Three moves the Red Sox should make no matter what happens between now and the July 31 trading deadline:
1. Trade Jake Peavy.
This is an easy one, right? We all know that won-lost records can be deceiving for starting pitchers, so forget the mark of 1-8. Peavy is 33. He is making $14.5 million this year. He is a free agent at the end of the season. Most importantly, the Red Sox can replicate what he gives them, which is to say that anyone from a cast of young pitchers including Rubby De La Rosa and Brandon Workman (among others) can seamlessly replace him. Peavy would have obvious value in the National League, where his career ERA (3.29) is nearly a run lower than his career ERA in the American League (4.59).
One tip for the Red Sox: don’t cheap out by asking another team to pay a chunk of the $5.5 million remaining on Peavy’s contract. Eat the money and get the best player possible. One of the advantages the Sox have over most other clubs is cash. Use it. Coming in under budget on the 2014 season does nothing to help the future.
2. Trade Will Middlebrooks, Garin Cecchini or Deven Marrero (or some combination of the three).
At the risk of sending the Baseball America Youth into a spin, someone has to go. Like the Celtics, the Red Sox have too many players for too few positions. Middlebrooks, Cecchini and Marrero all have different skills sets, and we know for certain that Xander Bogaerts is going to end somewhere up on the left side of the infield. Whether the Sox deal one of these guys now or later is open to debate – the offseason pool of available talent might be greater – but the Sox need to make it clear that one (or more) of this trio is available.
The choice here might not be as clear cut as many would like to believe. Marrero has had the best year of the three and is a gifted defensive player at shortstop, which gives him the edge. (It also gives him the most value.) Middlebrooks, hits for power, but is batting .222 in the majors since the start of 2013. Cechinni has dipped to a .253/.328/.331 at Pawtucket this year and doesn’t hit for enough power while possessing defensive questions.
The thought here? Keep Marrero, who was a first-round pick. Put the other two in play – maybe even as a tandem – and see what you can get.
3. Trade Felix Doubront or Andrew Miller – or both.
Again, Doubront is an easy one. Relegated to the bullpen, he has pitched just four times since May 20, twice since June 24, not at all after July 7. Um, why is he here? We’re all tired of waiting for Doubront’s potential. He’ll be 27 in October. Last offseason, following the postseason, the Red Sox might have been able to get something of value for him. Now Doubront’s trade value has dropped and the Red Sox clearly have better options in their own organization.
As for Miller, he is having arguably his best year as a professional … which is why the Sox should strike while the iron is hot assuming a good return. (No one is suggesting the Sox give him away.) Prior to this season, Miller averaged 5.7, 4.5 and 5.0 walks per nine innings in his three season with the Red Sox. This season, the number is 2.8. He will be 30 next May and is a free agent at the end of the season. Miller’s stock will never be higher than it is right now, and he seems like the kind of guy who would be a risk on a multiyear, multimillion-dollar contract.
The Red Sox bullpen has been an obvious strength this year. Miller has been a significant contributor. But if the Sox do somehow play themselves back into contention, they may have enough options to withstand Miller’s departure. And as we all know, power, strike-throwing left-handed arm out of the bullpen has great value on the open market.