Red Sox may make a good trading partner with Indians
This offseason I have targeted a few players and teams that would make sense for the Indians to look towards for acquiring players to help for next year. I have saved the deepest team in the league for last.
The Boston Red Sox had a rough year after their World Series win in 2013, but the talent is clearly there. I am not sure there is a team who has more ready-made talent in or near the majors. They do have issues in terms of depth when it comes to pitching, but in terms of bats the Red Sox are almost two deep with a legit possible starter at every position on the diamond.
They have one glaring hole at third base, and the talk this offseason is that they are all in on Pablo Sandoval. Sandoval would fill the hole at third base, but the question is does he have any desire to leave San Francisco? If they can’t convince him to come to Boston, then it was reported on Monday that their top two targets are Pedro Alvarez of the Pirates and Lonnie Chisenhall of the Indians. Personally, I think they should try top prospect Mookie Betts at third base instead of the outfield, but it seems they are set on the idea of Betts in the outfield.
This for Indians fans should be particularly interesting as I am not sure Chisenhall is on the block or what his value is really after a miserable second half. In an article from the Boston Herald where Chisenhall was mentioned it was made to sound like the Indians might need to move Chisenhall to avoid his likely $2.2 million dollar salary from arbitration. It is so nice to see that people still think small market teams can’t afford players. And before anyone jumps on the Dolan’s are cheap bandwagon, it should be pointed out the same rationale was used for the Pirates and trading Alvarez.
The rest of the Red Sox infield is set at this point. Dustin Pedroia is the big name and well paid second baseman. At shortstop they have Xander Bogaerts who was the only shortstop prospect who was thought to be better than Francisco Lindor when both where in the minors. Bogaerts had a rough year last season but he will be given every chance to rebound and show why he was so loved. At catcher they will look to Blake Swihart another top prospect who should be a special defender. He might not start the year with the Major League team but he will end the year as the starter. This leaves one position to talk about a little more in depth.
First base is the deepest position, possibly too deep for the Red Sox. They acquired Allen Craig in a deadline deal with the Cardinals and his contract and recent performance will make him hard to move. The Red Sox have to put him at first and hope he can rebound. He could be played in the outfield on occasion but it would not be wise to play him there regularly. The reason he can’t play every day at first is the Red Sox are paying Mike Napoli a lot of money to play first base. His story is similar to Carlos Santana, a bad defender behind the plate who moved to first and showed plus defense skills. I would mention DH but let’s face it, it is David Ortiz’s position until he stops his very interesting production despite age and size.
In the outfield there are a few untouchable pieces for the Red Sox. Last year they paid Cuban defector Rusney Castillo and he will be the starting centerfielder for the Red Sox. They didn’t pay him $73 million to spend two years in the minors. If they land Sandoval, then Betts will shift and take over an outfield spot for the Red Sox. The final spot will sometimes be filled by Craig and other times by Yoenis Cespedes.
I know most fans will think Cespedes would be the ideal addition for the Indians thanks to his power from the right side and cannon arm in the outfield. Yet in many ways I am not sure there is a more over-rated player in baseball right now. Cespedes does have plus power, but to me the bigger issue is that he has below average on base skills. He hits .260 but doesn’t walk enough, hence why his OPS was 11th among all left fielders last year. On top of this he turns 30 next year and his contract expires after the year. All this leads up to a guy who would be foolish to acquire because his value seems incredibly inflated. Cespedes is an ideal five or six hitter but nothing more. He is a 3-4 WAR player but is often talked about as a closer to 6 WAR player - which he is not.
So now that I have gone through the whole lineup there are still five interesting names that are completely blocked or likely to see limited playing time as the Red Sox commit to a youth movement.
Will Middlebrooks - 3B
Middlebrooks continues my theme for these articles. He is a right-handed third baseman who would be a defensive upgrade at third base for the Indians. Chisenhall could prove me wrong and I would be ecstatic if he did, but last year he looked like a future outfielder to me defensively. Middlebrooks is a former top prospect who has had injury issues. Worst case is he makes a solid platoon guy for the Indians at third.
Middlebrooks broke out in 2011 as a third baseman with good power in the minors. Since then it’s been three injury plagued years bouncing between the minors and the majors. He has always been a bit of a hacker, but the right-handed power potential makes him a name to consider. He has never really had an extended chance to prove himself so he could end up still being a starter in this league.
