The combination of a breakout year in 2013 and no real fit for him in Boston has made Mike Carp a pretty desirable trade candidate over the winter. After being acquired from the Seattle Mariners for virtually nothing in spring training last season, Carp had a career year coming off the bench for Boston. He slashed .296/.362/.523 with nine home runs and 43 RBIs in 243 plate appearances while filling in at both first base and left field. Unfortunately, despite Carp’s combination of defensive versatility and success at the plate last season, the Red Sox have still not been able to fit him into an everyday role.
That’s where the Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh Pirates come into play. Both teams have holes at first base– the Pirates have one half of a platoon in Gaby Sanchez, but no left-handed half and the Brewers have a multitude of mediocre options such as Juan Francisco, Lyle Overbay, and Mark Reynolds– which could be filled by Carp and both teams have reportedly been scouting Carp in recent spring training games.
The Red Sox don’t have a lot of holes that could be filled at the Major League roster, but both the Brewers and Pirates have interesting minor leaguers to whom the Red Sox should give their due diligence. Let’s take a look.
- The Red Sox do not have a ton of depth in the corner outfield outside of their major league roster, but the Brewers have Mitch Haniger, a 23-year old outfielder who will start the 2014 season in Double-A. Haniger is a solid overall player that doesn’t stand out in any one way but posts decent numbers in many categories as he slashed .264/.348/.431 with 11 home runs and 9 stolen bases between Single-A and High-A last season.
- The Red Sox have plenty of depth at third base right now, but that won’t matter by the time Tucker Neuhaus is ready for the majors. He is still very raw and a long way from the majors, but there is lots of projection in his 6’3″ 190 pound frame. Drafted in 2013, he hit just .231/.311/.303 in Rookie Ball, but has the chance to develop into a solid third baseman a few years down the line.
- Behind Mike Napoli (and Carp), the Red Sox don’t have a whole lot of first base depth in the minor league system. However, the Brewers have a very solid first base prospect in Hunter Morris, who slashed .247/.310/.457 with 24 home runs as a 24-year old in Triple-A Nashville last season. The Red Sox and Brewers could conduct a nice little first-baseman-of-the-present for first-baseman-of-the-future trade.
- Continuing in the vein of corner outfielders, the Red Sox could try to make a play on Josh Bell. Bell signed an enormous bonus after being selected in the second round of the 2011 draft by the Pirates, but his minor league career has been derailed by injuries thus far. However, there’s nothing wrong with the .279/.353/.453 slash line he posted in 119 games in Single-A when healthy last season. Bell has an incredibly advanced bat for his age and could be something special in a few years time.
- Another similarly intriguing corner outfield bat is 21-year old Willy Garcia, who spent 2013 in High-A Bradenton. He has an interesting tool set with raw power as well as some speed and he slashed .256/.294/.437 with 16 home runs and 13 stolen bases last season. He’ll need to cut down on his strikeouts as well as walk more, but he could become a solid player a few years down the line.
- The Red Sox have quite a bit of pitching in the upper levels of the minors, but more never hurts and that’s the attitude they should take with Nick Kingham. Kingham spent the 2013 season between High-A Bradenton and Double-A Altoona and posted a 2.89 ERA with excellent peripherals (a 9.0 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9). He’s still just 22 years old and has the chance to develop into a mid-rotation starter if all goes well and the Red Sox could absolutely take a flyer on him.
Of those possibilities, the potential acquisitions of Bell and Kingham are the most intriguing in my opinion. Both of those players could develop into solid Major Leaguers in a few years. The only question is whether or not the Pirates would give up one of them to acquire Carp. It seems most likely to me that a deal does not get done and Carp remains the Red Sox’ backup first baseman and emergency outfielder. However, if Kingham or Bell were on the table, then I’d make the deal without doubt.