The Boston Red Sox have set their sights on adding to their starting rotation this trade deadline. The team has aimed high and asked about Pittsburgh Pirates' starter Gerrit Cole and Miami Marlins' ace Jose Fernandez according to a report from Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald.
According to Silverman, when the Red Sox were making similar calls this offseason--involving Chris Sale and Matt Harvey--the ensuing demand revolved around either Mookie Betts or Xander Bogaerts. While the cost of getting an ace should certainly be exorbitant, it doesn't make much sense for the Red Sox to part with what appear to be franchise cornerstones at centerfield and shortstop. Apparently though, the asking price hasn't seemed to change into the season.
The Red Sox pitching staff currently sits ninth in the league by FanGraphs' WAR. Among only starters, the team's productivity drops them to 11th in the American League. The Red Sox seem to have assessed their weakness and want to address it.
Both Cole and Fernandez seem like they will be dominant starters for years to come. However, parting with either Betts or Bogaerts--their leadoff and number two hitters for the majority of the season--half way through the year seems like it could cause more harm than good.
That being said, the Red Sox have one of the top farm systems in all of baseball and just because the asking price revolves around major league talent doesn't mean it will stay that way. It definitely seems like the Red Sox are in a good position to add substantial major league talent from their deep farm system and their major league depth. Players like Yoan Moncada, Andrew Benintendi, and Rafael Devers could be packaged together to entice a rebuilding team.
But here's the other problem: neither the Pirates nor the Marlins seem to be in rebuild. The Marlins are currently second in their division, half a game up on the New York Mets. Predicting what the Marlins will do is a fool's errand, though dealing away Fernandez seems unwise at this time. Fernandez has been a top-five pitcher in all of baseball so far this season. In fact, the team has had a couple excellent pieces for a while now and if there was more of an effort to complement their star players with better depth, the Marlins could be a more believable contender.
The Pirates are a bit trickier to nail down. They are currently below .500 and in third place in arguably the hardest division in baseball. They have typically turned themselves into contenders thanks in part to pitching prowess. Not only did the team rank eighth in pitching from 2013-2015 by FanGraphs' WAR, they did it--at least partially--with a rotation of reclamation projects and less popular names. Now however, the Pirates' rotation ranks 29th in the majors by fWAR.
While a rebuild may not be a bad idea for the Pirates at this juncture, jumping right in with a deal involving one of their best, cost-controlled assets in Cole would likely be ill-advised. The 25-year old isn't eligible for free agency until 2020, which means he is controllable until his 30th birthday. The team also suppressed his cost, which created a bit of a stir, though that seems to have completely blown over.
If the Pirates could get a great prospect haul, it might make more sense to deal Cole. It's an extremely difficult decision either way, but I would suspect the Pirates asking price to be insurmountably high for the Red Sox to actually make a deal.
Instead, the Red Sox could turn their attention toward a couple other starters who will be more readily available. Sonny Gray appears to be the most appealing name that could be available, though his availability might also be questionable. The Atlanta Braves are toying with the idea of making Julio Teheran available, though if he were traded he would also command a big haul.
That could leave former Red Sox pitcher Rich Hill or Philadelphia Phillies' starter Jeremy Hellickson as more suitable options; ones that don't cost much to attain and also help the team out now. That being said, according to Silverman's sources, Red Sox scouts are looking for players that can help their team "in the present or the future." Both Hill and Hellickson fit into the first category, but not necessarily into the second as they are both pending free agents.