As the offseason progresses, you’re going to see a lot of pieces that rank Red Sox.

They’ll rank each Red Sox on the 40-man roster. They’ll rank each projected Red Sox starter. They’ll rank the Red Sox prospect. They’ll rank the handsomeness of the Red Sox manager. Rank, rank, rank.

What these rankings will all do is attempt to tell you who is projected to be among the most valuable Red Sox for 2014 and beyond.

But what about the players who are on the fringe of relevancy, or whose status in the organization is in question thanks to Boston’s enviable depth? What about the expendables?

There’s plenty to learn about those players as well, as how and if they fit into Boston’s plans could be a major story line throughout the winter and into spring.

Will Middlebrook's future with the Red Sox could hinge on their offseason plans. Photo by Kelly O'Connor, sittingstill.net.

Will Middlebrook’s future with the Red Sox could hinge on their offseason plans. Photo by Kelly O’Connor, sittingstill.net.

Will Middlebrooks, 3B

This one might puzzle some people. As the team stands right now, Middlebrooks is the starting third baseman. He’s still only 25, he’s a source of one of the game’s rarest commodities – right-handed power – and he’s under team control for four more years.

The reasons “WMB” might be considered expendable are pretty simple: The Red Sox might prefer a more defensive-friendly alignment on the left side of the infield, which would see wunderkind Xander Bogaerts playing third and a strong defender – say, someone like Stephen Drew – at short. There’s also the matter of Garin Cecchini, who’s a very different prospect than Middlebrooks was, but who might be ready to play third base at some point in 2014.

Middlebrooks’ stock is down after a bad 2013 campaign, but as a young, cost-controlled power hitter, he’d fetch a significant piece back in any trade. If the Red Sox do resign Drew or trade for a starting shortstop, there’s a good chance WMB will be on his way out of town.

Franklin Morales, LHP

The Red Sox did well to steal Morales from the Rockies in 2011. While he hasn’t blossomed into the No. 1 starter some saw when he was a highly-regarded prospect, Morales has turned into an intriguing lefty swing-man for Boston, starting 10 games and overall throwing 281.1 innings in 195 appearances over the past two-plus years.

Morales would be a secondary or even primary left-handed option in plenty of bullpens, but the Red Sox currently have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to southpaw relief. With Craig Breslow and Andrew Miller (if healthy) essentially guaranteed to serve in the bullpen come April, there may not be room for Morales, given that Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, Edward Mujica, Burke Badenhop and Ryan Dempster are likely to occupy the other five slots in Boston’s bullpen.

Morales wouldn’t garner a huge return by any means, but he could be part of a larger deal and the Sox will be motivated to move him, as he can’t be optioned back to Pawtucket. With Drake Britton ready to serve should a Breslow or Miller injury arise, the Red Sox have some lefty insurance, too. If the Red Sox deal a starter, though, Morales could find himself as Boston’s long reliever once more.

Anthony Ranaudo, RHP

In some ways it’s odd to list a nearly-MLB ready pitching prospect as a player who’s expandable. That’s especially true considering this is an organization that relied on the likes of Aaron Cook and Kyle Weiland not too long ago. But when you look at the names ahead of, at the same level as and behind Ranaudo on the organizational depth chart, it becomes clear that he’s the arm the Red Sox should be most willing to part with from the minor leagues.

2013 was a good year for Ranaudo and a down year for Matt Barnes and in some regards Allen Webster, which might lead you to the conclusion that Ranaudo is the best right-hander in Boston’s system. That’s far from the truth, and as you’ll see in the plethora of prospect rankings that come out this offseason, Ranaudo’s ceiling is as a No. 4 starter, with a career as a No. 5 starter or a multi-inning reliever perhaps more likely.

Not only is Ranaudo not ahead of Webster or Barnes in terms of prospect status, but I’d put him behind Brandon Workman, and obviously Henry Owens, too. If Boston does decide to pull the trigger on a trade for a shortstop, an outfielder or an elite starter, Ranaudo is the pitching prospect they should be most inclined to deal.

Ryan Lavarnway, C/1B

Lavarnway has been one of the Red Sox most intriguing, and in some ways, most frustrating, prospects to follow in recent years. We’ve seen him destroy pitching in the upper minors, and perform quite well in 82 MLB PA last season. We’ve seen him slowly become a better defender behind the plate. The power is real, as is the patience. We were all hoping for a steal.

