Some thoughts on the trade market for the Sox, moreso for the sake of baseball discussion. I think many will hate these. Some deals would preclude making others.
Trade: Ryan Dempster to the Reds for Ryan Hanigan.
Why it works for Boston: Hanigan is an elite defensive catcher, which is first and foremost. Offensively, he fits the Sox high OBP / pitch count working strategy. With notorious rookie-hater Dusty Baker out of the picture, the Reds are moving on to see what Deven Mesoraco is capable of behind the plate, and have defensive whiz kid Tucker Barnhart not far behind. The Sox have their catching prospects as well, and really just need a stopgap solution. Hanigan projects to make $2.3 in arbitration this year, and is a suitable backup option once Ross leaves after 2014. That Hanigan does not hit left-handed making for a platoon situation is immaterial; starting catchers are often chosen based on their own team’s starting pitcher, not the opposition.
Why it works for Cincinnati: They need to replace Bronson Arroyo, and unlikely re-sign. Dempster is a better pitcher than Arroyo (Dempster: 1.3WAR last year, 7.1 in the last 3; Arroyo 0.8WAR last year, 1.7 in the last 3), and likely comes at a reasonable price with virtually no commitment. His salary is rather high, but this is offset by the short term commitment. The Reds certainly must realize that expecting a full season from Tony Cingrani is probably wishful thinking, and do need another pitcher capable of eating innings. Or, it gives them the option to move final-arb year Homer Bailey to help fill other needs or replenish the future.
Concerns: Huge undersell on Dempster, who is undervalued by many Sox fans. He’s better than Jason Vargas, who just received a 4 year deal. Really, for this deal to equalize, the Reds should be the ones kicking in something else. Or the Sox should offer a lesser piece, like Franklin Morales.
Trade Ryan Lavarnway to the Marlins for Ryan Webb.
Why it works for Boston: The trades will not all involve players solely named “Ryan”, but it does make for a good theme. Webb is a solid under-the-radar relief pitcher who is in position to price himself out of Miami’s plans by projecting to be worth $1.3mill in arbitration. His high groundball tendencies do cause for some concern with the Sox infield defense, but ultimately he keeps the ball in the park with them as well. The Sox are likely to need a RHRP in the pen, which is very lefty-heavy at the moment, although today's acquisition of Badenhop did mitigate this somewhat.
Why it works for Miami: They need a catcher, badly. They need a lot of things badly, but you can only get so much for Ryan Webb. Baby steps, Fishies. Baby steps.
Concerns: Despite concerns about Lavarnway’s defense, at some point he has to be considered an actual option for the Sox, who don’t have a catcher themselves. At the worst, he is close to what Saltalamacchia was prior to last season, and still has the possibility of being a respectable MLB catcher who won’t drag a team into oblivion with his defense. Offensively, his successes and failures at the MLB level have come over sporadic playing time, and really tell you nothing. We do know he has nothing left to prove at the AAA level. He won’t be Carlton Fisk, but how much worse can he be than Plan B-C-D Dioner Navarro? Yes Navarro is a former All Star, but that was back in 2008. Geovany Soto was an All Star that year, too.
Trade John Lackey to the Royals for Billy Butler
Why it works for Boston: Ideally, the Sox would move Peavy for Butler, and I prefer the shorter deal leaving. But let’s say the Royals pass on that. Butler is a defensively-inept first base candidate. He does Whop’Em in at a .280 / .351 / .444 hitter with 19HRs, but that “Fenways” into a .299 / .367 / .474 hitter with 25HRs, which is basically what Napoli gave you last year. His hit chart from last year indicated he had 9 flyouts that would have been out of Fenway or off the Monster. Granted, his speed does not mean all of those turn into extra-base hits, and he is a legitimate GIDP threat every time he steps to the plate, sometimes even when no runners are on base. Butler’s contract is actually reasonable, either $9mill for one year or $20.5 for two. Napoli does figure to cost more , and for longer. Also, Lackey is a tough move after his terrific bounce-back season, although one has to wonder if this is the immediate future, or just an opportunity to sell high on a pitcher who has already spent 3 seasons as contractual deadweight and is under contract for his age 35 and age 36 seasons.
Why it works for Kansas City: They have to be all in now, if not sooner, and their window to win is exactly the same length as James Shields’ contract (one year). Signing Vargas was nice and cute, but they still feature a rotation with Jeremy Guthrie and, well, frankly, your guess is as good as mine after these three. Frankly, any pitcher in the Sox rotation represents an upgrade over everyone they have except Shields. And And if things do not work out for KC in 2014, Lackey will be easier to trade than Twitter stock, even with only one year left.
Concerns: While Butler would look good in Fenway, and is reportedly available, how available is he really? KC might have interest, but also might be looking to move their biggest expendable “blockbuster” oriented piece and want a haul in return, like they did with Alex Gordon last year. And of course, speed and defense – Butler does not have them. Also, Lackey figures to be difficult to replace. So difficult, Lackey himself may not be able to do it. Also, this trade needs at least one “Ryan.”
Trade Ryan Dempster to the Royals for Luke Hochevar
Why it works for Boston: 3-time first round pick Hochevar seems to have finally found his calling, after a stellar year pitching in middle relief, where he was all but unhittable. Bullpen help is and should be an area of huge concern for the Sox.
Why it works for KC: Hochevar may have found his calling, but it is not one KC needs. As it stands, he is maybe their fourth or fifth best relief option in a stellar bullpen. On top of that, his career as a starters has been, to be kind, disappointing. And to make matters even worse, he is projected to make $5mill in arbitration, which is way too much for the fourth or fifth best relief option on any team. While Dempster makes more cash, he could also be their second or third best starting pitcher next year. And after removing Hochevar’s salary, he figures to cost them the same net cash as Jason Vargas. However, he will not require the overpay in years to Royals admitted to needing in order to secure the services of Vargas.
Concerns: The Royals really, really, really need a second baseman, and possibly an outfielder. They probably do move Hochevar this off-season, but their targets might be more specific to these positions. And really, huge undersell on Dempster again.
Trade Bryce Brentz , Michael Almanzar and Brian Johnson to the Padres for Yasmani Grandal.
Why it works for Boston: Lost in his Biogenesis involvement is the fact that Grandal is a really good catcher. Offensively, his power numbers from his rookie season are certainly in question, but his ability to work the count and draw walks are not. He really does not block Vazquez or Swihart, as by the time those players are ready, if they ever are, Grandal would still be an easily movable piece, much like Swihart and Vazquez. I am not huge on Brentz, who is the slightly younger Lavarnway, but with worse pitch recognition skills. Move Brentz to San Diego, move Lavarnway to RF (or Miami, see above) and move on.
Why it works for the Padres: They might be selling low on a player with a tainted reputation, but they figure to want to get their top catching prospect Austin Hedges an MLB job at some point, too. Brentz, Johnson and Almanzar give them quality prospects they can either use, or can flip easily for pieces that fit better. Almanzar admittedly is a bit of a project.
Concerns: Really, I don’t have any with this deal, except that San Diego might want a little bit more. They did give up Mat Latos to get Grandal, after all. For some prospects, there is no reason to not be amenable. But some names have to be off limits. A lot of case-by-case for other names.
Also, there are no Ryans here, but Yasmani Grandal is an anagram for “Ryan Manglandias”, and I can live with that. You can, too.