Blockbuster trades are difficult to execute because they have to benefit all of the teams involved. It’s great that fans want to see ace pitchers litter their starting rotation; however, someone has to be the responsible one and say: We’re giving up too much for this! In the case of the Boston Red Sox, the time is shortly approaching where they have to decide whether a trade for a big-time pitcher is worth the risk this season or that they should be sellers and start the rebuilding process, once again, for next season.
Jason Mastrodonato of The Boston Herald tweeted the conflict brewing inside Red Sox manager John Farrell‘s mind about the trade dilemma:
Farrell has shown immense support of his own players in his time in Boston, including playing veterans like Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli who have both severely struggled this season. For Farrell to publicly admit that there is a problem that a trade could solve, it says a great deal about how this issue must have plagued his mind for the last few weeks, if not months.
With Clay Buchholz put on the disabled list for his elbow, the Red Sox lose their ace pitcher in the rotation. The statistics show that Boston’s starters have been slowly progressing as a group, but they are in need of some serious help very soon.
Enter the Grayest of blue skies.
Oakland Athletics starter Sonny Gray should be what Red Sox executives are looking for, especially general manager Ben Cherington. With being 6.5 games out of the American League East division lead, and also in the hunt for a wildcard spot, a trade is inevitable. Therefore, why not look for a player who can help you now and after the 2015 season?
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Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe echoed that sentiment two days ago: “The Red Sox seem to want controllable, young pitchers if they’re going to give up top prospects. Sonny Gray and Chris Sale would fall into that category, but good luck extracting either from the A’s and White Sox, respectively. Given Billy Beane‘s penchant for doing things you don’t expect, Gray’s availability is more likely than Sale’s. Johnny Cueto has been linked a lot to the Red Sox, but they don’t like the idea of a rental.” The exact same thing should be said for the notion that Cole Hamels would be the Red Sox savior, as well.
At 25 years of age, Gray is young enough and talented enough to help the Red Sox past this season’s turmoil, instead of creating free-agent pitfalls this winter. The Tennessee native has posted a record of 10-3 with a 2.04 ERA in 18 starts, with the five no-decisions stemming from the fact that the Athletics are sitting in the A.L. West division basement. Gray sits second only to Zack Greinke as having the lowest ERA in the majors (1.39). Gray is another righty, but with a stat like that, does anyone care?
Jul 5, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics pitcher Sonny Gray (54) laughs while talking with Golden State Warriors center Festus Ezeli at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Financially, there’s not even a question. The three-year veteran is only working for just over $500 thousand this season, with earliest arbitration in 2017 and free agency in 2020, much like some of Boston’s young talent. Hamels and Cueto already make ridiculously more money than Gray. Hamels is contractually guaranteed another $70.5 million between 2016 and 2019, and Cueto is going to want a king’s ransom of a new contract when 2015 is over. Even as rental pieces, Hamels or Cueto would cost a lot of money for a team still sitting at the bottom of the division. Try explaining that trade to the team’s owners and shareholders at the next meeting.
For the money, there is no question on the field either. Gray’s .198 opposing team batting average is one of the best in baseball, establishing him as a force before he even grows old enough to come into his own. Cueto is just ahead of him in that respect (.196 BA), but he’s already grown to be who he is at the age of 29. Hamels’ average is .237 and, at 31, he’s more likely to regress than improve in the next few years.
Not to be forgotten, Chris Sale’s record is 8-4, with a 2.72 ERA and opposing team batting average of .206. Sale also plays for a bad team, the Chicago White Sox, but they are far less likely to give him up without a bunch of youth in return. They tried to buy a World Series the last off-season, much like the Red Sox, and now look to be sellers to try and forget the 11 games that they are behind in the A.L. Central division.
The difference between the White Sox and Red Sox, besides their foot attire, is their youth. Boston’s Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Blake Swihart look to be solid MLB players, with Betts and Bogaerts looking like future All-Stars. Brock Holt, another youthful star, is already an All-Star this season. There’s hope brewing in Beantown, unlike in Chicago and the White Sox. Cherington is not going to want to let go of those players because they are the proven future of the Red Sox, not just prospects or talented young boys anymore.
If Cherington will only use the other parts to his plethora of prospects in the Red Sox system, then Oakland seems like the best chance to pull off a trade deal that makes sense for both teams. The Red Sox have a number of veterans like Victorino, Napoli, and possibly Daniel Nava to add in a packaged deal of some prospects in order to tempt Beane and the Athletics, a team lacking in veteran leadership. Oakland’s ability to squeeze and drain the last ounces of talent juice out of veterans has been well documented and could entice them to take a chance on the deal.
Gray would be the only asset that Oakland could give the Red Sox that they would absolutely need, not only this year but in the future as well. The Red Sox need starting pitching now, and Gray looks like a great fit in the trending Red Sox youth movement. Veterans give you leadership. Youth gives you the future. However, the balance of the two gives you chances at championships. Gray is not only Boston’s chance at sunny days ahead in 2015; he is their only chance, in terms of trades, for sunny days beyond this season.
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