The truth, though, is that Lavarnway just isn’t good enough defensively to catch on a regular basis, and his bat isn’t good enough to translate to first base. He’s a classic tweener, and with the signings of David Ross last season and A.J. Pierzynski this season, it’s pretty clear the Red Sox don’t view Lavarnway as a significant part of their future.

Lavarnway is a great player to have as the third catcher in your organization, but with Christian Vasquez quickly climbing the MiLB ladder, Lavarnway is likely to lose that distinction at some point in 2014, too. He’s a spare part for the Red Sox, but he could be viewed as a viable backup for many other teams throughout the league. If Boston needs to clear 40-man spots at some point next season, Lavarnway could be on the move.

Ryan Dempster/Jake Peavy, RHP

This is perhaps the most obvious inclusion on the list. The Red Sox have six MLB starters on their roster right now. Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Jon Lackey and Peavy are locks to start the season in the rotation, and odds are Doubront would hold the No. 5 spot over Dempster. On the one hand, you can never have enough pitching depth. On the other hand, Dempster and Peavy are expensive options and the Red Sox have many MiLB starters ready in case of an injury to Boston’s starting five.

Dealing Demspter would do the least amount of damage to the 2014 club, but would also offer the least return. It’s possibly Boston would need to pair him with a lesser prospect in order to see any salary relief in a trade. Peavy would be more difficult to give up, but could fetch something in return, and likely wouldn’t require the Red Sox to eat much salary.

It’s not a sexy option for a team looking to return to the mountain top, but harboring six MLB starters, and what would equate to be a $13 million swing-man, may be a luxury the Red Sox can’t afford. Boston could also look into moving Doubront or Lackey for a more significant piece, but I think that’s less likely than shipping Peavy or Dempster out of town.

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Categories: 2014 Red Sox offseason Andrew Miller Anthony Ranaudo Christian Vasquez Craig Breslow Felix Doubront Franklin Morales Garin Cecchini Jake Peavy Ryan Dempster Ryan Lavarnway 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.

10 Responses to “The Expendables: Red Sox Edition” Subscribe

  1. SeanBrannen December 16, 2013 at 7:34 PM #

    1. Daniel Nava- is his value ever going to be higher? With Mike Carp as an available OF and a lack of run manufacturing due to Ellsbury departure, Nava could be dealt to make room for a power hitting LF that could play for JBJ in an emergency.
    2. Felix Doubront- Young controllable LHP that doesnt seem dedicated to his performance and body like the young guys on the farm. He would bring back a decent haul.
    3. Ryan Dempster- NL pitcher in a 6th spot on AL team spells trade. Wont get much, but salary dump could be handy.
    4. Mike Carp- He is lower than Nava cause he is younger and less likely to bring more back than Nava.
    5. Ryan Lavarnway- Not sure why he isnt already gone. Or at least at a different position.
    6. Garin Cecchini- Teams want 3B, we have 2. Middlebrooks and Bogaerts. Nice thing is they can play left side together and hit 50-60 bombs a year. Why mess with that.

  2. jsc1973 December 17, 2013 at 2:17 AM #

    We keep hearing one thing about Ranaudo and another about Barnes and Webster, but at what point do you start to pay attention to the production and not scouting reports? Ranaudo might not be more than a back-end starter in the majors, but I always prefer a pitcher who gets people out consistently to one who can’t seem to do it even in the minors. Barnes looks like he was unlucky on balls in play in 2013, but Webster is clueless. No command of his pitches.

    Anyway, if these guys are considered expendable and they think Cecchini is for real, how about seeing if the Padres would take the first four in return for Chase Headley’s walk year? I’d like to see what he’d do for a full year sans 81 games in Petco, where he has a career OPS of .707.

