Red Sox

Jordan Zimmermann and a Three-Way Deal That Makes Sense — Just Not for the Red Sox

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Catch this piece by FanGraphs impresario Dave Cameron over at FoxSports.com today?

If you missed the fun three-way deal he cooked up that would theoretically fill half of the void at the front of the Red Sox rotation and relieve the lopsided lineup of some its excess right-handed power, here’s the outline of the conjectured transaction:

Red Sox acquire: SP Jordan Zimmermann, RHP Tyler Clippard.

Nationals acquire: SS/2B Brad Miller, SP Danny Hultzen.

Mariners acquire: OF Yoenis Cespedes, 1B Mike Napoli.

Before we chime in, here’s a key part of Cameron’s explanation of why it might work for all parties:

All three teams come away with the kinds of pieces they’re looking to acquire, though perhaps one might feel the suggested return is a bit light for what it is surrendering. Personally, I think this suggestion might lean a little too heavily in Boston’s favor, and perhaps it would need to add a sweetener to get either (or both) Seattle or Washington on board, but it’s at least a base to start from. … Now we’ll just have to see if [Mike] Rizzo, Jack Zduriencik and Ben Cherington have any interest in turning this hypothetical into an actual conversation.

Whaddaya think? As someone who is pretty much drumming his fingers on the desk, sighing, and waiting for Ruben Amaro Jr. to realize he can’t have Mookie Betts, Blake Swihart, Xander Bogaerts, the Citgo sign, Tom Werner’s panda costume and a replica wig of Eck’s moss for Cole Hamels, it’s cool to hear something original and semi-logical. That’s rare combination at this point in the hot-stove season.

Here’s what I don’t like about it, and this is going to require a list.

1. I don’t like trading Napoli. He played hurt most of last year. He was dealing with sleep apnea. I’m expecting a big bounce-back year. He’d be absolutely ideal as the No. 6 hitter in this lineup. Besides, just because the Red Sox can trade from a particular strength doesn’t mean they should offer a discount.

2. Allen Craig has been lousy lately. Cameron suggests the Red Sox could replace Napoli with a Craig/Daniel Nava platoon, pointing out that Craig’s wRC+ projection is similar to Napoli’s and Nava hits well from the left side, something the lineup needs.

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That’s putting a lot of faith in Craig returning to his 2011/12 form. He had a rough second half in ’13 (three homers, .738 OPS), and he was brutal last year (.215/.279 /.315 overall, a Grebeckian .128./.234/.191 in 107 plate appearances with the Red Sox).

He was such a mess that it’s dangerous to expect him to do much of anything next season, especially given the Cardinals’ telling satisfaction in unloading him. I’m counting on Amaro believing Craig is still good and taking him in a Hamels deal.

2a. Oh, and about Nava: He’s 32 in February, slugged .397 from the left side, and hit four homers in 408 plate appearances. He’s a decent bench player. He’s not anyone you want getting the brunt of the at-bats as your first baseman. Related to none of this, the praise for his left field defense is my greatest reason for skepticism yet about the honesty of advanced defensive metrics.

3. The Mariners aren’t giving up much: Cameron is a Mariners fan. I don’t believe that clouds his big-picture perspective often if at all — in fact, his familiarity with Miller in particular might be a reason to listen when he touts him well beyond what conventional statistics suggest he is. Of course, he also praises Miller to the point that I look like the president of the Stephen Drew Sucks Club by comparison. But the Hultzen aspect is puzzling; he is a promising pitcher coming off major shoulder surgery, which suggests we should probably remove the word promising from the evaluation for the time being.

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Miller and Hultzen might be terrific someday. But there’s no way the Nationals, built to contend and unlikely to willingly take a step back, are taking those two for Zimmermann and Clippard.

4. Some of the Red Sox’ bullpen solutions are already on the roster: Clippard is a hell of a pitcher, durable and effective. His last five seasons:

While he’s primarily been a setup man during his seven seasons in Washington, he’s had success as a closer (32 saves in 2012), and he would be Koji Uehara meltdown insurance.

He’s someone any team would like to have. But I can’t convince myself the Red Sox are in the market at the moment for a well-compensated, arbitration-eligible reliever who is in his walk year, especially when they have an excess of cost-controlled young arms on their 40-man roster.

Some will be dealt, sure. But if you consider the likes of Matt Barnes, Rubby De La Rosa and perhaps even Anthony Ranaudo, it’s not difficult to see them profiling as quality bullpen arms at some point.

I’m not suggesting that Barnes is the next Wade Davis. But Wade Davis wasn’t supposed to be Wade Davis!, either. One these guys certainly could have the career path of, say, Tyler Clippard, who bombed as a starter with the Yankees before finding his niche.

I like Cameron’s idea. It’s well-conceived and original. It’s a trade idea worth discussing. It’s just not worth actually doing.

I can’t see the Nats going for it, and the likelihood of the Red Sox doing so is roughly the same as the possibility of platooning Napoli and Pablo Sandoval at catcher.

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Now, if the Mariners take Allen Craig instead, then we might have a reason for discussion here. Or perhaps even entice Amaro into a bidding war. Four-way deal, anyone?

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