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Potential Trade Targets: Red Sox outfielders Cespedes, Victorino, and Nava

A crowded Red Sox outfield full of alluring men without a place to play on the field could make sense for the Royals.

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With yesterday's dual signings of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, the Boston Red Sox not only added nearly $190MM in guaranteed future payroll commitments but further complicated the picture of a 25-man roster with far too many candidates for the positions on the field. With the glaring hole in their lineup--third base--now being addressed twice over with two of the top free agent candidates to fill the position and the presumption that Hanley Ramirez will slide over to left field for the time being, an outfield that was already so crowded as to have precipitated Ben Cherington & Co. actively shopping Yoenis Cespedes is now even more crowded.

Clearly the Red Sox have far too many players in their outfield picture, so it probably makes sense to look at how Boston's glut and Kansas City's needs could converge with a trade.

First, let's take a look at that outfield:

Hanley Ramirez

Again, it is widely considered that Ramirez will play left field. Given his defensive profile at shortstop, the assumption is that Ramirez will move to the outfield and that Xander Bogaerts will play short. Bogaerts did struggle at the plate in his first season, so it is possible that the Red Sox would look to package Bogaerts with some of their other younger more attractive pieces like Mookie BettsEduardo Rodriguez, or Garin Cecchini for a marquee starting pitcher. The safe assumption is probably that Bogaerts and Ramirez will both be starting for Boston on Opening Day.

Rusney Castillo

It seems unlikely that the Red Sox would be heading into 2015 with anyone starting other than the dynamic Cuban center fielder they inked to a seven-year, $72.5MM deal just three months ago. Of anyone in the outfield picture, Castillo may as well have his spot in a spot in the outfield etched in stone.

Mookie Betts

Judging by the projected lineup presented by Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal yesterday afternoon, Mookie Betts is currently the starting right fielder in Boston. Given the money owed to the players down this list, this seems unlikely, despite the fact that Betts is probably their best option going forward. The flexible Betts, who came up through the minors as a second baseman, was worth 1.9 fWAR and 2.1 rWAR in a 52-game debut with a .291/.368/.444 slash line, a .361 wOBA and 130 wRC+. The 22-year-old has done nothing but hit at every stop on his way to the Majors. The smoothness with which he transitioned to the outfield and major-league pitching cannot be highlighted enough. While the Red Sox may be paying a bunch of money to guys like Shane Victorino or Yoenis Cespedes, it would seem imprudent to move a guy like Betts, who seems to instantly slot atop their batting order and can reasonably expect to only get better.

Shane Victorino

Four days shy of his 34th birthday, the Hawai'ian outfielder visited the 60-day disabled list with a back injury in 2014. He was worth 5.6 fWAR in both 2011 and 2013, so there would be upside potential for a team taking him on in a salary dump. Victorino is set to earn $13MM in 2015, the final year on a three-year deal inked heading into 2013. The no longer switch-hitting, now just right-handed Victorino hasn't historically been terrible against right-handed pitching, though he only has about 230 career plate appearances against righties batting from the right side, so the sample size grain of salt is obviously something to consider. At the very least, a healthy but aging Victorino could present a decent platoon partner for a left-handed outfielder like Jarrod Dyson. As any long-time Royals fan could tell you, however, back issues can keep a Mike Sweeney player on the sidelines for a lot longer than one would ever think possible.

Yoenis Cespedes

Whoever trades for the other dynamic Cuban outfielder in a Red Sox uniform will be doing so for only what he does in 2015. Per the terms of his contract, Cespedes must be non-tendered at the end of the contract and cannot be extended a qualifying offer. Set to make $10.5MM in 2015, Cespedes is coming off his best season yet, a 3.4 fWAR/4.2 rWAR campaign that would point to a likely bargain for whichever team decides to trade for him. While Boston's immediate willingness to trade the man they got at the deadline in the Jon Lester deal could give one pause, it's hard to argue with the 29-year-old Cuban's production in his three seasons in the majors. If they do keep La Potencia--who Cherington has stated that the club is not intent upon moving and could still have a great deal of value to whoever has him in 2015--it is hard to see how the Red Sox would make their outfield picture work unless they aggressively employ platoons and turn Mookie Betts into a super-utility Ben Zobrist-type of player.

