Red Sox

How Red Sox could blow this team up if they don't start playing better, and five stars they could trade

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How Red Sox could blow this team up if they don't start playing better, and five stars they could trade

BOSTON -- David Price may have been on to something.

Back in April, the Red Sox left-hander issued a warning after a two-game sweep at Yankee Stadium.

"If we don't play better, there's going to be a lot of changes around here," he told the Boston Globe. "I remember when Boston won the World Series in 2013. In 2014, they were trash. Trash . . . If we don't start playing better, J.D. Martinez, Mookie Betts, maybe myself, we could get traded."

What sounded over the top and alarmist suddenly feels within the realm of possibility, even if it's not exactly likely. But if the Red Sox continue nose-diving against their playoff competition, we shouldn't discount the chance of the defending World Series champions placing their finger on the button. Maybe it's time to start thinking about a purge.

On Tuesday night, they delivered yet another dreadful performance in a 9-5 loss to the Rangers. Red Sox pitchers walked eight batters, including five by rookie Darwinzon Hernandez, who should've been nowhere near a big-league mound after posting a 5.13 ERA at Double A and walking more than seven batters per nine innings, but such is the state of the roster that manager Alex Cora had nowhere else to turn.

They allowed an inside-the-park home run when right fielder Brock Holt crashed into the fence near the Pesky Pole chasing a Hunter Pence fly and then just stayed there. They made a pair of errors, including a dropped pop-up by third baseman Rafael Devers that led to the go-ahead run. They handed the game to the dregs of the pitching staff, with predictable results, dropping to .500 at 34-34 in the process. Baseball-Reference now places their odds of reaching the playoffs at 22.6 percent.

"We absolutely have to be better than this if we want to be in the hunt," Cora said.

And so now we wonder: was Price right? Could the Red Sox sell? And if so, how big should they think?

Let's toss around a few names that would normally be considered untouchable, because they're integral to the repeat effort, but what the hell, we're approaching desperate times.

1. MOOKIE BETTS

Trading the defending MVP in his prime is insane . . . unless you're convinced he won't sign a long-term extension, in which case moving him now and starting a rebuild shouldn't be off the table.

Some talented players have delivered massive hauls at the trade deadline, whether it's the Indians turning Bartolo Colon into Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips and Grady Sizemore in 2002, the Rangers flipping Mark Teixeira to Atlanta for future All-Stars Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, and Matt Harrison five years later, or more recently, the Yankees very smartly transforming relievers Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman into Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier, and Justus Sheffield, among others.

Moving Betts with a year of team control remaining would be waving a white flag on the season, but the Red Sox need to realistically balance the cost of going all-in for a wild card spot vs. retooling to remain competitive moving forward.

And if Mookie is going to walk anyway? Then it's not so crazy.

2. ANDREW BENINTENDI

Some of us (me) have been predicting Benintendi would win a batting title for three years now, but he hasn't really put things together yet. Still only 24, and under team control through the 2022 season, Benintendi would hold tremendous value on the trade market, where he could perhaps address holes in the bullpen, as well as the farm system.

There's real risk in surrendering him, especially when he's in the midst of a disappointing season, but with so much uncertainty on the horizon — Will J.D. Martinez opt out? How much longer will Betts be here? Who replaces Rick Porcello? — acquiring legitimate depth would have a real purpose on a roster that has suffered serious erosion.

3. MICHAEL CHAVIS

The bloom has come off that rose after a hot start, but 10 homers in his first month and positional flexibility make Chavis an attractive target. The Red Sox never expected the rookie to make such an impact; otherwise he would've opened the season on the roster. Now that opponents have found a potentially serious flaw in his swing, attacking him up in the zone with power and inducing him to chase off-speed pitches away, the Red Sox might be best served maximizing his value while they can.

Trading Chavis would leave them awfully thin at first and second base, but another bullpen arm is more important at this point than a strikeout-prone infielder.

4. RICK PORCELLO

If the Red Sox fall in the standings, then Porcello could be an option for contenders seeking an experienced starter, à la Jake Peavy in 2013.

The Red Sox don't seem interested in retaining Porcello — an argument can be made that he should've received the $68 million they gave Nathan Eovaldi — and if they're going to bid him farewell anyway, they might as well get something for him while they can.

As Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel taught us this winter, there's no guarantee a departing free agent will return a draft pick, anyway.

5. DAVID PRICE

He brought it up, so we might as well consider it. Price has already been moved at the deadline twice in his career, going from the Rays to the Tigers in 2014, and from the Tigers to the Jays a year later.

