Sox, but at a cheaper price. This would all clear space for Martinez to resign, and for the Red Sox to sign a first baseman or relief pitcher.
The Red Sox’s main trade chip would be J.D. Martinez. The 2018 Hank Aaron Award winner, and a player who received MVP votes in 2018, 2017, and 2015 would be a huge addition to any playoff team. The Cleveland Indians currently hold the first Wild Card spot, and need a DH to replace Jake Bauers, who has posted a -0.5 WAR this season. The Athletics have the second Wild Card spot, and failed to find a productive right fielder this season. J.D. could slide into that position as well, and acquiring a big bat like Martinez could ensure a playoff berth for the A’s.
In exchange for the Red Sox DH, they could receive some top young players that could help the Red Sox for many years to come. A similar trade was made in 2018, when Manny Machado was dealt to the Dodgers. Machado slashed .285/.344/.519 in the two and a half years before he was dealt, and Martinez has slashed .311/.384/.618 since 2017. However, Machado is a much better fielder than Martinez is, making the two players’ trade values comparable. In return for Machado, the Orioles got OF Yusneil Diaz, who was ranked in the top 50 prospects by Baseball America. Furthermore, they received two players that ranked in the top 20 in the Orioles’ system, and a utility infielder who hit .300 in AAA. By trading J.D. Martinez, the Red Sox would not sacrifice very much but could get a valuable package in return.
Furthermore, the Red Sox could re-sell Cashner, which would clear his contract off the Red Sox’s books. If any suitors were found, Porcello could be moved as well, though the Red Sox may be forced to eat some of Porcello’s 21.1 million dollar contract. Mitch Moreland is coming back from his injury soon, and could be traded. He has shown an ability to hit clutch home runs, and has was an All Star in 2018. A team needing a late inning defensive replacement at first or a bench bat should be interested in Moreland. Brock Holt is set to be a free agent as well. A veteran utility man who can play almost anywhere, get on base, and has postseason experience will have definitely have suitors. Clearing these contracts could make the ownership more willing to spend money in 2020.
Selling all of their impending free agents would set the Red Sox up to win next year. While the young core improves and enters their prime, the Sox will also be able to resign Martinez and possibly another important piece, such as Michael Pineda, Jose Abreu, Cole Hamels, or Will Smith. Though Dombrowski wants to continue spending this year, we will be able to see by October that he made a mistake that will impact the Red Sox’s future.