Allen Craig

With Mike Napoli manning first for another season and a dismal 2014 in the rearview, it's hard to see how Allen Craig has a role on this team. Craig is signed for three more seasons at $5.5MM, $9MM, and $11MM with a $1MM buyout on a $13MM team option for 2018. His sub-replacement-level 2014 was an outlier on an otherwise solid career--one in which he'd been riding three straight 2.4+ fWAR campaigns before his -1.4 fWAR 2014 in which he suffered a BABIP .059 points lower than his career mark. With Craig, any team thinking about taking him on has to be worried about his foot injury that could have contributed to his dismal campaign but is not going to be addressed via surgery. Or worse, any team has to be worried about whether Craig just fell off a cliff. With three years left on his deal, the Red Sox would likely have to eat the vast majority of his contract. Regardless, it's hard to see how Craig has a place on this roster. Even more so than Cespedes or Victorino, it seems inevitable that Craig would need to get moved to make room for the additions of Sandoval and Ramirez, as he barely had a spot on the roster that made sense before they got there.

Jackie Bradley Jr.

At this point, it would appear that the entirety of Bradley's value is on the defensive side of the game, at least insofar as the Red Sox are concerned. Bradley is a magnificent center fielder. Maybe the best in the game. Unfortunately he has not hit in Boston. The left-handed-hitting Bradley still has team options remaining, so the Red Sox needn't ship him off, but he could be an enticing piece for a team willing to employ patience with Bradley's bat, one that did hit in the minors leading up to his 2013 debut. While Bradley may have value on the trade market, it's hard to see how he might fit into the bigger picture in Kansas City, as he fills the same role that Jarrod Dyson currently occupies.

Daniel Nava

If Nava weren't approaching his 32nd birthday, he would probably be a more sought after player, but Nava didn't make his debut in affiliated ball until his age-25 season after making his post-collegiate semi-pro debut for the Chico Outlaws of the Golden Baseball League. Nava showed that his robust 2013 campaign was probably the outlier as his wOBA (.319) and wRC+ (100) dropped back down to levels nearer his career marks (.339 and 111). Nava offset his 2014 dip in offensive production with improved defensive performance, proving himself to be worth 2.6 fWAR and 3.3 rWAR in 113 games, both career highs. While Nava is still inexpensive--estimated to make $1.9MM per MLB Trade Rumors--he is out of options and would almost certainly be scooped up were he placed on waivers. The Red Sox may be forced to deal the switch-hitting outfielder if for no other reason than facing the fact that he's neither the potent bat off the bench nor the late-inning defensive replacement that would make the most sense to have on the bench as a fifth outfielder.

Bryce Brentz

The fringy, right-handed corner outfielder turns 26 next month and would seem to be a man without a place on the 25-man roster. In optioning Brentz to Pawtucket to start the 2014 season, the Red Sox burned the first of Brentz's club options, so he does offer the club a flexibility that a guy like Daniel Nava does not. Of course, his only projectable above-average tool is his power tool, but he could be a potential cheap platoon option for a team looking to couple a right-handed bat to a team with an in-house option to take up the LHH bulk of the platoon.

Brock Holt

Holt split his time roughly evenly between third base and the outfield, with roughly ten games' worth of innings logged at short and a smattering of innings logged at first base to fill out the super-utility résumé. Holt has just one option remaining but is still two years away from arbitration eligibility. Given his flexibility and relative value--thanks to the Zobrist Effect, he was worth 2.3 fWAR and 2.1 rWAR in 106 games with a .317 wOBA and 98 wRC+--it is not hard to see how the Red Sox may prefer to head into 2015 with the very cheap Holt filling out one of those bench spots on the 25-man roster, especially given the checkered health histories of Ramirez, Sandoval, and Dustin Pedroia.

