Still, Boston is looking to make “major upgrades” via trade, a source told MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand.
What might that mean? Let’s explore five possible blockbusters the Red Sox could pull off ahead of the July 31 non-waiver deadline based on their needs and the latest rumblings.
One thing to keep in mind: We’re confining this to the realm of the probable—or at least possible—so you won’t find any pie-in-the-sky three-team swaps for Mike Trout or the ghost of Jimmie Foxx.
Acquire Third Baseman Mike Moustakas from Kansas City Royals
The Red Sox desperately need help at the hot corner.
Pablo Sandoval has been a disaster, hitting .212 with a .622 OPS and languishing for long stretches on the disabled list. Brock Holt is on the 60-day DL with vertigo, and Deven Marrero sits atop the depth chart with his .167 average.
Mike Moustakas of the Kansas City Royals falls in the middle of that spectrum. The 28-year-old has hit 19 home runs, putting him on pace to blow past his career-best total of 22, set in his All-Star 2015 season, and owns an .832 OPS. Compare that to Sandoval’s mark of .622 or Marrero’s cool .508.
Moustakas is an impending free agent, meaning he would be a rental. And it’s possible the Royals, who are 38-38 but just 2.5 games out in the American League Central, will opt to make one more run.
If K.C. slips a bit in the standings, however, Boston should be able to put together an acceptable package without moving any of its highest-rated prospects.
Something centered around powerful third baseman Michael Chavis (Boston’s No. 6 overall prospect, per MLB.com) could be enough to pique the Royals’ interest and shore up the Sox’s most glaring weakness.
Acquire Closer David Robertson from Chicago White Sox
The Red Sox’s bullpen, anchored by closer Craig Kimbrel, owns the third-best ERA in baseball at 2.94. Adding here would be gilding the lily.
Then again, as recent years have shown, you can never have too much relief pitching come playoff time. Boston doesn’t need another shutdown late-inning arm, but it could use one nonetheless.
Enter White Sox closer David Robertson, who has fanned 41 in 27.1 innings next to just nine walks.
Slot him next to Kimbrel, and the Red Sox could have their version of the two-headed Cody Allen/Andrew Miller monster the Cleveland Indians rode to Game 7 of the World Series in 2016.
Robertson is signed through 2018, and he will command a significant return package.
Whether Boston would be wise to part with top prospects to bolster an existing strength is an open question. Whether Robertson would make them immediately and notably more fearsome isn’t.
Acquire RHP Johnny Cueto from San Francisco Giants
Despite the dominance of Chris Sale, the Sox rotation owns a pedestrian 4.38 ERA.
David Price’s debut was delayed by injury, and he sports a 4.76 ERA. Reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello’s ERA sits at 5.06.
Clearly, this group could use reinforcements.
Let’s begin with San Francisco Giants right-hander Johnny Cueto, who could opt out of his contract after the season. San Francisco is on pace to lose 100-plus games and may dangle Cueto as a deadline rental.
The two-time All-Star and three-time top-10 Cy Young Award finisher hasn’t been up to snuff this season, posting a 4.20 ERA in 16 starts. He’s a proven workhorse, however, with an extensive October resume.
Oh, and he “really wanted” to play for the Red Sox in December 2015, per baseball guru Peter Gammons.
Obviously Boston would have to offer the Giants a solid return, possibly one that would sting in Beantown. San Francisco isn’t accustomed to being sellers and isn’t liable to jettison a charismatic player on the cheap.
Cueto, though, would look mighty fine behind Sale and take pressure off Price, Porcello et al.
Acquire RHP Sonny Gray from Oakland Athletics
Speaking of starting pitching, Boston has been linked to Oakland Athleticsright-hander Sonny Gray.
The 27-year-old has won two of his last three starts and racked up 34 strikeouts in 20.1 June innings. He’s still struggling to recover the form that saw him finish third in 2015 AL Cy Young Award voting, but he’s an ace-level talent when right.
He’s also on the Yankees’ radar, according to Joe Giglio of NJ Advance Media, meaning if the Red Sox netted him, they would be dinging their bitter foes in the process.
Gray is 27 years old can’t become a free agent until 2020. Boston or any club will have to open the MiLB vault to land him.
Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is hinting he won’t go all-in for an ace.
“Maybe other clubs are looking for that No. 1, No. 2 type starter. That’s not really important for us,” he said, per Alex Speier of the Boston Globe. “I think it’s more important to be in a position where we add depth for us, somebody that can help us win major league games if needed.”
Perhaps that’s true. At the same time, perhaps not.
Acquire LHP Jose Quintana from Chicago White Sox
On that note, Boston could target Sale’s old teammate, White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana.
Quintana’s overall 4.37 ERA doesn’t leap off the stat sheet. He’s posted a 1.78 ERA in June, however, and won four of five decisions.
Plus, the 28-year-old All-Star is inked to an eminently affordable contract that runs through 2020 with a pair of friendly team options.
The Red Sox have sent scouts to look at Quintana, per CBS Chicago’s Bruce Levine. The same is probably true for most if not all contenders, but it betrays an undeniable interest.
Boston would likely have to gut its farm to land Quintana while getting notably better in the short term.
Based on his history, that’s a swap Dombrowki would take.