The trade deadline is just two days away, and let’s face it: the Red Sox need to bolster their pitching if they want to make a deep run into the playoffs. You can argue all day about whether they should be targeting a starter or a reliever (or both). You can debate the merits of going after a big name like Jake Peavy or settling for a lesser, cheaper option. You can take a firm stance as to just how much of the future the Sox should mortgage for the present, but it’s tough to dispute that something should be done.

With that in mind, here are three younger players I believe the Red Sox should be open to moving in the coming days. Two of these names likely won’t surprise you, one likely will, and most of you will probably disagree.

But isn’t that what makes the deadline so great?

Bryce Brentz, OF

I think in general, Red Sox fans are severely overestimating exactly how much trade value Brentz has. Scour enough forums across the Internet or sit on Twitter for long enough, and you’ll invariably see someone express sentiment similar to what follows:

“Oh, well of course I wouldn’t trade Xander Bogaerts/Jackie Bradley/Garin Cecchini for Cliff Lee/Jake Peavy/Giancarlo Stanton. But what about a package with Brentz, Will Middlebrooks and Drake Britton?!”

Don’t be the guy who writes that.

A corner outfielder with above average power and an above average arm, if you dream on Brentz, you see a starting right fielder who can bat sixth in a competitive lineup and launch 25-homers per year on a regular basis. A more realistic view probably has Brentz as a part-time player useful for his pop and adequate defense, but within the pitch recognition skills needed to stay in the lineup everyday against tough righties.

What further complicates Brentz’ situation right now is that he’s out for the season with a right knee injury, undoubtedly diminishing his value since teams can’t even give him a trial run in the majors for the rest of 2013.

Brentz is not going to be the starting point for any package other than a middling reliever, and would probably need to be the third- or fourth-best player in any deal for a star.

Those of you who read my opinions on Red Sox minor leaguers regularly know I’m not a huge Brentz fan, as I’ve seen him badly overmatched in person and don’t like how his walk rates have fallen as he’s climbed the MiLB ladder. I do believe he’s a major leaguer, though, and could be attractive to a rebuilding team interested in a cost-controlled platoon player who’ll probably be ready by June 2014.

 

Should the Sox let someone else gamble on Iglesias' offensive future? Photo by Kelly O'Connor, sittingstill.net.

Should the Sox let someone else gamble on Iglesias’ offensive future? Photo by Kelly O’Connor, sittingstill.net.

Jose Iglesias, SS

Perhaps the most divisive Red Sox player since J.D. Drew, Iglesias represents an intriguing trade possibility right now. Some Sox fans seem to love him and would be loath to include him in a deal. Others believe the best time to sell Iglesias was a few weeks ago, and that every passing day lowers his trade value as his real offensive talent level is revealed.

I’m somewhat receptive to both arguments, but sit pretty firmly in the latter camp. Yes, Iglesias has proven more competent with the bat than at any point last year. His bat-to-ball ability has improved, he’s a bit stronger and faster and he has more of an idea what to do now when he’s at the plate that at any point in his MiLB career.

That being said, he’s also still a pretty bad hitter. Iglesias may only be striking out in 13% of his PA, but he’s only walking in 4.8% of them. Despite a .377 BABIP, his OBP is just .377. The .410 SLG has been a pleasant surprise, but overall Iglesias isn’t showing the type of skill set to lead me to believe he’ll ever be more than an ok No.9 hitter.

As we all know, that might be enough given how outrageously good his defense is. Yet whether Iglesias can really be a first division starter is still very much up for debate, and it’s a gamble the Sox might be wiser to let someone else make.

If a team saw the Iglesias of May-June and thinks that’s the real thing, it may be best to sell while his value is still near its apex. With Stephen Drew signed through the rest of the season, Bogaerts waiting in the wings and Middlebrooks fighting his way back from Triple-A, there’s no question the Sox have the makings of a logjam. Dealing Iggy
may represent the best way to receive some sort of value in return for fixing that logjam, and he could be the centerpiece of a deal for an average starter or the second piece in a deal for a difference-maker.

Anthony Ranaudo, SP

The name that will perhaps surprise the most people on this list, Ranaudo has revived his career this year, excelling in 103 innings in Double-A. After struggling through an injury-filled 2012 campaign, this year Ranaudo has been healthy and effective, posting a 8.65 K/9, 3.41 BB/9 and 2.80 ERA in Portland. He’s shot back up prospect rankings, and is largely a consensus Top 100 prospect in the game right now.

So why deal a cost-controlled starting pitcher who’s clearly on the rise? For three reasons: we’d be selling high, we’d get a nice return and we have pitching depth.

To address the first thread of logic here: Ranaudo is having a great season, but when I saw him in person I wasn’t quite as impressed as I expected to be. His fastball was more above average than truly plus, the changeup looked to be little more than a show-me pitch and Ranaudo struggled with consistency early in his outing. I definitely think he’s a major league starter, but see him as more of a No. 3/4 guy rather than a top-of-the-rotation threat. There’s still plenty of value there, but if he’s being perceived as something better than he is, selling high is a good idea.

That ties in perfectly to the second argument: unlike Iglesias or Brentz, Ranaudo could probably be the centerpiece in a deal for a player like Peavy (if the White Sox don’t want to eat money) or perhaps for a Bud Norris. It would take a lot more than just Ranaudo, sure, but he could be a starting point, and that’s important.

And finally, pitching is actually an area of strength for the Sox in the minor leagues right now. With Allen Webster, Matt Barnes, Brandon Workman and Rubby De La Rosa all on similar timetables as Ranaudo, and with the likes of Henry Owens not too far behind, Ranaudo does become somewhat expendable. Yes, pitching prospects have a very high bust rate and perhaps we’d look back some day and kick ourselves for trading the best of this bunch.
But part of the reason teams develop prospects is to trade them for immediate help, and sometimes you need to roll the dice. Ranaudo won’t be ready to help this team until mid-2014, but this team is fighting for a playoff spot now.

Categories: Allen Webster Anthony Ranaudo Bryce Brentz Jackie Bradley Jake Peavy Jose Iglesias Stephen Drew Will Middlebrooks Xander Bogaerts

Ben is a graduate of Boston University with a degree in journalism and a love of all things Red Sox and minor league baseball. He has experience writing for Baseball Prospectus, NESN, RotoExperts, BU Today and other sites, and typically serves as an in-house MiLB writer. An editor for a business website by day, Ben likes to grill, sample IPAs and re-read Faulkner novels by night. He is an unabashed J.D. Drew apologist with a deep-seated fear of middle relievers. Follow Ben on Twitter here.

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