Red Sox Trade Rumors: Rangers interested in Boston’s high-priced starting pitchers

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - MAY 08: Starting pitcher Chris Sale #41 of the Boston Red Sox works the third inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 08, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - MAY 08: Starting pitcher Chris Sale #41 of the Boston Red Sox works the third inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 08, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

The Texas Rangers have reportedly held internal discussions about potentially trading for one of the Boston Red Sox starting pitchers.

The solution to the Boston Red Sox payroll problems may come from the Texas Rangers. According to Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News, the Rangers have held internal discussions about the possibility of trading for one of Boston’s high-priced starting pitchers.

It’s no secret that the Red Sox plan to slash payroll in order to avoid paying the luxury tax for a third consecutive year. The common perception is that a tight budget will inevitably force the Red Sox to let J.D. Martinez walk away or trade Mookie Betts but they won’t need to if they’re able to unload one of their expensive pitchers instead.

Texas could be a match if the Red Sox are willing to trade away pitching. They could use a top of the rotation starter and have money to spend but they’re unlikely to break the bank for Gerrit Cole on the free agent market. The Rangers are moving into a new stadium and could use a high-profile addition to lure fans to the ballpark.

Chris Sale is the biggest name the Red Sox could offer but he’s also the most expensive. Sale’s albatross of a contract owes him $145 million over the next five years. That’s a fair deal if we knew he was still the Cy Young-candidate we saw from 2012-2018. It’s unclear if that version still exists.

Sale is coming off the worst year of his career in which he went 6-11 with a 4.40 ERA. He missed significant time with injuries over the last two seasons, the latest of which ended his 2019 season in August. The lefty’s health is a question mark that would make him a very expensive gamble for any team considering trading for him. His upside is massive but the downside could cripple the Rangers.

David Price may not have Sale’s ceiling but he has a higher floor. He’s also coming off the worst season of his career but his numbers are marred by a rough patch while attempting to pitch through discomfort caused by a cyst on his wrist. Price was in the midst of an excellent campaign through the first half of the season before the injury derailed him. He had surgery to ensure the cyst will no longer be an issue so he should be able to bounce back next year.

Price is owed $32 million in each of the next three years. It’s a steep price but the shorter commitment makes it a more affordable investment than chasing a top-tier starter in free agency.

The wild card is Nathan Eovaldi. He’s always had tantalizing upside but he’s yet to tap into it for a full season. He pitched well after the Red Sox acquired him in a mid-season trade last year and he was a postseason hero. 2019 was a disaster though. Eovaldi missed most of the year following a procedure to remove loose bodies from his elbow and pitched poorly while bouncing between the rotation and bullpen. He produced a 5.99 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, and 4.7 BB/9.

Eovaldi is the cheapest of the trio with $51 million remaining on his contract over the next three years. He’s risky coming off another injury-plagued season with two Tommy John surgeries on his resume but he could be a bargain if he ever reaches his potential while staying healthy.

Moving any of these pitchers would easily put Boston below the tax line but unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Trading away a key cog in their rotation means they’ll need to find a replacement. They’re already in the market for a fifth starter and their farm system lacks any appealing major league-ready options. They could find two serviceable starters for less than what they’re paying Sale or Price but the rotation would be weaker without them. Anyone they sign to fill out their rotation would eat into the payroll savings they carved out in the trade.

The Rangers may also insist on the Red Sox paying a portion of the salary owed to the pitcher they are trading or taking back a bad contract in return.

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The report from The Dallas Morning News mentions Shin-Soo Choo as an option if Martinez opts-out of his deal and leaves in free agency. He obviously isn’t the hitter that Martinez is but Choo owns a solid .826 OPS for his career and topped 20 home runs in four of the last five seasons, including a career-high 24 homers this year.

Choo is owed $21 million in the final year of his contract. He’s overpaid for what he’ll produce but swapping either of their top two pitchers for him while assuming Martinez leaves saves the Red Sox a significant amount for next year while clearing a massive weight from their future payroll.

The report also mentions Rougned Odor as an option under the assumption that Dustin Pedroia won’t be healthy enough to play, leaving the Red Sox in need of a second baseman. Odor offers 30+ homer upside but he led the league in strikeouts this season and barely kept his batting average above the Mendoza Line for the second time in the last three years. He’s also a poor defensive second baseman.

Odor is owed $34 million over the next three years plus a $3 million buyout for his 2023 team option. He’s cheaper than Choo but far less desirable considering he’s less productive and comes with a multi-year commitment.

It’s hard to imagine the Red Sox being a better team in 2020 if they trade away any of these pitchers. However, clearing one of their salaries from the books would be beneficial in the long run as Chaim Bloom implements his blueprint for the club’s future.

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It once seemed that these bloated contracts were unmovable but rumored interest from another team sparks hope that the Red Sox can unload one of their overpaid pitchers to meet their payroll goals without giving up any other pieces of their core.