MID-SEASON TRADE MART, pt. 2: Why not trade prospects for Lee AND Papelbon?


While it seems unlikely that prudent GM Cherington will eschew his disciplined mindset and his long-term plan to create his home-grown “Next Great Red Sox Team”  and suddenly “go all Theo” and take on two huge contracts, just to win it all in 2013, what would a trade for BOTH Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon look like?

UPDATED:

Posted: July 8, 7 a.m. ET

Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com has reported that the team’s current 10-game homestand will be crucial in deciding whether the Phillies are buyers or sellers at the deadline.

Ruben Amaro Jr. was quoted saying that these 10 games could decide what he does at the deadline.

This homestand is very important. We’ve got to play well to stay in contention, clearly. I think we’ll know a lot more about this team after this homestand.

These next 10 days are big.

 

Let’s suppose his boss, the patrician chap with the Euro soccer squad, gets World Series Fever and orders Ben to go after Cliff Lee OR Sox ex-pat Jonathan Papelbon?

Let’s play that out. But, let’s make it more interesting:

Let’s consider a trade that would net the Sox BOTH Lee and Papelbon!

Cherington’s GM poker partner Ruben Amaro, Jr., is currently trapped in the Netherworld, where GMs are trying to convince themselves that they might be close to “contending” for a Playoff slot and Amaro is aware that his contract ends after 2015.

If he publicly admits he is a “seller” now, he is telling the rabid Philly Phans that he has already thrown in the towel.  So, just in case the fading Phils go suddenly “en fuego” and leap into contention, before the All-Star game,  he will tread water, whilst blowing sunshine up the collective skirts of the media and Philly fans:

“But again, my job is to make sure that we are contenders every year. I know there are some things that have been written about us blowing things up and that sort of thing. I don’t think blowing things up, so to speak, is the way to go for us. I think that we have to do is try to be intelligent about the decisions that we make for now and for the future. And there are ways to do it and continue to contend and move pieces and move things around. Hopefully, we have the wherewithal [budget] to be able to do it well.”

From his side of the Poker table, Cherington does not want to seem desperate to trade to solve his One Starter/One Closer problem:

”Sometimes there’s a particular hole to fill, and sometimes it’s a matter of trying to find out whether you can upgrade. And I think time will tell. Right now, we’re focused on gathering information, doing a good job scouting, and we’ll look to find opportunities where we can and see what the biggest needs are.”

Now that we have dispensed with the mandatory Happy Horseshit PR statements, we can shuffle and deal.

WHAT THE RED SOX WANT:

#1 Starter: Lee

Closer: Papelbon

WHAT THE PHILLIES WANT:

XANDER BOGAERTS…”The X-Man”…”Bogey”…”X-Bog”

and…

PEN ARMS:  Philadelphia relievers are last in the National League and next-to-last in the majors with a 4.66 bullpen ERA.  In the 7th inning or later, the Phils’ bullpen is the worst in MLB with a 4.49 ERA.  Their 8th inning ERA is 5.31 and in the last 19 games relievers have allowed at least 1 run in the last 3 innings of 15 of those games.

RF:  Phillies right fielders have batted just .224 to rank last in the NL and second-to-last in the majors, ahead of only the Oakland Athletics. Their right fielders’ combined .668 OPS has the Phillies ranked 27th in baseball in that department and second-to-last in the NL.  Delmon Young’s .224 average and .674 OPS are not adequate on a Playoff contender.

SP:  With an ERA of 4.02 this season, the Phillies’ rank 16th among MLB rotations. Cole Hamels [4.58 ERA, 1.30 WHIP] is leading the majors in losses [2-11], but Lee is a possible NL Cy Young Award contender.

C:  Ruiz’s value has taken a nose dive since his breakout season of 2012 (.325 BA, 16 HR, 68 RBI, 32 2B). Since returning from a 25-game suspension for a positive test for amphetamine use, the 34-year-old is hitting .273 with no homers and two doubles in 77 at-bats. $5 million in the last year of his contract.

1b/3b:   Veteran Michael Young is owed around $3 million for the remainder of the season and is headed to a contender [think Dodgers].

2b:  Utley’s knees are shaky and he is getting $15 million in the last year of his contract and is headed to a contender [think Oakland].

Q:  WILL CHERINGTON PUT #1 PROSPECT BOGAERTS ON THE TABLE?

A: No.  Cherington has made Bogaerts the keystone of his “Next Great Red Sox Team,” which Ben sees as his magnum opus, his legacy.  And, trading his #1 prospect, the future face of the franchise, would have a negative media spin and, worse–for Ben Cherington–show a lack of discipline.

