With the Red Sox entering July atop the AL East and sporting the best record in the American Leaguenow would be a good time to look ahead to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
Unlike last year, when the Red Sox dumped a quarter of a billion dollars in salary on the Los Angeles Dodgers, this year the Sox are, without a doubt, in a buying mood.
Sox scouts have been in Chicago, Minnesota and Mexico searching for possible upgrades.
Boston has obvious needs in the bullpen, could be looking to add a pitcher to the starting rotation and possibly a veteran infield bat.
The Red Sox have a long list of prospects that are major league or close to major league ready including Will Middlebrooks, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, Matt Barnes, Bryce Brentz, Garin Cecchini, Anthony Ranaudo and Henry Owens. The Sox won't keep them all.
It is well known around baseball that Bogaerts and Bradley are virtually untouchable. Could the Red Sox be enticed to part with Middlebrooks, Webster or a couple of the Double-A players for the right deal? Also, not all of the prospects will be legitimate big league players. It will be up to the Red Sox brain trust figure out who to keep and who to flip at the deadline.
Number one on general manager Ben Cherington's upgrade list would have to be the Red Sox bullpen.
There are some interesting names available including Marlins closer Steve Cishek who has 15 saves this year while playing for a last place team. The White Sox will be in sell mode and set-up man Matt Lindstrom saved 38 games between 2009-10. Veteran left-hander Scott Downs of the Angels is a free agent at the end of the year and could be available as the Angels are below .500. Jared Burton of the Twins, signed through the next two seasons, will also be available as the Twins look to rebuild. Any one of those players could help the Red Sox struggling bullpen.
The Red Sox starting rotation has certainly held its own considering Clay Buchholz has not pitched in nearly a month and Jon Lester went just 2-2 with a 7.62 ERA in June. However, the Red Sox have to be thinking about upgrading the starting staff as they have been linked to the Cubs Matt Garza and international free agent Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez.
Cherington and eight scouts traveled to Mexico to watch Gonzalez last week. The big Cuban right-hander might be out of the Sox price range though. It is expected it will take at least a 5-year $60 million contract to sign him. The Dodgers are in hot pursuit and have the money to spend.
Red Sox personnel have been scouting Garza for the past week. You better believe former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein, the current Cubs President of Baseball Operations, knows the Red Sox farm system quite well and would want the best prospects from it. Garza is also a free agent after the season, which would make him an expensive short term rental.
Recent trade rumors had the Red Sox linked to current Phillies third baseman and former Ranger Michael Young. The 36-year old Young is a career .300 hitter. The Red Sox have denied any interest in Young. But, with Middlebrooks at Triple-A and Jose Iglesias now playing shortstop for the injured Stephen Drew, adding a veteran like Young would make sense.
The Red Sox have a number of enticing prospects and the payroll flexibility to make moves. This season the Sox won't be sellers and are in a good position to deal. It is extremely unlikely though that the Sox will trade any blue chip players at the deadline. But if they can make upgrades, at the right price, you better believe Cherington will be listening.
Should the Red Sox be buyers, sellers or stand pat? Leave a comment below.