At this point Middlebrooks would be a cheap acquisition for the Indians and after all of his struggles I would be shocked if he could cost more than a lesser relief arm.
Shane Victorino - OF
Victorino was a target of the Indians back in the 2012-2013 offseason, and I was so glad when he signed with the Red Sox even though the Indians had offered more money. Now three years later, I clearly was wrong about that.
Victorino was highly sought out at the time because he was a right-handed bat who had no draft pick loss attached to signing him. He rewarded the Red Sox with an OPS over .800 in the first year of his deal. He had 40 extra base hits and provided plus defense. The problem is that he got hurt and missed most of last year and is soon to be 34. The Red Sox are in the middle of a youth movement and the expiring deal of Victorino would just get in the way of playing time for all the other players who need at bats.
Victorino would become an everyday outfielder and be able to play all three spots for the Indians. He would provide more lineup balance and we know the Indians do like him. He would be a one year stop gap until James Ramsey, Carlos Moncrief or Tyler Naquin are ready to fill a corner outfield position. On top of all of this he would be a cheap alternative in terms of cost to acquire. The Red Sox currently have no left-hander in their pen. The Indians have three such arms and could use any of them as a trade piece for Victorino.
Daniel Nava - OF
Daniel Nava is a switch-hitting outfielder who is just one year removed from being eighth in the AL in batting average and fifth in on-base percentage. He is set to be no better than a fourth outfielder for the Red Sox next year.
Now the downside to Nava is that he is not good against left-handers in spite of being a switch-hitter. He is basically a left-handed bat parading as a switch-hitter. He is also an average defender statically for his career. His baseball reference dWAR for his career is -.1. He is also not much of a power guy either.
So after all of that why do I want to consider acquiring him? Read the first paragraph again: he was top 10 in average and on-base a year ago. Now what if I told you that his WAR was actually higher this past year? In spite of less home runs, a lower average and a drop in walk rate his WAR was higher because his dWAR went up almost three wins from the year before. He turned himself from a below average defender to an above average one.
Nava is an average player he should be worth about two to three wins most years. The Indians outfield had exactly one player who was worth two wins or more last year and that was Michael Brantley. The Indians have several interesting outfielders in Triple-A, but I am not sure any are ready to help by the beginning of next year. All three players Moncrief, Ramsey and Naquin are guys that fans should hope become two win players in the majors. There is value in an average ball player who can get on-base, hit some doubles and plays solid defense.
Nava is a forgotten man in Boston and he has zero chance to start next year for them unless there are a string of injuries. He would have been the second best outfielder on the Indians last year. This all makes him a buy low candidate who could help the Indians and not cost an arm and a leg. He would be a pretty big improvement over David Murphy.
Jackie Bradley Jr. - OF
Bradley is a former first rounder and one of the bigger names in prospect circles for a time in baseball. He was viewed as the centerfielder of the future for the Red Sox, but struggled when given the chance. He looked completely overmatched as a hitter for the Red Sox, especially last year when he was given an extended look. He is a lefty but there is always value in a good player that looks like a plus defender in centerfield.
Bradley is a player I am very familiar with. He was viewed as a possible top 10 pick the year before his junior year of school at South Carolina. He really struggled to perform that year and showed some bad habits. Some of those have continued into the pro game where Bradley doesn’t seem to realize he is not a power hitter. He tries to hit the ball a mile too often when his game should be speed and on-base skills. In some respects his numbers in the minors mirror those of Michael Brantley but with more strikeouts. Bradley was able to walk, hit a ton of doubles and play good defense in the minors. There was a reason he was twice among the top 40 prospects in baseball as the talent is there.
The Indians could use a true backup centerfield type. Right now the best they have is Tyler Holt. Bradley would cost more than anyone mentioned on this list, but with proper coaching he could also easily end up the best player on this list. He showed a diverse skill set in the minors and while he has struggled in the majors that is not uncommon among many young players.
Bradley is ticketed to go back to Triple-A next year after a very bad 2014, but with his talent level he is a name to consider.
Gavin Cecchini - 3B
I mentioned Cecchini before in this space and in spite of being a top prospect prior to the year he seems to be ticketed to Triple-A for the Red Sox who are instead targeting players outside of the organization to take over at third.
