Exploring Red Sox waiver trade period candidates

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 18: Dave Dombrowski the President of Baseball Operations of the Boston Red Sox stands at home plate before a game against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park on September 18, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Red Sox won 5-4. (Photo by Rich Gagnon/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 18: Dave Dombrowski the President of Baseball Operations of the Boston Red Sox stands at home plate before a game against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park on September 18, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Red Sox won 5-4. (Photo by Rich Gagnon/Getty Images) /

The non-waiver trade deadline has come and gone, but the Boston Red Sox may not be done adding to their roster.

Around baseball, July 31 is hyped up as the be-all-end-all of the MLB trade period. For the most part, it really is the height of the trade season as most high-profile deals are put through prior to the start of August. But that doesn’t mean teams, and the Red Sox specifically, can’t make any trades this month.

Before the non-waiver deadline, the Red Sox acquired Eduardo Nunez and Addison Reed via trades with the San Francisco Giants and New York Mets. Neither deal is going to cause shockwaves throughout the league, but both players are definite assets and have already begun to fit in well with the team – Nunez especially. Instead of going and acquiring the savior some fans think this team needs, the Red Sox added complementary pieces based on the expectation that the current group is already made up of enough talent to compete. That’s a solid strategy and in the grand scheme of things one that makes sense for this organization.

The Red Sox weren’t moving the necessary prospects to acquire players of Sonny Gray or Yu Darvish or J.D. Martinez‘s caliber. They also weren’t going to put themselves over the luxury tax to acquire players of that caliber. So they did the next best thing and added a quality infielder capable of filling in anywhere on the diamond and late-inning reliever to help bridge saves. This is still the same team that was projected to win somewhere between 90-96 games by most advanced predictions, they have the talent to do so.

But that doesn’t mean the Red Sox don’t have flaws. And just because the non-waiver deadline has passed, it doesn’t mean they can’t address those flaws. The waiver deadline is inherently more complicated than the familiar July deadline, so before we look at players that could be available, here’s a quick explanation.

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Expect a ton of big names to be placed on waivers around this time of year. Don’t, however, treat these moves with the same magnitude you would at other times of the year. Because players are revocable if another team claims them, most organizations are going to feel out the market on almost all of their players. If a player is ‘claimed’ by another organization, the team in control of his contract has two days to pull him off waivers or make a trade. If a player passes waivers, he can be traded to any of the 29 other teams. Teams can also simply let a player go if claimed, but they are then responsible for the remainder of his salary.

Stipulations in individual contracts slightly complicate matters as well, but for a general sense of the waiver deadline period, that’s all you need to know.

In 2012, the Red Sox’ famous trade with the Dodgers was performed on August 25th, sending Nick Punto, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Adrian Gonzalez to Los Angeles in exchange for Rubby De La Rosa, James Loney, Allen Webster, and Ivan De Jesus. That nine-player trade allowed the Red Sox to reset their payroll and set up an eventual World Series title in 2013. Just because the flashy trade deadline has passed, it doesn’t mean that impactful moves can’t be made.

Moving forward, it would make sense for the Red Sox to be connected to some names on the trade market. I definitely wouldn’t expect to see a trade like the one we saw in 2012 go down, but I would still be surprised if Boston remained quiet on the market.

One place they’re sure to look for help is in the power department. Their inaction during July’s trading period presented the current lineup an opportunity to prove that they’re capable of carrying the club themselves. We’ve yet to see them do so definitively, but they’ve shown flashes over the past seven games. Still, if they don’t catch fire over the next week or so, expect Dave Dombrowski to look for a rental bat on the market.

Two names that will inevitably come up are Jay Bruce and Yonder Alonso. Both are in the midst of career years and would be definite additions to the lineup, but lack a conventional fit on the roster.

Let’s begin with Bruce. His contract, like Alonso’s, is expiring at the end of the 2017 season. He’s currently hitting .265/.328/.534 for the New York Mets, and more than anything else is proving that his power is legit. His 24 home runs and 124 wRC+ are on-pace to be career marks, while his 74 RBIs are 10th in the MLB. Unlike any player currently on the Red Sox roster, he’s got the chance to be a definite power threat in a lineup that has been successful in every other department.

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Before you start imagining how dangerous the Red Sox would be with his bat in the lineup every day, let’s consider some of the constraints. For one, Bruce is a pure right-fielder that hasn’t spent significant time at another position except for first since 2008. He’s obviously not going to displace Mookie Betts in right field, so he’d really only be a first baseman/DH on the Red Sox. That means that, in all likelihood, Mitch Moreland is going to see significantly less playing time.

From an offensive perspective, Moreland spending more time on the bench isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But defensively, neither Hanley nor Bruce can do what Moreland does at first. Not just that, but his prorated salary would push the Red Sox over the luxury tax threshold – meaning someone needs to go the other way to offset his cost.

Is it really worth dealing from the current roster to add a 1B/DH that limits some of the roster’s flexibility? Bruce’s 24 home runs make it enticing, but again, there are factors that will limit management’s willingness to make such a deal.

Similar concerns surround Alonso, who had been linked to the Red Sox last month. He was floated as a solution to the club’s issues at third, which for the time being, have been solved by stud prospect Rafael Devers. There’s always the chance that the rookie’s success is temporary and he needs more time in the minors before he can sustainably breakout, but in his short time with the Red Sox, he’s looked every bit the part of a major leaguer.

Therefore, a trade for Alonso would have similar constraints as a deal for Bruce. His 22 home runs and 140 wRC+ made him an All-Star this season, but there’s no clear opening on the roster for him. He’s played first base nearly exclusively since 2013, meaning that once again Mitch Moreland would be displaced on the roster, limiting lineup flexibility.

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As it stands, it’s not clear that the Red Sox will be pressed to make a deal for either player. That doesn’t mean that they won’t make any deal, as there will certainly be other names that emerge over the coming weeks, but Bruce and Alonso are the most apparent right now. As it stands though, it’s probably going to take an injury or major downturn in collective performance for management to consider making such a splash.