The 2023 Red Sox find themselves in a similar situation that they were in last season. Buy or sell? It’s a tough call, considering the team is six games over .500 (50-44), yet they sit in fourth place in an ultra-competitive AL East division. If the Red Sox decide to sell, let’s take a look at their five most valuable trade chips that could be moved at the deadline.
Red Sox best trade chips -- 5. Enrique Hernandez
If you want to talk about some of the best postseason players in our game, you can’t forget to mention Kiké Hernandez, who is coming off a historic postseason with the Red Sox in 2021. During the Sox 2021 ALCS run, Hernandez hit a scorching .408 with 5 homers, carrying the Red Sox offense into a surprisingly deep postseason run. Lifetime, he’s a .269 hitter with 13 home runs in the postseason, with some of his clutch making for signature postseason moments. Dodger fans will always remember his three-homer game in the 2017 NLCS, or his pinch-hit game-tying home run in game 7 of the 2020 NLCS against the Braves. Aside from his playoff heroics, Hernandez brings a lot of defensive versatility to the table. He plays an incredible center field, while also logging time at shortstop for Boston this season. While it’s clear Kiké has had his struggles this season, he’s an awesome rental for any team that needs a veteran playoff bat.
Red Sox best trade chips -- 4. Chris Martin
Martin has been outstanding in his first year with Boston, posting the best numbers of any Red Sox reliever so far this season. While some were grumbling about Alex Verdugo and Masataka Yoshida being snubbed (rightfully so), but maybe it was Martin who has had perhaps the most unsung performance of any player on this squad. So far Martin has a 1.57 ERA in 28 ⅔ innings of work, filling the much-needed void of a setup reliever for Boston. Mostly with Atlanta, Martin has been a stellar and reliable playoff arm, posting a 1.88 career postseason ERA over 14 ⅓ innings pitched. For any team in need of a reliable bullpen arm, Martin would be a worthy acquisition.
Red Sox best trade chips -- 3. Kenley Jansen
It came as a slight shock to Red Sox nation when Jansen was named as the team’s All Star representative, who has been decent in his first year with Boston. So far Jansen has logged 20 saves in 23 opportunities with a 3.19 ERA in 31 innings. With Aroldis Chapman recently dealt to Texas, the market for quality relievers is incredibly thin at this year's deadline. Even if you’re convinced Jansen may not be the closer he was five years ago, he’s still got some incredible playoff numbers that make him worthwhile to take a chance on. Over 65 ⅓ career playoff innings, Jansen has a 2.20 ERA with a .148 opponent batting average, articulating the true dominance he has imposed as a playoff pitcher over the years. However, dealing Jansen might be a little more difficult than a cheap rental like Kike Hernandez or James Paxton. Jansen is still due another 16 million dollars for the 2024 season, which may eliminate him as a possible trade target for small market teams like the Marlins or Reds. The Arizona Diamondbacks would be a wonderful fit for Jansen, a contending team still in need of a closer and more bullpen help. As we inch closer to the deadline, it will be interesting to monitor the status of the future hall of fame closer.
Red Sox best trade chips -- 2. James Paxton
After sitting with 93 MPH fastball velocity with Seattle during the 2021 season, it was clear something was wrong with the veteran lefty. Paxton made his last start on April 6, 2021, and then underwent Tommy John surgery, missing more than two seasons, making his Red Sox debut on May 9 of this year. Though two years away from baseball is quite some time, it’s clear Paxton has returned to his spectacular form. The live arm we saw from Paxton years ago is back, notching an average fastball velocity of 95.8 mph this season. It’s the highest average fastball we’ve seen from Paxton since 2017, a pretty remarkable feat for the 34-year-old.
While the fastball velocity is back in full force, Paxton’s arsenal as a whole has been on point. In eight of his eleven starts, Paxton has five or more strikeouts, with six of those eleven starts going six or more innings. Overall, he’s sitting with a 3.51 ERA with 68 strikeouts over 59 innings. The Big Maple is back in ace form, posing as a strong addition to any team looking for an elite starter for the upcoming postseason. If available, the market for Paxton will be wide and competitive considering how barren the starter market at the deadline is currently.
With Shohei Ohtani likely staying in Anaheim and Marcus Stroman looking for an extension in Chicago, Jordan Montgomery seems like the only other viable name that could be available. Paxton is also on a club-friendly deal, earning just $4 million on the player's option he picked up this year. This widens his range for smaller market teams like the Reds or Diamondbacks who might not be able to afford a Justin Verlander or Max Scherzer contract if they become available at the deadline.
Red Sox best trade chips -- 1. Justin Turner
The Dodgers decided against re-signing Turner this offseason, sending waves of shock throughout the fanbase. Boston scooped in and signed Turner to a one-year deal with a 13.4 million dollar player option for next season, making him a valuable asset at this year’s deadline. Over his 15-year career, Turner has played in 86 playoff games, all with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Hitting at the top of the Dodgers playoff lineup for years on end, Turner has a career .270 slash with 13 homers in 315 playoff at-bats. At age 38, Turner would be a great addition for any playoff contender looking to add a veteran bat. Once a very good third baseman, Turner’s older age has limited his defensive flexibility, now just logging him time at DH and first base. The Cincinnati Reds would be a wonderful fit for Turner, a possible young playoff team with a lineup that severely lacks playoff experience. Turner, along with Joey Votto would make for a great leadership tandem to help fuel a deep playoff run for Cincinnati.
While it’s tempting to compete for a wild card spot, it’s also hard not to wonder how just many quality prospects Boston could reel in from dealing these veterans. Unlike last year, Boston has to go all in on either buying or selling. Last year, they did a mix of both and it was absolutely disastrous, with the clubhouse virtually falling apart after trading longtime catcher Christian Vasquez. So are the Red Sox buying or selling? Regardless of what they are doing, they can only choose one.