  3. Gerry December 17, 2013 at 10:28 PM #

    The Expendables?  Rotoworld hubris?  This site occasionally gets into treating players like commodities (business majors?) and, in particular, bashes good players experiencing wrist, back and other serious medical issues, like when it vilified Lowrie, Papi, Ells, Iglesias, and now WMB.  There is a youthful impatience in wanting these players to produce now, or be gone.  I want it and I want it now.  Glad we still have Papi, who rose above the “stick a fork in him” insults of  just a couple of years ago.  Too bad we don’t have the Jedi.  Detroit is thrilled to have Iggy, even as we now talk about trading PV for $$ relief.  Ells was so unjustly humiliated he is gone.  Now, you are so certain WMB won’t amount to much that he is expendable? 
    WMB was our #1 prospect two years ago, before having his wrist broken during his extraordinary cup or coffee in 2012 at age 23.  Wrist injuries linger for hitters, often longer than a year, and don’t you think there is any chance (like Papi, Lowrie and Iggy) it impacted his play?.  Do you remember how he hurt his back in 2013, at age 24, smashing into Ross and the wall in a dirt dog effort to get an out?  Shame on him (sarcasm here).  Do you remember how well he hit coming back from AAA until Xander came up?
    I like Drew very much, but Merloni’s fears aside, this IS the time to play ”the kids”.   WMB has been working out in Boston all offseason, working on his rehab, on plate discipline, on hitting low and away.  He is an essential part of this clubhouse culture of winning, as shown in his work ethic and camaraderie.  He is worthy of getting a good shot at 3B.  Cecchini is awesome in A/AA, but has no power, and is NOT good at 3B yet, and is our 6th (not 1st) ranked prospect, and still a prospect..  If WMB returns to form, as many believe he will, Garin will be moving to another position.  WMB is ready now, Cecchini may be ready for a September call up.  There is every reason to expect Middlebrooks to provide solid defense, 30HR with a reasonable OBP.   That’s a chance worth taking, especially at $500K.. 
    And, if XB is our best prospect in decades, played extraordinarily well in Sept and the post season, and is being compared to Tulo, why on earth would we want to delay his debut at SS in favor of a good but not great $12M veteran?  If he is in Machado’s league, and he seems to be, don’t mess with him.  He is ready.  
    And for Lou Merloni, JBJ had a full season in AAA to correct issues he encountered at Fenway.  He is already a plus MLB defender in CF and has consistently shown a high OBP in the minors.  The Sox will benefit from him starting in April.   It’s not like “the kids” are moving up from AA.   WMB, Xander and JBJ are MLB experienced and ready to start their journeys.  So are Workman, Britton, Wilson, Webster, DLR, and all should be ready some time in 2014.  Stifling them is to stifle the next great team.  
    And trade Ranaudo, Lava, Nava?   For who (whom)????   The Pen is awesome and overflowing, as is the Rotation.  The lineup is pretty well set except for a super UIF, which may be McDonald, as he has been a valuable mentor to XB, WMB, Holt, and provides excellent defense at all IF positions.   Drew requires no trade, just a contract that will block the kids.  Tanaka is the only SP out there worth trying to get, and he is also just a contract that will block the kids.   Both will require the trade of Dempster and or Peavy, but not Ranaudo or Nava or Carp or WMB.   On this Red Sox Championship team they are NOT expendable.  In fact, because the Sox have been under the luxury cap the last couple of years, they may choose to exceed it for Drew and Tanaka, and keep the kids and 6-man rotation intact into ST.  Never have enough pitching (as in Ranaudo, Morales, Peavy, Dempster.)

  4. BenCarsley22 December 18, 2013 at 3:17 PM #

    @Gerry This would be great if 25- and 40-man roster limits didn’t exist. The “expendability” of the above players comes from roster redundancies and perceived value. Suggesting that a player could be moved is not a criticism of said player, and I don’t under your utter unwillingness to admit that these players have flaws. Not every player is perfect just because he is a Red Sox, and even if they were, only so many can occupy a roster spot at a given time.

  5. BenCarsley22 December 18, 2013 at 3:20 PM #

    jsc1973 Ranaudo has had one good year in the minors, and his stuff underwhelms. Barnes is a bounce-back candidate, agreed. That’s a very unfair characterization of Webster that I’m assuming comes from watching his bad MLB starts. MiLB production matters, but not at the expense of scouting. Ranaudo is not the same caliber of prospect as Webster or Barnes. 

    The package you described doesn’t really fit with San Diego’s needs. They have a long term 3B in Gyorko, and they have many No. 3/4 starter types on the farm already. It’s not that the package is bad, I just don’t see it working for San Diego because of their organization.