After dozen several dozen hands of poker, 705 mls of Single Malt Glen Garioch Scotch, and 5 bathroom breaks, 

RED SOX GET:

Cliff Lee: 2.51 ERA, 118.1 IP, 96 H, 18 BB, 105 K in 16 starts.
Cash: $12.5M

Jonathan Papelbon: 2.05 ERA, 30.2 IP, 22 H, 5 BB, 27 K, 15 SVs.

After another several dozen hands of poker, another  705 mls of Single Malt Glen Garioch Scotch, 5 more bathroom breaks, and a plate full of Little Debbie treats, Amaro finally accepts that Cherington will NOT include:

PEN ARMS:  Wilson, Breslow, de la Rosa.

RF:  Jackie Bradley

SP:  Doubront, Webster, Workman, Barnes, Owens

C:  Blake Swihart [Sox #6, Baseball American Prospect Handbook, 2013]

1b/3b:   Devan Marrero [Sox #10, Baseball American Prospect Handbook, 2013], because he is rated Best Pure Hitter and Best Defensive Player [BA PH, 2013] in the Sox organization.

2b:  Sean Coyle [Sox #24, Baseball American Prospect Handbook, 2013] and the Pedroia clone.

 

After Cherington offers  a second plate full of Little Debbie treats, Amaro agrees to take these Sox prospects:

PEN ARMS:  Drake Britton, LHP [Sox #11, Baseball American Prospect Handbook, 2013]

Pat Light, RHP [Sox #21, Baseball American Prospect Handbook, 2013]

RF:  Brad Brentz [Sox #8, Baseball American Prospect Handbook, 2013]

SP:  Anthony Ranaudo [Sox #14, Baseball American Prospect Handbook, 2013]

C:  Christian Vazquez [Sox #19, Baseball American Prospect Handbook, 2013]

1b/3b:   Travis Shaw [Sox #23, Baseball American Prospect Handbook, 2013]

2b:  Garin Cecchini [Sox #7, Baseball American Prospect Handbook, 2013]

 

CONSIDERING THE COST

The Sox get 2 proven MLB pitchers and the Phillies get 7 prospects.

The Sox take on two huge salaries: Lee [$12.5 Million through 2015, vesting 2016] and Papelbon [$13 Million through 2015, vesting 2016].

The Good News:

For 2013, the Sox will only owe the balance of the two salaries [@$6.25 Million/$6.5 Million].

Thus, Cherington needs to add $12.75 Million to his budget for 2013 and, happily, the Luxury Tax payroll threshold for 2013 is $178 Million and the Sox are currently at about $157 Million; so they could spend $21 Million more and not pay the tax. [Send a plate full of Little Debbie treats down to the Beancounter Office for their party.]

The No-So-Bad News:

With the 2013 season about half over, Cherington needs to find ONLY an extra $12/.75.

He will need to add $25.5 Million in his budget for 2014, 2015, possibly 2016.

With the Luxury Tax payroll threshold for 2013 at $178 Million and the Sox currently at about $157 Million, adding these two full salaries, after 2013, it would put the Sox at $182.5, or $4.5 Million in the red for tax penalty.  [The departure of Ellsbury $9 Million would put Ben back into the black @+$4.5 Million.]

Q:  Should the Sox do this deal?

My answer would be yes–with an explanation.

  1. Having Lee anchor the emerging young “Next Great Red Sox Team” rotation would benefit the team and the development of RHP Matt Barnes [#3], RHP Allen Webster [#4], LHP Henry Owens [#5], RHP Brandon Workman [#12], LHP Brian Johnson [#15], et al.
  2. Given his history of durability [232 innings in 2011, 211 innings in 2012, and 181 innings in just half a season in 2013], Lee projects to crank out 200+ innings in 2014 and 2015.  At best he retains his Ace role, but, at worst, he may drop down to the 2, 3, or even 4 slot in the rotation.
  3. Although Papelbon costs half-a-million more than Lee per year, reliable closers [think Bailey, Hanarahan] are worth the money.  At best Pap is back in his groove in Fenway again and serves as the closer for the full three years of his contract.  At worst, he slides back to the set-up role for Uehara or Tazawa for two years and the Sox pass on the 2016 option year.
  4. Thanks to the depth of the Red Sox organization, Ben can afford to peel off 7 prospects and still not surrender some key players on his “Next Great Red Sox Team.”
  5. The Great El Lay Dollar Dump left the Sox flush with funds, so they can afford to take on two 2-year commitments for large salaries for targeted needs at Ace and Closer.

Now that owner John Henry has sent Larry Lucchino back downstairs to his office to resume promoting ticket sales and selling pink trinkets [“Pink Fenway Bricks” Larry?] and has let Ben be a real GM, who has a real plan, the “Next Great Red Sox Team” built from mostly home-grown talent–this trade for Lee and Pap feels right.

WOULD YOU MAKE THIS DEAL?

