Photo credit: Kelly O'Connor

Photo credit: Kelly O’Connor

Despite being dead and buried by the trade deadline last season, the Red Sox were still one of the most active teams on the trade market. With impending free agents and expiring contracts, like those of Jon Lester and John Lackey, Boston collected a cornucopia of interesting veteran players and prospects. With 4 moves, the Red Sox, who stood at 48-60 on the season before the July deadline, officially waived the white flag on 2014 and looked towards the future.

This season has gone a lot like the last so far; although under-performing veterans have taken center stage over struggling rookies. Still, Boston is once again on the bottom looking up in the American League East standings. And after spinning their wheels to start the second half, Boston is once again ready to sell.

Unlike last season, however, Boston lacks the high ticket pieces that made the deadline such a polarizing few days. Instead, Boston enters trade season with an ensemble of past-their-prime position players and relievers. There is no big piece to cash in on this season. No Jon Lester-type that can net a major league asset. No Andrew Miller chip that will fetch another prospect of Eduardo Rodriguez’s clout. For this reason, Boston’€™s list of interesting trade candidates is very short.

Koji Uehara is probably the team’s most sought after major league piece. After re-upping for 2 years, $18 million with Boston this offseason, Uehara has been solid for the Red Sox once again — touting a 2.52 ERA over 35.2 innings pitched. But with Uehara, the concerns are greater than that of other closing options available this deadline season. At the age of 40, one has to wonder when the 7-year veteran’€™s tank will run out of gas. If a team feels doubtful about the future of Uehara, they probably won’t be comfortable attaching themselves to the $9 million he’€™s owed next season.

Along with Uehara, right-hander Junichi Tazawa could come with a hefty price tag on the trade front. Unlike his fellow countryman, Tazawa offers youth and cheap control which could give him a larger market. Over the last 4 seasons, the 29-year old has been a stalwart in the back end of Boston’s pen, amassing a 2.65 ERA and a 5.44 K/BB in 217 innings. Similar to Uehara, Tazawa has one full year left of control before he hits the open market in 2017. However, before the set up man cashes in during free agency, he is arbitration eligible for the 2016 campaign. For a team looking to fortify the bridge to their closer, Tazawa represents a terrific support beam.

Following Uehara and Tazawa, Boston’s list gets fuzzy. With impending free agents like Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino enduring such terrible seasons, you can almost guarantee that a possible return will be next to nothing. Similarly, the Red Sox shoddy assortment of middle relief arms gives Ben Cherington nothing to entice teams with. Everyone else on the roster represents key pieces of the future of baseball in Boston. Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and Blake Swihart aren’t going anywhere, nor is young pitching phenom Eduardo Rodriguez.

But despite having no overly desirable major league assets, Cherington has remained active in trade discussions with an eye towards the 2016 season. Thus, the fourth-year GM has shown a willingness to dip into his hoard of prospects if it means bringing back a controllable, ideally young, major league hurler. While Boston is still planted in the middle of the Cole Hamels sweepstakes, the team has also had ties to those like Indians starter Carlos Carrasco and the currently injured Met’s starter, Zack Wheeler.

ESPN’s Keith Law recently ranked Boston’s system as the best in baseball, so the Red Sox undoubtedly have enough pieces to make a deal. But the consummation of any trade will likely come down to Cherington’s willingness to deal promising young players like Manuel Margot, Henry Ownes, and/or Rafael Devers, just to name a few. Given how loaded Boston’s system is, the team could conceivably take the hit of a trade better than most teams, but with such a focus put on cultivating a fruitful farm, Cherington will need to think long and hard about who he’s parting with.

The 2015 trade deadline might be a lot quieter than last year, but there is still a good chance that Boston makes at least one impactful move. Any move that the Red Sox do pull off, however, will be a long term decision, and one that will likely put a dent in Boston’s crop of still-developing talent. But much like last season, the Red Sox are will use the deadline to get a jump on fixing the roster for the 2016 season and beyond. Therefore, despite being out of contention this season, the Red Sox probably won’t stand pat come July 31st.

  • Mike Napoli might be in the midst of the worst season of his career, but teams are still interested in seeing with the veteran first baseman can do. As the trade deadline approaches, the 33-year old has shown recent signs of life at the plate which has given a slight rise to his value. (Pirates interested in Mike Napoli)
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