3 Red Sox trade candidates from teams already falling out of contention

2024 Red Sox Winter Weekend
2024 Red Sox Winter Weekend / Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/GettyImages

The Boston Red Sox are holding their own in the American League playoff picture, for now. However, the AL is loaded with talented teams, and it’s difficult to envision a path where the Red Sox finish with a better record than Baltimore, New York, Cleveland, Kansas City, Minnesota, Seattle, or Texas come September. Even fringe contenders like Tampa Bay, Detroit, and Toronto could get hot and vault Boston in the standings.

The Red Sox have beaten some expectations early in the season, but there’s a long way to go given the current state of the team. Craig Breslow has shown a penchant for trades during his tenure as chief baseball officer, and his first trade deadline will likely be heavily scrutinized. How will position the Red Sox post-trade deadline? Will he buy, sell, or buy and sell? 

If the Sox become buyers, Breslow will target players who are under team control, meaning they are pre-arbitration, currently in arbitration, or have at least a couple of years left on a team-friendly contract. The Red Sox will not break the bank for an expensive rental. Boston has played well thus far, but there's little chance it will move mountains in the postseason. Breslow wants to bolster the team this season and for years to come, but not at the expense of moving marquee prospects or taking on a lot of salary. 

The Miami Marlins, Chicago White Sox, and Colorado Rockies (despite a current six-game win streak) are already out of the playoff picture and will be in sell mode come late July. If the Red Sox want to push in a few chips to acquire a player or two, who could mesh well into the fabric of the team? 

3 Red Sox trade candidates from teams already falling out of contention

Sixto Sánchez

The Marlins have very few players, if any, who are untouchable on their major league roster. Most fans will gravitate towards reliever Tanner Scott and starting pitcher Jesús Luzardo as players to target,  but Scott is an upcoming free agent. Luzardo would require a massive haul, and the Red Sox already have one of the best starting rotations in baseball.

Sixto Sánchez showed flashes of dominance before a cavalcade of injuries derailed his promising young career. Sánchez started the year in the Marlins bullpen but has recently been thrust back into their starting rotation. Should the Red Sox target Sánchez, they would move him back to the bullpen given his first-inning struggles and the Sox’s loaded rotation. 

Sánchez could flourish with a new team and has enough upside to easily compete for a spot in the rotation for years to come. He’s making $742,000 this season and remains pre-arb for the following two years. 

Sánchez follows some rules Boston's new pitching coach Andrew Bailey follows. He only throws his 4-seam and sinker 34.9% of the time, which is right in line with Red Sox's fastball usage this season. He divvies up his arsenal evenly, throwing roughly 1/3 fastballs, 1/3 sliders, and 1/3 changeups. Sánchez is working to get his fastball velocity back, but can still throw in the mid-90s.

In a bullpen role, his velocity would likely get back to the upper 90s in time. His 4-seam is flat (dead-zone), but Bailey would likely scrap it so he becomes a sinker-baller (see: Brayan Bello). His changeup is his best pitch, as it has exceptional horizontal movement and good depth from good arm action. His slider needs some work.

Luis Robert Jr.

Luis Robert Jr. is the most audacious trade candidate that the Red Sox could reasonably target. Robert has genuine trade value and makes a good amount of money, which goes against the Sox's recent strategy, though.

That being said, Robert is a bona fide stud, and the White Sox could easily cash in on him this year. The Red Sox would be fools to not consider trading for him. 

Robert, a 26-year-old centerfielder, is coming off of a 2023 campaign in which he won a Silver Slugger, made the All-Star team, and finished 12th in MVP voting. His 8.7 defensive WAR ranked 20th in all of baseball, and he added 20 stolen bases. While the Cuban outfielder has a less-than-ideal injury history, he is a five-tool player who will undoubtedly thrive once back on the field and off the White Sox. 

Robert's contract is a bargain. Given his potential, his $15 million next year, and two club options from 2026-27 is an absolute steal. For reference, next season Robert will make less money than Rafael Devers, Trevor Story, Lucas Giolito, and Masataka Yoshida

Despite his talent, there is a path to acquire Robert without sacrificing Marcelo Mayer, Kyle Teel, or Roman Anthony. The Red Sox have a number of young, talented players at both the major and minor league levels who have trade value.

Ideally, the Red Sox would hold onto Wilyer Abreu, but he should not be untouchable if a deal for Robert is on the table. Although Abreu is a Rookie of the Year candidate and is positioning himself well for a solid career, his upside is not as high as Robert's. If the Red Sox could frame a Robert trade around Jarren Duran, Ceddanne Rafaela, Nick Yorke, and a semi-promising pitching prospect or two, it'd be a big win.

Justin Lawrence

Justin Lawrence is one of the nastiest pitchers in baseball, and his talents aren’t widely lauded due to Colorado’s altitude killing his numbers. Lawrence has struggled so far this season, but all but one of his bad outings occurred at Coors Field. Lawrence has untapped potential if he’s moved out of a pitcher’s worst nightmare of a ballpark. 

Lawrence’s stuff is so good he could win the Red Sox closer role next season if a trade were to occur. His bowling ball sinker averages 95.7mph with above-average arm-side run, and he throws his frisbee sweeper 42% of the time. Lawrence's sweeper averages 14.7 inches of sweep, which ranks 40th in MLB. Only four pitchers have more horizontal movement on their sweeper at a higher velocity, as Lawrence's averages 84.3mph (Sonny Gray, Evan Phillips, Brock Stewart, and Orion Kerkering). His profile is exactly what Breslow and Bailey want in hurlers — they love guys with massive horizontal separation, like Greg Weissert and Cooper Criswell.

Lawrence enters arbitration for the first time next season, so his on-field contributions could easily outweigh his contract figure if the Sox acquire him from Colorado. This season, Lawrence would slot in perfectly in the back end of the bullpen. Best of all, Lawrence wouldn’t require a tremendous haul given his subpar traditional numbers and Colorado already falling out of contention.

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