  6. Gerry December 19, 2013 at 7:59 PM #

    BenCarsley22 C’mon, Ben.  How does my defense of WMB in any way lead you to think I don’t understand roster manipulation or blindly ignore flaws?  My hackles went up when I read the headline “the Expendables”, not because these guys may be traded but because the title seems demeaning. 
    (FYI, trades can be excellent.  I am stoked that Morales and Martin brought back Jon Herrera, a really good and absolutely necessary UIF who owned RHP in 2013, fields three positions well, and is a strong clubhouse guy.) 
     ”The Expendables” headline seems to follow an unfortunate trend to treat players as commodities, possibly derived from fantasy baseball, a world as unreal as video games.  These players, as a group, have earned our respect, and the respect of 99% of American males who could not have achieved their success in baseball.   Maybe I am old school, but unless they have earned our disdain, as individuals, they should have our respect as individuals and as a group.
    Regarding WMB, our recent #1 prospect whose young career has been hampered by injuries, and who promises 25-30HR, solid defense, and with improved K/BB rate perhaps a .330OBP when fully adjusted, he is not really expendable.  Whereas “Dirt”, a one year rental on a Boras pillow contract, who could block both WMB and XB, who would cost $10-13M (as opposed to a combined $2.3M for WMB, XB and Herrera, minus the $600K he saved us from Morales, bringing that total to $1.7M for a very talented left side of the infield.)  Stephen will also cost us a very high draft pick in a good draft class, and the valuable $1-1.6M in draft spending money it brings to enhance those 3 high picks.  IMO it is Drew who is truly redundant and therefore expendable in 2014 and 2015, much as I like him.
    Will WMB be as good as Drew?  Will XB be as good as Drew?  It is as likely as not.  We have zero proof otherwise. And certainly the answer is not that Drew has a better glove than XB as SS at this time.  We just gave away one of the best SS gloves in a generation because his bat was not as good as Drew’s.  How did that end up in the postseason?   And now our end of that trade, Jake Peavy, is considered expendable.  I am not knocking Drew (or Peavy).  A few years ago he would have been an answer to many prayers.  Not now.  We need him to succeed.  Cecchini may be awesome in AAA, but he is not good at 3B.  Who plays SS when Drew leaves in a year or two besides XB, Marrero?  Vinicio?  Betts?   I am hoping for a long run of WMB/XB/PD.   He deserves and will get the multi-year deal which the Sox should not provide.  But I guarantee Boras will use the mfy to try. 
    Summary:   IMO we should keep WMB at 3B and XB at SS, Herrera as UIF, sign Q.Berry to a generous Pawtucket deal, convert Johnny McD to a coach in the system (perhaps working with XB, WMB, Marrero, Betts, etc.)  Hang onto Ranaudo and other top AAA SP as long as possible to see how they do in 2014.   Morales and Martin may yet be missed.  Pitching, pitching, pitching.  Keep the good guys around wherever possible.  And no more throwaway headlines that sound cute.

  7. BenCarsley22 December 26, 2013 at 11:27 PM #

    @Gerry BenCarsley22  This is going to seem harsh, but I’m going to address your points one by one here and just use the same tone you’ve used with me. 

    I’m not against keeping WMB and making 2014 a make-or-break year for him. The argument against signing Drew is fine. But let’s not pretend that WMB is a lock to be the all-around above average player that Drew is. If they do resign Drew, WMB becomes a tradable asset. 

    Yes, WMB was recently our #1 prospect and would probably rank No. 4 or 5 if you could go back in time and take how he was viewed in 2012 and put that against the system we have today. Not all #1 prospects are created equal. Casey Kelly was our No. 1 prospect once upon a time, too. 

    Drew wouldn’t cost a draft pick because he’s our FA. Is he more expensive than WMB? Yes. That’s because he’s already proven he can be an above average major leaguer and he plays shortstop. WMB is 0/2 in that department. 

    Arguing that we shouldn’t want good defensive shortstops anymore because we traded one during the season is pretty asinine. Insinuating that Peavy didn’t help the 2013 Red Sox at all is wrong. 

    Keeping Ranaudo is fine, but he’s a back end starter, or perhaps more likely a seventh-inning guy. He has plenty of value since he’s cost controlled, but he’s hardly someone I’d refuse to give up in the right deal. 

    As for the headline … I don’t know what to say. They are expendable because they’ve created roster redundancies, not because I’m an evil person who thinks players aren’t people. Lighten up.

  8. StevenHolmes December 27, 2013 at 11:18 AM #

    We would lose the sandwich pick we would have got from Drew signing with another team. So signing Drew would cost us a pick.

  9. BenCarsley22 December 27, 2013 at 11:23 AM #

    StevenHolmes  I would argue that you can’t lose something you don’t have, but point taken. I would not let a late 30s draft pick deter me from signing a starting shortstop though.

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