Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images via Miami Herald


With the season effectively over, it sometimes feels pointless and futile to
recapitulate the goings on of the team from day to day and week to week from here
on out. It seems extraneous and irrelevant to analyze players’ performances if they
are all for naught. Obviously, this is just the fatalist in me, and I’m just reacting to
this incredibly disappointing season. To be sure, there is still merit to delving into
why a player is succeeding, or underachieving as the case may be, this season.
However, at this point in time, it’s somewhat more compelling, or at the very least
more comforting, to look into the future and see what it holds for our Red Sox.

It seems like one of Red Sox fans’ favorite pastimes is fantasizing about a trade for
Giancarlo Stanton and hypothesizing about what it would take to get him here. I’ve
seen people suggest massive overpays (Bogaerts, Bradley, Betts, and Owens) and
laughable underpays (Bryce Brentz, Allen Webster, and Keury De La Cruz). If a deal
were to happen, it’d have to be somewhere in between those outlandish scenarios.
But we need to ask ourselves, do we really need to trade for Stanton?
Of course it’d be nice to have him, and of course we covet his talents and wish he
could put them to use for the Boston Red Sox, but it’s another thing to really
need him.

Let’s take a cursory look at who Giancarlo Stanton is. Giancarlo Stanton is a major
league baseball player with tremendous power. His power is literally
awe-inspiring. I could give you numbers like his career OPS+ (142), his career wRC+
(also, 142), or I could give you his career triple slash line (.271/.361/.537) and tell
you how he was the tenth youngest player to record 100 home runs (23 years and 225
days). I could also tell you that he’s only 24 (!!!) and doesn’t become a free agent
until 2017. All of those fun facts are demonstrative of his prodigious offensive talent
and overall value, but they don’t accurately convey just how hard and how far he can
hit a baseball. Since 2010, according to ESPN’s Home Run Tracker, Giancarlo Stanton
has more “No Doubt” home runs than anyone else in the National League. He’s done
this in spite of missing substantial time due to injury in 2012 and 2013 (a combined
85 games). This season, he is leading the league in longest average home run true
distance (421.3 feet), and he’s kind of crushing everyone else. Mike Morse is in
second on the Golden Sledgehammer leaderboard, and his average true distance is
four feet behind Stanton’s. The fact that he’s been able to achieve this level of
success while playing half of his games in Marlins Park is extremely impressive.
Marlins Park, to quote, “is an extreme pitcher’s park,” with a park
factor of -86. For every 100 home runs hit in the average Major League ballpark, only
72 are hit at Marlins Park. The dimensions are deep in every part of the ballpark, and
the humidity, while mitigated somewhat by the retractable roof, can make it difficult
for the ball to travel far. Somewhat remarkably, Stanton actually has, as of this writing, the
same amount of home runs at home as he does on the road (72 at home; 72 on the
road). Additionally, while Stanton exhibits a slight tendency to pull the
ball, you’ll notice from the graphic that he is capable of hitting the ball over any fence,
to any part of the field.

Image courtesy of ESPN Home Run Tracker

He’s hit 10 home runs to left field, 10 home runs to center field, and 7
home runs to right field. And finally, since 2010,
he leads the National League in isolated power (.267) and is second only to Jose
Bautista (.288) in the Majors.

So that was a lot of words to say what most of us already know: Giancarlo Stanton is
very, very good at making baseballs go far. What we want to determine is whether or
not the Sox really need Stanton. At first glance, it doesn’t really look like we need
any position players. The Red Sox are brimming with talent at the upper
levels of the minors, and at some point, it’s going to be difficult finding places for
everyone to play. Blake Swihart, Garin Cecchini, and Deven Marrero are all in
Pawtucket and they are ranked the 3rd, 4th, and
13th best prospects in the Red Sox organization, according to
Cecchini is technically blocked by Middlebrooks, Marrero is blocked by Bogaerts, and
Swihart may end up supplanting Christian Vazquez behind the plate, but nothing is set
in stone. Mookie Betts, the Red Sox’ number one prospect is blocked pretty much
everywhere, as the roster currently stands: Shane Victorino, Jackie Bradley, Jr., Allen
Craig, Daniel Nava, and Yoenis Cespedes are in the outfield, and Dustin Pedroia is at
second base. Upon further inspection, it seems as if the Sox have some depth to deal
from if they’d like to make a play for Stanton, but how many of the aforementioned
names are long for Boston? JBJ, Nava, and Pedey are all under team control for the
next few seasons, at least, whereas Victorino, Napoli and Cespedes will all be free
agents at the end of 2015. So in the near-term, there is some definite roster crunch,
but projecting outwards just another year or two, we see that there are some holes
that will need to be filled and, fortunately, can be filled from within. With the
exception of Dustin Pedroia, it’s nearly impossible to predict where exactly all of
Boston’s young guys will be playing in 2015, 2016, and so on, but for the sake of this
thought experiment, I’m going to attempt some positional projections. In 2016, I see
the Red Sox depth chart looking something like this:

C- Blake Swihart

1B – Allen Craig/Garin Cecchini

2B – Dustin Pedroia

3B – Will Middlebrooks

SS – Xander Bogaerts

LF – Mookie Betts


RF – Yoenis Cespedes (maybe Giancarlo Stanton?)

DH – Garin Cecchini/Allen Craig

Indeed, there is quite a bit of supposition here. For one, part of me has difficulty
seeing Will Middlebrooks with the Red Sox in 2016. Additionally, I’m not sure if Allen
Craig is long for Boston. I trust Ben Cherington when he says he’s confident that
Craig’s ankle injury doesn’t seem to be a long-term issue, so in saying I don’t think
he’s long for Boston, I mean I view him more as currency, a piece to be used in a deal
for someone else. Finally, it does seem like quite a stretch to predict that Garin
Cecchini is the Red Sox’ first baseman/designated hitter of the future based on his
pedestrian AAA numbers, but compare his minor league triple slash line to a certain
former Red Sox first baseman:

Kevin Youkilis: .299/.442/.441

Garin Cecchini: .294/.393/.425

While there is a pretty sizable difference between their OBPs, the discrepancies
between their averages and slugging percentages are minor. Plus, Cecchini’s overall
numbers are dragged down a bit by his somewhat lackluster season in Pawtucket. The
silver lining for Cecchini is that he is four years younger than the average AAA player,
and when Youkilis was in AAA he was just about a year younger than the average AAA
player. Cecchini is still only 23, and I would imagine another half or full season of
AAA baseball for Cecchini will give the Red Sox an accurate idea of the player that
they have and how his talents can be applied to the major league ball club.

Ultimately, I’m a bit torn about a trade involving Stanton. Part of me is irritated by
Red Sox Nation’s obsession with him and our collective inability to be content with our
embarrassment of prospect riches, but on the other hand , no prospect is a sure thing,
and as many prospect prognosticators have said before, ad nauseum, there’s no
guarantee of future success. With Yoenis Cespedes possibly leaving after 2015
there’s a vacancy in the outfield. On top of that, the Red Sox don’t have any top
outfield prospects on the horizon (aside from Mookie Betts, who will probably no
longer be a prospect in the 2015 offseason, but a major league regular) with the
possible exception of Manuel Margot. So a deal for Stanton really does make sense,
in that regard. He would give the Red Sox a known quantity and some stability during
what could potentially be a wobbly transition period. But if I may pivot again, let’s
assume Craig is completely healthy going into 2016 (or the Red Sox have extended
Yoenis Cespedes), then there shouldn’t be a need for Stanton (Note: let me go on
record here to say that I am not in favor of any trade involving Mookie Betts. I’ve
read some articles that posit including Betts in a potential deal for Stanton might be a
good idea, but I couldn’t disagree more. That’s a whole other post). Perhaps then
the Sox would be wise to use their prospect depth to deal for a cost-controlled pitcher
who may be on the precipice of getting expensive or a pitcher who is in the middle of
his arb-years (Sonny Gray and Yordano Ventura come to mind).

Not to negate everything I’ve written before this, but ultimately this kind of
forecasting is an ineffectual exercise. Ben Cherington has proven that he’s incredibly
unpredictable, if nothing else, but that unpredictability belies the fact that he has a
vision for the team that we can’t really begin to understand. So we should take
solace in the fact that he’s at the helm (this isn’t to say we should never question him
or his moves, but rather he has more information than any of us will probably ever
have access to). That being said, aside from rampant speculation, what else are we
supposed to do in the dog days of August when the Red Sox aren’t in the hunt for