He is the ace of the Red Sox at the moment and coming off a scintillating postseason that erased any doubts over his ability to win in October. He could alter the trajectory of the postseason if he's moved. He's owed $96 million through 2022, when he'll be 36, and even if the Red Sox eat a lot that money, removing him from the books while adding younger, cheaper talent would give them more flexibility to retain players like Betts or Martinez.

Hey, it was his idea.

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MLB rumors: Red Sox, free agent Jose Peraza agree to one-year contract

MLB rumors: Red Sox, free agent Jose Peraza agree to one-year contract

The Boston Red Sox bolstered their infield depth Thursday by agreeing to sign Jose Peraza to a one-year contract worth about $3 million plus incentives, per MLB Network's Jon Heyman.

Peraza made his Major League debut in 2015 with the Los Angeles Dodgers but spent the last four years with the Cincinnati Reds. He batted .239 with six home runs, 33 RBI and a .285 on-base percentage in 141 games during the 2019 season.

His best season came in 2018 when he batted .288 with 14 homers, 58 RBI and a .326 on-base percentage in 157 games for the Reds. All things considered, Peraza is a good buy-low candidate for the Red Sox, who also could help Boston replace Brock Holt if he departs in free agency.

The 25-year-old infielder brings plenty of positional versatility to the Red Sox. Peraza mostly played second base for Cincinnati this past season, but he also saw time at third base, left field and center field.

Peraza drew interest from at least four teams, per MLB.com's Mark Feinsand.

Report: Sox have had David Price trade talks 'with at least five clubs'>>>

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Red Sox select possible Brock Holt replacement in Rule 5 draft from Astros

Red Sox select possible Brock Holt replacement in Rule 5 draft from Astros

The Red Sox didn't leave the winter meetings empty-handed after all.

On Thursday, they selected infielder Jonathan Arauz from the Astros in the Rule 5 draft. The switch-hitting infielder must spend the season on the big league roster or be offered back to the Astros for $50,000. He will compete for a roster spot as a utilityman, with the Red Sox likely moving on from free agent Brock Holt.

"He came to us highly recommended from our scouts and our analysts," VP of pro scouting Gus Quattlebaum told reporters in San Diego. "Younger guy, switch hitter, versatile glove, we think we can bounce him all around the infield. Has some work to do physically to get stronger, but we like his bat-to-ball skills, can use the field, so we're excited to give him an opportunity to compete for a utility infield position."

Arauz, 21, is a lifetime .243 hitter in the minors. Signed by the Phillies in 2014 out of Panama, he went to the Astros in the 2015 trade that sent closer Ken Giles to Houston and former No. 1 overall pick Mark Appel, among others, to Philadelphia.

He split last season between High A and Double A, hitting .249 with a career-high 11 home runs. He has spent the bulk of his minor league career at shortstop, but he also appeared in 86 games at second and 32 at third.

"We feel he can play short," Quattlebaum told reporters. "Anytime you have a young kid that you're pushing to the big leagues, the fact that he can bounce all over the infield, I think that helps his chances of sticking."

Added Quattlebaum: "We had some questions on the right side of our infield and we're looking for the most versatile athletes we can bring in to the organization. We have other guys internally that we believe in as well, but we think he can come in and compete."

The Red Sox used to be active in the Rule 5 draft in the early days of Theo Epstein, taking players like left-hander Javier Lopez, who went on to have a long career as a specialist, or speedy outfielder Adam Stern. A deep roster and farm system had left them out of the Rule 5 market in recent years, but the combination of a shallow farm system and the 26th man that will be added for the 2020 season made diving back in more palatable.

In the minor league portion of the draft, the Red Sox selected a pair of Double-A right-handers: Raynel Espinal from the Yankees and Jose Espada from the Blue Jays.

"Espinal's an older guy, he's 26 years old out of the Dominican," Quattlebaum said. "He's still recovering from Tommy John surgery, so credit our medical staff, our scouts, our analysts, they've all spoken up on all these guys that we've selected, and we came away comfortable with what we saw in the medical review. We're hopeful that he can get back, I would say sometime mid-summer. Power arm, chance to start. Wouldn't draw it up as the most cosmetic of deliveries, but our scouts and our analysts feel that he has some starter upside."

As for Espada: "Power arm," Quattlebaum said. "Missed some time last year with an elbow sprain, so not all of our scouts were able to lay eyes on him, but it's a big arm, we like the fastball-slider combo and figured it was worth a shot."

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