The dust has settled from the July 31st Trade Deadline and the Red Sox really didn't do anything. Cole Hamels, Johnny Cueto, and David Price, all ace #1 starters, were traded and the Red Sox were never seriously in contention for any of them. While I understand not being in on rental players such as Cueto and Price, Hamels seemed like the easy pick and, after seeing the return the Phillies got, I am surprised the Red Sox didn't pull the trigger.
However, that has all passed now and the Red Sox need to focus on the future. The 2016 free agent pitching class is quite deep, with names such as Johnny Cueto, David Price and Jordan Zimmerman all being connected to Boston. Unfortunately, all of these players are on the wrong side of 30 and, if the Red Sox are going to continue with their philosophy that lost them Jon Lester, it looks unlikely that they would break the bank for one of these players.
Fortunately, there is one player that meets all of the qualifications and prerequisites for the Red Sox: Sonny Gray.
While this may seem like a pipe dream, we have to remember who we are dealing with here. Billy Beane knows that when Sonny Gray hits the free agent market in 2020, there is absolutely no way that he will be able to keep the righty flamethrower. Beane is known for shipping out his top players when he can get the most for them in order to gain a bunch of prospects to build the next great Athletics team. Just last year Beane shipped out Josh Donaldson in the first year of his four eligible arbitration years.
To be perfectly honest, no one is even quite sure if Beane will want to trade Sonny Gray. Maybe he tries to keep the righty for as long as he can before shipping him out. However, one thing is for sure: if Beane decides to move Sonny Gray, the Red Sox will have the necessary assets to pull it off.
But what exactly would it take to get him? Which names will I have to part with if I want to see Gray dawn a Red Sox uniform? Well, the list may surprise you.
The only untouchable player, in my mind, is Yoan Moncada. Because the Red Sox payed so much for Moncada and his unproven abilities, there is a good chance that Beane would not demand for him to be in a deal. Additionally, the Red Sox would likely not have to include Blake Swihart because the Athletics are already set at the catching position with Stephen Vogt, who is not eligible for arbitration until 2017. Nevertheless, if the Athletics demand Swihart or Betts, I pull the trigger.
Unless you study the Red Sox farm system, the names that I am about to mention will probably mean nothing to you. Nevertheless, for all you baseball heads out there, you're welcome. Rafael Devers and Manuel Margot, who are both Top 20 prospects, could be very attractive to Oakland as positional players. As for pitchers, Brian Johnson and Henry Owens are both on the cusp of becoming members of a big league starting rotation. If the Athletics want utility men with stellar defense, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Deven Marrero may entice them.
I could go on a tangent about all the guys playing in A Ball that project to be major league talent, but that fact of the matter is that, as long as the Red Sox get Sonny Gray, none of this should really matter.
Yes, this would be a huge dent for the Red Sox farm system. But to be honest, they can take it. If they put a package together of four or five of the players I mentioned, they would have their ace. They would not need to go out and spend $200 million on an over 30 pitcher. They would still have a likely-Top 5 pick in the 2016 MLB Draft. They would still have Moncada, Swihart/Betts, and a lefty pitching prospect (Owens, Johnson or Rodriguez). They will also always have the plethora of monetary flexibility at the ready to swing a huge move.
My final thought to leave with you is this: the Red Sox need to start being uncomfortable. Rob Bradford said it best, and I'm paraphrasing here but its the thought that counts, "The Red Sox need to get comfortable being in uncomfortable situations." Meaning they need to be okay flirting with blockbuster deals in which they deplete their farm system for a proven young ace regularly.
Help us, Sonny Gray. You're our only hope.
By Pete Packowski @Pete_BBS