According to recent reports, the Boston Red Sox could potentially be in trade talks with the Cleveland Indians. Boston does not want a repeat of their abysmal pitching staff that took the field in 2015, and the Indians badly need another outfielder. The two teams each have what the other needs, and it just so happens they recently met at the General Manager Meetings currently taking place in Boca Raton, Florida. What they actually met about, we have no idea, but let’s pretend they were in heated discussions about a blockbuster trade because it’s November and trades are fun.
So what would a potential trade look like?
Obviously, the Red Sox are going to be eyeing one of the Indians starters. Any one of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, or even Trevor Bauer would be an instant upgrade over the starters that Boston had last season. Once you get past Boston’s ace Clay Buchholz’s 3.2 fWAR season, the starting pitching talent drops off immediately and dramatically. Because I am a fan of breaking things down individually and having those pretty headers in posts, let’s take a look at a potential trade for each Indians starter.
Two straight 5.0+ fWAR seasons, a Cy Young, 29-years-old, and will not hit free agency until at least after 2021. Corey Kluber is not going to come cheap. The starting point for Kluber, and most of these trades, as far as I’m concerned is outfielder Mookie Betts. At 23-years-old, Betts exploded in his second season in the Majors, putting up a .291/.341/.479 slash, 18 home runs, and 21 stolen bases in 2015.
Betts is will not hit free agency until after 2020, but he is also much younger than Kluber (and also not a starting pitcher), so the Indians could rightfully assume that Betts could maintain his effectiveness throughout the duration of his time in Cleveland. His biggest asset is speed, which will not age well, but the Indians would have him through his 30-year-old season, so the decline may not start before then.
Outfield is easily a position of depth for the Red Sox, who also have Brock Holt and Jackie Bradley Jr. roaming around Fenway Park. The Indians would also be catching Boston in a time of desperation, as David Ortiz is beginning to age and their window to win without a legitimate pitching staff may be closer faster than expected.
Asking for Betts and a future #3 pitcher does not seem like too much from the Indians. And with Johnson, Boston's top pitching prospect missed the end of 2015 with an elbow injury, but will not require surgery. The Indians could be getting a steal with him if the Red Sox are selling low. Even still, this is a "gun to my head I have to trade Kluber" scenario. In the real world, I would not trade Kluber right now.
- Cleveland receives Mookie Betts (OF), Brian Johnson (LHP), cash
- Boston receives Corey Kluber, (RHP)
Carrasco and Kluber are fairly even in terms of value. The biggest differences being that Carrasco is one year younger, and his control runs until only 2020. There could be some doubts brought up in trade talks about Carrasco being a one (and a half) year wonder, but it’s hard to argue getting a pitcher with the potential that Cookie has without ever having to pay more than $9.5 million per year.
The Indians could still pursue a Mookie Betts acquisition in a trade involving Carrasco, but it would either be relatively even, or require the Indians to throw something else into the deal. If the Red Sox want future outfield potential, the Indians are flushed with it, but I do not see the need to throw any big names to this deal for the Indians.
- Cleveland receives Mookie Betts (OF), cash
- Boston receives Carlos Carrasco (RHP)
When we get to Danny Salazar, the Indians would likely be trading up for Mookie Betts. I love me so some Salazar of course, but he has proven to be inconsistent in the past, and similar to Carrasco, the worry of him being a one-hit wonder is real. Unlike Carrasco and Kluber, Salazar is also still at the mercy of arbitration, and he hits Arb 1 in 2017.
Asking for Mookie Betts with Danny Salazar on the table would require a prospect too big for me to swallow to go along with it. I’d rather keep Salazar and Clint Frazier/Bobby Bradley than have Mookie Betts, we move down to the next potential available Red Sox outfielder.
Jackie Bradley Jr.’s offense came out of nowhere in 2015. He was a spectacular defender in 2014, his rookie season, and put it together offensively in only his second full season. If he can repeat, or come close to, the 121 wRC+ he had it would be a huge asset for the Indians in their quest to win sooner rather than later. He also hits Arb 1 in 2017.
The two are pretty evenly matched in terms of value, but just the fact that Salazar is a premium pitcher means he could require a small throw-in from the Red Sox. I would not be upset a one-to-one trade, though.
- Cleveland receives: Jackie Bradley Jr. (OF), cash
- Boston receives: Danny Salazar (RHP)
Who actually knows what the hell Trevor Bauer is; he has tremendous potential, but has failed to use it in his three years with the Indians. Two straight years of a sub-2.0 fWAR could turn teams away, especially the tail end of his 2015 that landed him in the bullpen for an outing. The Indians would be trading way up for Mookie Betts in this case, but I am not against going for it all in this case.
Clint Frazier is not quite the can’t miss prospect that Bradley Zimmer is, and if it means getting Mookie Betts now, do it. This would mean the Indians can keep their Big Three intact and immediately upgrade the outfield with talent that will be around for years to come.
Dealing a potentially great pitcher along with a Top 100 prospect could hurt, but the Indians are playing with only potential here. Mookie Betts is at least proven for a season, and his speed will be an asset for as long as he is on the team. If the Indians could hold out a year to trade Bauer, I would be for that. But as it is, they need the outfield, and Boston needs the pitching.
Alternatively, if the Red Sox want lower ceiling, but closer to Major League-ready talent to replace Betts, the Indians could include Tyler Naquin and sell high on someone else like third baseman Yandy Diaz. Both options still feel like I'm ripping the Red Sox off by a bit if they want to contend soon.
- Cleveland receives Mookie Betts (OF), cash
- Boston receives Trevor Bauer (RHP), Clint Frazier (OF)
- Cleveland receives Mookie Betts (OF)
- Boston receives Trevor Bauer (RHP), Tyler Naquin (OF), Yandy Diaz (3B)
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Those are my thoughts, what are yours? Throw them in the comments, or if you have a bigger, more detailed idea (over 400 words or so) about what could happen between Cleveland and Boston, make it a FanPost and I'll feature the best ones on the front page.