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Tags: Ben Cherington Cliff Lee Jonathan Papelbon Popular Prospects

  • Paul Prims

    I get Lee and Pap and I don’t have to give up X-Man, Rubby, Webster, Marrero or Owens? Sign me up immediately. I like the idea of giving up seven B guys instead of 2 or 3 A guys. It’s creative and Phils do need inventory.

  • Rick M

    Without top prospects in the mix the deal does not get done. The only redeeming possibility is the absorption of the huge Lee contract that could lower the prospect cost.

    Either way I’d be inclined to pass on the deal and look at a lower cost option such as Garza.

    • John Fahrer

      Have a feeling the Cubs will want a decent haul for Garza too.

      If they agree to take the entire remaining salary, the only top prospect I’d package away is Barnes.

      • Willy W

        I have a popsicle headacheafter reading this, well, messy & confusing article. Im with you John, as usual. No wa Im trading Bogey, Owens, Bradley jr or Brentz, we need them. Less concerned about the rest. Not huge fan anymore of Garza, Id pass.

        • John Fahrer

          Garza’s a middle of the rotation starter who currently has an outrageous price tag. Plus they won’t be able to offer him arbitration after the year if he were to pitch well enough to be worthy of a qualifying offer.

          The Sox need to take a page out of the Lakers’ book and take a patient approach in their attempt to obtain Lee like LA did in their pursuit of Dwight Howard. Offer a fair, but not overwhelming from the seller’s perspective deal, for Lee. There’s a pretty good chance it could work.

          • Willy W

            I agree. Though I dont see Ben going after the 2, (unless pressured by Ownership). I know he’s always liked Lee, so do I But Ben likes his prospects more & this is a “Bridge” year so…
            I dont believe they have any interest in Garza anymore & for what it’s worth he really couldnt help them. At least not much more than what they already have. Lee on he other hand I believe would help them alot. We’ll see but I think Ben will only acquire a reliever & little else.

          • John Fahrer

            They can acquire a reliever by promoting from within. There’s really no attractive names out there if you go by ridiculous contracts (Papelbon who will be dealt to the Tigers or will stay put) or past performance (Kevin Gregg
            is fool’s gold and will make the second half of 07 Eric Gagne look like Rivera). Plus the way they made a deal for a reliever last year (reliever for a reliever) doesn’t look like it’s in play at the moment.

          • Willy W

            You may be right & it wouldnt suprise me at all. We’ll see. I know what I would do but I havent a clue what Ben will do.

        • stephenepeterson

          Popsicle headache. Brilliant!

      • Rick M

        Garza will be less than Lee for sure. FA at end of 2013 and his splits against AL East and in Fenway match up a wee bit better than Lee. I can see a less for Garza and “just say no” if not. Sox are in a great position. IMO with Garza you get a productive rental and don’t strip the farm system and carry on a big payroll hit.

        • John Fahrer

          Epstein is rumored to want two or three top prospects in any deal, even for Garza.

          Lee’s 35 and making a ton. If the Sox offer to absorb that whole contract, which they can afford to do, the cost to acquire him won’t be stripping the farm.

  • http://sbpra.com/paulvsuffriti Paul V. Suffriti

    A pipe dream….Phils will not give up Lee or Papelbon for anything less than top prospects. They will dangle them in front of contenders until they get what they want. Tigers may give in for Papelbon.

    Lee would be a great pickup for the Pats rotation, but not for the Sox top prospects.

    • stephenepeterson

      Tigers are desperate enough to bite on Pap for sure. I think they sense it’s do or die time if they are to get it done. If they don’t win it all this year Detroit may just start either self-destructing or consciously breaking up the team.

  • John Fahrer

    The way Koji’shandling the ninth inning, why not just look from within for setup help while keeping Uehara where he is?

    Bradley, Bogaerts, DeLaRosa, Webster, Owens, Ranaudo, Cecchini, and Swihart should be dubbed untouchable.

    Brentz and Barnes are borderline untouchable though I’d do all I can to keep the former.

    They have a couple expendable but high ceiling guys in 2B prospects Mookie Betts and Sean Coyle.

  • Willy W

    Ugh, I have a headache now.

  • Crusader10

    Are you out of your mind? Are there any prospects left after this deal? I wouldn’t make this deal with a gun pointed at my head!

  • Kennythelid

    I guarantee you this deal will not happen…if they do this deal or anything close to it, they would be looking for a new GM because Ben would quit. Everything this team needs they already have at the major league level or in the minors.

  • jack

    who the fuck is brad brentz. do you mean bryce or

    • Rick M

      Brad is his evil twin….probably in Yankee’s system.

      • stephenepeterson

        Here’s hoping Brentz doesn’t end up shooting his career in the, ah, foot?