It’s been almost two years now, so we should have Dave Dombrowski’s style figured out. When the team needs something he goes out and gets it regardless of cost. Well, not totally regardless, but put it this way: Dave Dombrowski is not a prospect hugger. He’s not someone who hears the cost of a player and takes it back to his baseball ops department and then runs it around the league to see if he can beat it one way or another. He’s a doer. He pulls the trigger on the deal or he doesn’t and moves on. That is how the Red Sox got Craig Kimbrel, Chris Sale, Tyler Thornburg, Carson Smith, and, though he didn’t come in a trade, David Price. Given all that, if we look at the current Red Sox roster and see the two holes that stand out, third base and bullpen set up man, we can reasonably expect Dombrowski to make moves to acquire players to fill those needs. Both are important roles on a contending team such as Boston’s, but today we’re going to discuss the bigger hole on the roster. Today we’re going to discuss third base and look at players outside the Red Sox organization who could be acquired at the trade deadline.
It’s bad because wow, yuck, that’s bad! But it’s good because it’s an easy fix, at least as far as these things tend to go. Get one guy and you’re done. That’s as easy as fixes get.
First we’ll set the stage by saying this: By just about any standard you choose, the Red Sox have one of the worst third base problems in all of baseball. At the All-Star break, Red Sox third basemen are slashing a cumulative .236/.292/.331 with seven home runs (somehow only the Yankees have fewer). That’s both bad and good. It’s bad because wow, yuck, that’s bad! But it’s good because it’s an easy fix, at least as far as these things tend to go. Get one guy and you’re done. That’s as easy as fixes get.
If we look at that slash line, and recall it comes with overall mediocre-to-bad defense too, and recall who is in charge of the team, it’s not a stretch to say the Red Sox will acquire someone to play third base before the July 31st trade deadline expires.
Before I get into specific trade targets though, I should mention that there is the possibility, slight though it may be, that the Red Sox stand pat with what they have a third base. The platoon of Deven Marrero and Tzu-Wei Lin has been shockingly good, especially Lin’s part of it. If those guys can hold together through, say, August, third base super-prospect Rafael Devers might be ready and then the rosters expand and away we go! That sounds promising and possible and even inexpensive. But if you examine those last few sentences you can start to see the potential problems in that plan. There’s a lot of “maybe” and “could be” and “might” in there, and for a team trying to win right now there’s really very little reason to take chances and not to get a sure thing (or something closer to it) on the trade market. I’m guessing Dave Dombrowski would agree with that.
So, with all that out of the way, here are some third basemen around the league who may be available or whose names have already entered the rumor mill.
Frazier, 31, plays for the White Sox, who have been in sell-mode since before the season started. So he’s available. He’s a free agent after this season so the price shouldn’t be prohibitive and while he’s not a great defensive third baseman, he can handle the position. Frazier’s best skill is his power. He has 16 homers and 14 doubles on the season, and while his batting average is way down (.213), his walk rate has taken a big jump this season and brought his on-base percentage with it (.335). He’s a perfectly cromulent player and likely to be worth a win or so over the next half season.
Unlike Frazier, Prado, 33, isn’t a free agent after this season. In fact, he’s signed for two more years for $28 million total after 2017. This makes him more difficult because you’re taking on significant salary and effectively blocking Devers. Prado is having a tough season, with little power and a bad on-base percentage. If you got Prado you’d be betting on his career averages which are fine.
Moustakas is probably the big get of the players whose names have been prominently mentioned in rumors. He’s a free agent after this year, and has picked this year to blossom into the power that was always expected of him. He’s at 25 homers so far which is already three above his career best, and we’ve got 80 games still to go. Moose isn’t a great defensive third baseman, but he’s been around average during his career so it seems that’s what’s fair to expect. Mostly though he’s the rich man’s Frazier and he’s likely to cost a pretty penny. That all said, the Royals have moved themselves into contention (or some reasonable facsimile there of) and as of this moment have stated they aren’t looking to trade anyone.
Our old friend Jed. Lowrie isn’t actually a third baseman having played mostly second base this year. In fact, his last year playing any third was 2015 when he was with Houston. Still, he’s done it before and is likely better than anything the Red Sox have (short of Devers) and he’s on the A’s so he can be had, if, you know, that’s anything you’d actually want to do.
Harrison would be an interesting get. He’s coming off two down seasons and his contract which runs through next season was looking like a lost cause, but he’s rebounded this season with a .361 on-base percentage and a .436 slugging. That’s above average production if he can keep it up, and if he can do anything like what he did three years ago with Pittsburgh (.837 OPS) then that’s something to be excited about. Thing is though, he’s done that once in seven seasons and the more I think about it, the less the Red Sox need anyone signed beyond this year.
This is the great white whale. The Blue Jays might sell but they probably won’t. And yet they might. And they probably won’t trade Donaldson. But they might. Even if they did though, it probably wouldn’t be in division, and if they did the cost would be astronomical, even though Donaldson has had injury issues this year and isn’t performing up to his peak and has entered his 30s. Still though, it’s Josh F’n Donaldson. And Dave Dombrowski is the Red Sox GM. So. You know.
Ah, what might have been… *sigh*. Beltre’s one shining season in Boston leaves me with a happy glow that is perhaps best left alone. He is 38 and signed for a season beyond this one, after all. But I’ll be damned if the old flame isn’t putting up a .900 OPS this year and with his typically spectacular defense and insanely spectacular personality to boot. Are the Rangers even sellers though? They’re under .500 and 16.5 games behind Houston, but only three back of the second Wild Card spot. This is probably a pipe dream, but oh what a beautiful pipe dream it is.
Nobody has mentioned Castellanos in rumors, not that I’ve heard of anyway. But the Tigers are out of it, they need to sell JD Martinez, and they’re probably not far from flinging whatever isn’t nailed down out the door. Castellanos is sort of nailed down, but maybe. He’s a former first round draft pick, selected by none other than Dave Dombrowski, and he’s the toolsy sort of guy you’d expect based on the first part of this sentence. He’s not a great fielder, but he’s under team control through the 2020 season and, here’s the kicker, he’s crushing the ball. According to FanGraphs, Castellanos is making hard contact 49.6 percent of the time! That’s insane and way above what he’s done in the past. Yet, his BABIP hasn’t shown it yet. Part of the problem is his 41 percent ground ball rate, but if he starts hitting the ball in the air with that kind of contact, this is a guy you would want in the lineup. So maybe the Sox take a shot with a guy like this hoping the improvement shows up sometime upon reaching Fenway.
Next week, if Dombrowski doesn’t beat me to it, we’ll take a look at some relievers who the Red Sox might reasonably be expected to look at.
Photo by Jasen Vinlove – USA TODAY Sports