Who would fit in a trade with the Royals?

Obviously, Ramirez and Castillo will not be Royals next season. One would assume the same can be said for Jackie Bradley, Jr., who makes zero sense for the Royals as he would be completely redundant.

If the Red Sox are actually going to move Yoenis Cespedes, obviously he would fill the gaping right-handed hole that Billy Butler's departure left in the lineup and would do so with considerably more raw power. There's a lot of swing-and-miss in Cespedes's game--his 128 whiffs would have bested Alex Gordon--but his 5.4 BB% looks right at home on the Royals' roster. Maybe a package built around Greg Holland with other minor pieces switching organizations would do the trick for Boston, but Dayton Moore and the Royals have shown little interest in breaking up their lockdown bullpen, and such a deal would also require that Cherington value the commodity known as the "proven closer."

While trading for Mookie Betts would be great, it's hard to see how the Red Sox would want to deal him after his sterling 2014 debut and when taking into consideration his ability to man any three of the outfield positions along with second, third, and possibly short. Betts could start almost every day at a different position on the field, thus enabling Boston to roll with Ramirez, Castillo, and Cespedes/Victorino as their primary outfielders while remaining on the roster as injury insurance should any of those players or Sandoval or Pedroia go down. Furthermore, if Boston were to include him in a deal, one would assume that it would be in a package for an arm that could immediately slotted into the front of a starting rotation. The Royals have one arm that fits that description, and it's hard to imagine the Royals parting ways with Yordano Ventura. If Betts were to get traded, one would assume that it would be for a #1/#2 with only a year or two left before free agency, something the Royals do not possess.

Allen Craig could make sense for the Royals, as he could rebound and historically has little in the way of a platoon split, but it is hard to envision them adding the future payroll commitment without considerable money kicked in from Boston. Boston could afford to do that, but the more money kicked in by Boston, the more in the way of prospects that the Red Sox get in return.

Similarly, Shane Victorino might make sense for the Royals if at least a little money were getting kicked in. There is the potential for an unexpected boon if he returns to near-2013 productivity, but his performance-level could well drop to the point at which he'd be a $10MM+ black hole or at the very least a very expensive platoon partner for Jarrod Dyson, something which the Royals would presumably like to avoid. In a full salary dump, the Royals would have to give up next to nothing and would only need to take on the risk of paying Victorino for one year. It is hard to envision the Dayton Moore Royals making such a move, but trading for Victorino, who is still projected to be worth 2.1 fWAR, would probably be preferable to some of the rumored alternatives.

Daniel Nava could make sense for the Royals as an inexpensive option to insert into the outfield picture, slipping into the place that Norichika Aoki vacated. One would assume that the package required to net Nava would be one that wasn't particularly costly, given the fact that he doesn't possess any particularly flashy skills and that he'd be a 32-year-old outfielder projected for somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.5-2.0 fWAR in a full season's worth of playing time next year. He should provide surplus value in terms of $/WAR. The three years of club control would also be nice, though they'd be for a player with limited value. One would think a package of a couple of prospects (maybe a projectable C/C+ prospect in the low minors and a guy like Sam Selman or Christian Binford) would get the deal done, though it's entirely possible the author is insane and wildly off-base.

Guys like Brentz and Holt would make sense on the Royals' roster, but they make just as much sense for the Red Sox to retain, especially Holt, whose flexibility and strength of performance at the major-league level make him more valuable to a less flexible team like the Red Sox.

Nava or Victorino probably make the most sense in looking at how the two teams fit together, though of the presumably available outfielders, Cespedes is easily the dreamiest, even without the possibility of a compensatory draft pick.