Even after a disappointing end to the season and blowing up the front office, the Red Sox, hereafter known as Pink Hat Nation (PHN), know that they still have what it takes to reach the playoffs, especially with the expanded wildcard. But they do have some missing pieces, pieces that the O's can fill nicely. Let's see what we can do.
The most glaring hole on PHN's team last year was the lack of starting depth. Apart from a healthy and productive duo in Lester and Beckett the rest of the rotation was either bad, injured or inconsistent. Even Beckett is inconsistent between seasons and the PHN have to worry that he will keep on with his pattern of having off-years in even numbered seasons. Right now the rotation consists of Lester, Dice-K, Beckett, Bucholz and Miller. Miller and Dice-K are not good or consistent enough to be penciled in if there is another option. Enter Jeremy Guthrie, stage right.
Guts has been discussed among the SB Nation blog Over the Monster as a possible trade target and I agree. He would fit in perfectly in the #4 slot, giving the PHN one of the strongest #4's in the majors. The Sox have a few top pitching prospects on their way to the majors, but with the PHN in constant "win now" mode, they will probably be looking to bridge the gap and Guts is the perfect candidate to fill that hole.
There is also a hole is in the lineup, specifically right field. Ryan Kalish isn't ready for the show and Josh Reddick is better suited as a fourth OF. My first inclination was to package Markakis with Guthrie in order to dump some salary, but on second thought this trade should maximize the return in talent; the O's can keep eating Nicky's salary without too much trouble. Enter Adam Jones, stage left.
AJ's value is as high as it's ever has been and with 3 years left of team control he's more than just a rental. His arm and range would play well in right and he would be an option to back up Ellsbury if he gets injured. With the lineup strong from top to bottom AJ and his weak discipline would probably bat in the bottom third of the lineup but would still be a valuable addition if he builds on this year's success.
With such a valuable package the O's can expect to get a lot back from a strong Sox system. Obviously I will be looking mainly at pitching. Unfortunately (or fortunately, seeing as this is a pretend exercise), many of the PHN top pitching prospects had disappointing seasons and some have worrying injury history. We will take advantage of this to get RF Bryce Brentz (2011: High-A) and RHP Anthony Ranaudo (2011: High-A). Since these players are at the same level as Dylan Bundy, Manny Machado and Johnatan Schoop, they will be MLB ready (hopefully) at the same time, giving the O's a very strong core.
Anthony Ranaudo is a consensus top-10 Red Sox prospect. Fangraphs describes his arsenal as such:
He has a strong repertoire with a 90-95 mph fastball, a solid breaking ball and a good changeup. Ranaudo has a good pitcher’s frame and takes a long stride on the mound.
Although he has an injury history (a stress fracture in the elbow), if his body has healed well, he is considered as having the ceiling of a #1-2 starter.
Bryce Brentz is just outside the top 10 Red Sox prospects and the prediction is that he will become an above-average RF with good range and a strong arm. He is one of the (if not THE) top power hitter in the Red Sox system with the ability to hit for a good average as well.
This is a big trade for both teams, but one that I think is balanced and addresses both teams needs. The Red Sox have a system lacking in top-end talent but very deep in high potential players. Giving up these two won't cripple them and they will get some very good ML players to compete with in the coming seasons.
Since (in my mind) this is a close trade, I'd be more than happy to hear other opinions.