Cecchini had a massive year two years ago in Double-A, but this past year was more an average bat in Triple-A. It should be mentioned that he was nearly four years younger than the average age of a players in Triple-A, so he was holding his own in spite of his age issues. I would expect him to have a pretty big year if left in Triple-A now that he has had a year to adjust.
Cecchini is not an ideal fit for the Indians because his skill set is somewhat similar to Chisenhall. He would be a defensive upgrade, but I am not sure if the bat would be as good as Chisenhall looked at times last year. I would say he looks to be a better hitter in terms of average, but seems to have the same issues with lefties when one looks at his minor league splits. I think best case is you are getting a similar player with improved defense who has less power but gets on-base more.
While another partial season in the minors would help Cecchini, he should be ready to help a team next year. Yet the Red Sox seem ready to move on from him without ever giving him a shot. Cecchini is the type of baseball rat who you hate to bet against as he is going to do whatever it takes to be a success.
I was tempted to include Brock Holt on this list as he had some All-Star talk last year, but then had a second half fade almost as bad as Chisenhall. The reason he would still be interesting is the Indians carry a very small bench and Holt played every position but catcher last year. His versatility is an asset on a team that only carries three men on its bench and one of them is a catcher.
Now if Boston really is hot for Chisenhall, and remember there was talk the Cubs still liked him as well, then all of the sudden there is a market to sell high. It should be noted as well the talk was back in 2008 that the Red Sox were set to take Chisenhall before the Indians grabbed him one pick ahead of them. The Cubs and Red Sox front offices are full of people from that 2008 Red Sox draft room.
I know the Indians have a very crowded outfield both in the majors and the minors, but if I can flip Chisenhall for Jackie Bradley Jr. and Cecchini I would do it. I don’t think there is a huge gap between Cecchini and Chisenhall, and Jackie Bradley Jr. if he can be fixed could be an everyday player. Again, I am all for selling high on Chisenhall after his .219/.277/.315 second half. If he doesn’t preform after this year his value plummets and could on the extreme even be a DFA candidate thanks to the rising price of his arbitration number. Boston has a similar issue where by next year Bradley could have no value after two rough attempts at making it in the majors.
Fans should keep the Red Sox in mind as a trade partner for the Indians this offseason. The Red Sox seem to be already targeting the Indians for help, and with the depth of lineup options at their disposal, perhaps there is a match in a trade for both teams.
Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffmlbdraft, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
There are some intriguing names here. Esp Victorino and GARIN Cecchini. Cecchini hasn't shown much power, and struggled at AAA, but he's a RH bat that could eventually be a middle of the order type hitter, and has the flexibility to play at 3B, 1B or OF.
Now the question becomes: what would the Red Sox want in return? If it starts with Hagadone or Scrabble plus some legit AA or A+ spec, I'd be all for it. Would not give up Crockett though.
Middlebrooks in intriguing. The last two years have been issues, but the promise of 2012 is not bad. Batting .250-.260 with 25HRs or so is not out of the realm of reason for a healthy Middlebrooks that can play a full season. He's an improvement over the butcher that Chis was at 3B last year, though I think Chisenhall could be better too and more inline with the 2013 model. Combining 2013 defensive Chis with 2014 offensive Chis would be a winner, but unlikely. I don't expect him to replicate his success against lefties - and a return to norm would drop his average significantly.
Also should be noted that you linked the wrong Cecchini. GaVin Cecchini is a top SS prospect for the Mets. He only received a cup of coffee in AA this year. You're thinking of his brother, GaRin Cecchini (why his parents named two kids with such similar names is beyond me). His 16 errors in AAA this year scare me a bit.
Our options at 3B are troubling.
One not involving the Red Sox that I will throw out is this one: word down here in Tampa Bay is that Evan Longoria may be available for trade. They're in "trim salary" mode right now and are looking for prospects. They also like prospect Richie Schaffer at 3B long term, though he is a couple years away. Movement in happening on the stadium front for them (might be moving to the Tampa side). They actually could use OFers, a 1B (Aguilar?), and middle infield. They still have good pitching depth. He wasn't as good defensively this year, but usually he's one of the better 3B gloves. Not sure what the price would be, but his contract blossoms up to $11M per year beginning in 2015.