If a team claims you as “untouchable” while involved in trade discussions, you must be a special kind of talent. Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington will have to make those evaluations in the coming months, because he has some work to do this offseason.
Cherington’s first priority should be to fix the starting rotation. Some of that will involve preventing Eduardo Rodriguez from tipping his pitches. It will also involve some of the organization’s current minor-league arms.
But to bring in that proven ace, the Red Sox must attempt to make a blockbuster trade. And in the process of trying to make that trade, Cherington and his staff will most likely place the “untouchable” tag on one of multiple players in the organization.
And in the next six months, before pitchers and catchers report to spring training next February, we’ll go back and forth on who should and shouldn’t be untouchable.
If I’m an opposing GM who’s willing to deal a top-of-the-rotation impact starter, the first names I inquire about are Eduardo Rodriguez, Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, and Blake Swihart. In that order. Then you have Jackie Bradley Jr., Christian Vazquez, Brian Johnson, and Henry Owens, to name a few more.
Immediately, you’ve already checked off a few of these names as untouchable. And while at first glance, I’ll most likely agree, especially on Rodriguez, Bogaerts, and Betts, only because these players are no longer prospects. These guys have established themselves as Major-League ready talents and probable impact players for years to come.
But the more I watch these Red Sox sit in the basement of the AL East for the second consecutive season, the more I start to think that nobody on this team should be untouchable. For the right deal, of course.
Considering we’re talking about the need to acquire a stud starting pitcher, Rodriguez may — at the end of the day — be my only untouchable, if I must have one.
Sure, Bogaerts and Betts are both exciting impact players, but let’s just say you had the opportunity to complete a blockbuster and get an ace. Would you refuse to make that move because you wouldn’t be able to part ways with one of those two players?
The Red Sox won a World Series in 2004 after they traded away their franchise shortstop in Nomar Garciaparra — who was hitting .321 with 21 RBI in 38 games that season. The Sox also won a World Series in 2007 with Julio Lugo and his .237 batting average at shortstop. And they won it all again in 2013 with a shortstop tandem of Bogaerts, in diapers, and Stephen Drew striking out.
That’s not to say Bogaerts won’t be a stud. He kind of already is, especially with his defensive improvements this season. But we’ve learned that championships can be won without stud shortstops, and that they can’t be won without stud pitching. Just ask Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling in 2004, Josh Beckett in 2007, and Jon Lester and John Lackey in 2013.
And as for Betts, there are possible backup plans in center field with Bradley Jr.. And in case you planned for Betts to return to his original position and be the eventual replacement at second base for Dustin Pedroia, don’t forget about 20-year-old prospect Yoan Moncada.
Perhaps you can acquire your ace without having to give up Bogaerts or Betts. Perfect. But in the case that you can’t, all I’m saying is, before you ask me who should and shouldn’t be “untouchable,” at least tell me who you’d be acquiring.
Because at the moment, if the right player was made available, I don’t know that I’d make anyone on the Red Sox "untouchable."
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