The defending World Series champion Red Sox are at least opening the door to some surprising sell-side moves, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today (Twitter links). Though the club is obviously not going to divert from its attempt to repeat, it seems there’s a movement afoot to pare back some existing payroll.
The true end goal here isn’t clear. Boston already splurged to re-sign Nathan Eovaldi, giving him a four-year deal at a $17MM rate of pay, and it doesn’t seem as if the club is interested in doing anything that would substantially harm its competitive position. The division, after all, promises to be quite competitive — to say nothing of the top-heavy American League.
Still, the Sox are said to be “openly listening” to offers for veteran right-hander Rick Porcello, who’ll earn $21MM this year before reaching free agency. Yet more surprisingly, the club is said to be “willing to talk about” star shortstop Xander Bogaerts (projected $11.9MM arbitration salary in final season of eligibility) and quality center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. ($7.9MM, second-to-last season of eligibility).
Parting with any of these players would clearly harm the team’s 2019 roster — unless, that is, there was a plan in place to add a different piece to fill the opening. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic tweets that the idea would indeed be to repurpose any payroll savings, perhaps opening the door to some bullpen reinforcements.
While that’s sensible from one perspective, it still feels like an incomplete picture. After all, it’s not as if the Boston organization has high-quality fill-in pieces knocking down the door. In Porcello’s case, at least, there’s an argument that the Red Sox have sufficient depth after bringing back Eovaldi, but it obviously wouldn’t be as good as the sturdy 29-year-old. Bogaerts is not remotely replaceable from within; presumably, the club would go onto the market for a different option at short. As for Bradley, it’s easy to imagine Andrew Benintendi taking over in center, but that’d still leave an outfield opening that would need to be addressed in some regard (perhaps in part through reliance upon Steve Pearce and other existing reserves).
It’s fair to wonder just what the Sox could anticipate recouping in hypothetical trades. Porcello’s hefty salary limits his appeal, making him more of a candidate to be dealt for another spendy veteran or perhaps a limited prospect return. Bogaerts has plenty of rental value, though the Red Sox would be dealing with fellow contenders to find a fit and there’s limited demand at the shortstop position. Bradley is controllable fr two years and could fit in plenty of places, though his offensive numbers have been down and he’s not the type of piece that most teams would go wild to acquire — particularly with some similar players potentially also available via trade.
Generally speaking, boosting the farm would certainly be of interest, but it’d be quite tricky to do that and save money without significantly damaging the team’s immediate competitiveness. Sussing out how this potential strategy could make sense in the aggregate is frankly difficult to do without contemplating multiple successive transactions. It’s certainly a fascinating development for the Red Sox and the broader market, but it is tough to guess at this point how it might all play out.